Sunday, October 30, 2016

Why I voted against the proposed contract extension and pay raise for the superintendent

These are the comments I made at Tuesday’s board meeting about the contract extension and pay raise proposal for the superintendent. The proposal passed on a 4-3 vote, with Directors LaTasha DeLoach, Brian Kirschling, Chris Lynch, and Paul Roesler in favor, and Directors Phil Hemingway, Lori Roetlin, and me opposed.

The contract extension added a year to the length of the superintendent’s current contract, which will now extend through June 2019 instead of June 2018. The new contract increases the superintendent’s salary by 4.6% this year and commits to raising the salary again, by 5.1%, a year from now (though the new contract reduces the number of paid discretionary days by two this year and by two more next year). You can read the superintendent’s new contract here; additional information is here.

I am not in favor of the proposed contract extension and pay raise for the superintendent, for these reasons.

Under the proposal, the superintendent would receive the biggest raise by far of any employee in the district, both in percentage and absolute terms—much bigger than what we gave our teachers and other staff groups, and much more than simply a cost-of-living increase to keep pace with inflation.

As we have said to the public many times, general fund money is very scarce. We’ve said that to families whose busing we’ve cut, to parents who are unhappy with our class sizes, and to teachers and staff who would have liked larger pay increases. There is no reason we shouldn’t say the same thing to the superintendent.

The proposal not only gives the superintendent the biggest raise in the district, it commits to providing him another raise next year—which will very likely be the biggest raise anyone gets next year. This is particularly unwise, since we have no idea how much state funding we will receive next year. Again, we did not commit to future salary increases for our teachers or other staff groups; there is no reason we should treat the superintendent differently.

If we adopt this proposal, we will rightly be perceived as brushing off the very legitimate concerns that members of the public have about, for example, the district’s violations of special education laws and ongoing problems with the district culture. This decision will further undermine public trust in the district.

The superintendent still has a year and eight months remaining in his current contract. I think it’s reasonable to wait until we have more information about how the district is addressing its challenges before considering whether to tack another year onto that contract length.

I am not persuaded that this proposal is necessary in order to retain our superintendent and avoid a superintendent search; nor am I convinced that that goal outweighs the arguments against the extension and raise. Where I work, at the University, the usual practice is that an employee cannot get a retention-based raise unless he or she has a competing offer in hand. If our superintendent does receive a competing offer, we could always revisit his contract and salary at that time and make a more informed decision.

Related post here.


Chris said...

I also have arguments with the way the information about the proposal was presented at the meeting, in several respects.

First, the agenda included a “past cumulative settlements” chart that appears to show annual total compensation percentage increases for the superintendent compared to other categories of staff. The chart, which showed 2016-17 figures for all other categories of staff, conspicuously omitted the 2016-17 figure for the superintendent under the proposed contract, making it much harder for people to see how the proposal compared with what we’ve done for other groups.

Second, the final column of that chart shows the cumulative figures for other staff groups through 2016-17. But the last column of the superintendent’s chart shows the cumulative total through 2015-16, not 2016-17. This apples-to-oranges comparison obscures the real comparison between this proposal and what we’ve done for other groups.

Third, the chart apparently shows “total package” increases, not salary increases. Our teachers’ total compensation rose 3.71% this year, but that does not at all mean that they received 3.71% salary increases. (For example, some of the total compensation increase is probably attributable to the increased cost of the health insurance that the district provides for its employees.) In the agenda attachments, we never see the figure for the percentage increase in the superintendent’s total compensation from last year to this year. That leaves people unable to make apples-to-apples comparisons between what we’re doing for the superintendent in this new contract and what we’ve done for other groups. Both total compensation and pure salary comparisons should be available for all categories of employee.

In other words, the information gives the appearance of being “spun” in a way designed to minimize objections to the proposal. That’s no way to build public trust in the district.

Amy said...

What's depressing in there is the presumption that you're stupid and wouldn't notice such things.

The thing that really bothers me most in all this is that I've been dealing with Steve on and off for, oh, four years now, and I couldn't tell you who this guy is, what he believes, what he's for, what he wants. (Besides more money.) Initial meetings started out fine, had a good sense of being on a wavelength, and then I showed up again and it was like talking to someone post-brain-surgery. I get that he's busy and talks to a lot of people, but I had this sense of vast emptinesses behind the eyes. I thought, well, who knows what's going on in his life, maybe there's something personal and he's just going through the motions right now. Further talks went sideways, and then when I showed up to talk to him about other issues -- some pleasant, some less pleasant -- it seemed to me extended exercises in gladhanding. He was certainly willing to talk, and yet talk went exactly nowhere. Or he'd try to hand me off to someone else, but not talk to the other person about the issue, and when I finally was able to reach the other person, she'd have no idea what I was talking about and it'd turn out she had no responsibility for whatever it was. I remember once he took me to meet with an assistant supe, and as soon as we sat down, I thought, "ah, here's the real boss."

You put that together with the bullshit in Chicago and the assorted nonstatements coming very sporadically from his office, and I genuinely have no clue what he's after doing here. Apart from the money. If he has any ideas of his own at all I don't know what they are.

I do wonder how much in our stats has to do with internal communications problems and indeed a real lack of leadership from the supe's office.

Anonymous said...

In the coming years, the teachers will negotiate for raises closer to Murley's raise which we cannot afford. Teacher salaries are the biggest portion of our operating budget, so it is reasonable to expect larger class sizes.

Anonymous said...

I understand why you and the other two board members voted against extending Murley's contract. What I don't understand is why board members Lynch, DeLoach, Kirschling and Roesler voted in favor of the fat raise and extending the contract, especially after the poor state special education audit. It doesn't make any sense to reward someone based on what other persons make unless the people in the positions are similar. This doesn't seem to be the case here. Nor did they explain what Murley positively contributed to the district. What were they thinking?

mariaconz said...

Everyone on the school board should have voted against extending Supt. Steve Murley's contract and I refuse to vote for or support anyone who voted for or supported Murley.