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Public flunks test-based raises

Alissa Widman Neese • Oct 26, 2013 at 7:28 PM

A proposal to offer district administrators bonuses based on student test scores might not be too popular among community members, based on the uproar it caused at Monday’s school board meeting.

Administrators were expected to bring the proposal to board members Monday, but it never appeared on their meeting agenda.

Board members first tabled the decision in September, stating they needed more time to review it after administrators first suggested it.

A pair of concerned community members prodded board members Monday.

“It seems convenient that some board members are running for re-election and it’s taken off the agenda,” Lonnie Siesel said. “A lot of people are wondering what this means. Where does this money come from?”

Some board members said they were surprised the item wasn’t on Monday’s meeting agenda, because they assumed they were going to vote on it that night.

Superintendent Ed Kurt and treasurer Jude Hammond said they were holding off on voting again because the district’s finance committee hadn’t met to discuss the issue.

Kurt said he emailed board member Steve Rankin, the committee’s chairperson, about scheduling a meeting, but Rankin said he didn’t recall receiving an email.    

Additionally, administrator proposals to board members don’t need to go through the finance committee, Rankin said. “I was under the impression it was coming back tonight, too,” board member Kelly Kelble said.

The Register requested district emails Monday night regarding the issue, but the emails have not yet been provided.

Ultimately, board members delayed the decision until they meet again, which will be after the Nov. 5 election. Rankin and board member Elmer Lippert are among eight candidates vying for three available board seats.

Regardless of the timing, Siesel and district librarian Leslie Wiswell also questioned the overall message the policy would send to taxpayers and other district employees.

A contract finalized in September between Margaretta Schools administrators and teachers did not include such bonuses for teachers, they said.

“The teachers should be getting that money — they’re the ones preparing the kids to take the tests,” Wiswell said. “I haven’t had a raise in five years. Before you all get $5,000, can I maybe have $100?”

Board members haven’t yet determined how much an administrator’s bonus would be, despite circulating rumors, such as the $5,000 amount Wiswell mentioned, Kurt said. Margaretta Schools students scored highest in the area on this year’s statereport cards, earning six As and three Bs total.

The scores were among the highest of all 600 school districts in the state. About a month after the state released the report cards, administrators came to board members with the proposal for incentive-based bonuses. The payments are not uncommon in education.

For example, Perkins Schools superintendent Jim Gunner receives a $5,000 bonus if his district earns an “excellent” rating.

Danbury Schools superintendent Dan Parent also receives a $5,000 bonus for an "excellent" rating, but has opted to donate the funds toward student scholarships, according to his contract.

Note: This post has been modified to clarify inaccurate information regarding Danbury Schools superintendent Dan Parent's bonus.

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