Monday, May 09, 2011

Ohio Education Largess: Boards and Voters to Blame

Ultimately, the school boards and the voters who allow them to keep their jobs. Channel 9 WCPO today did an I-team report that is meant to get people to hate Gov. Kasich over Senate Bill 5 by focusing on how much superintendents are paid and the perks they are given. We at WMD have covered this not only on Ohio but in Indiana as well.
Busing cuts will force more students to walk to Princeton High School next year, but taxpayers are still driving their superintendent to work.

Dr. Gary Pack gets a $550 car allowance every month as part of his contract . It's not a car from the district's fleet, or even a take-home car. It's a monthly payment on his personal car.

That's just one of the perks we discovered when reviewing the salaries of Tri-State public school superintendents.

At least five superintendents in Southwest Ohio have higher base salaries than the governor of Ohio. Many more top the governor when you factor in their fringe benefits that include every penny the employee would normally have to contribute to retirement. The taxpayers pick up 100% of the superintendents' pension contributions -- unlike teachers.

This is a huge problem, but Superintendents are not part of the teachers' unions (at least not in their current positions, but many do still collect retirement as teachers while being superintendents. Some even collect retirement as a teacher, superintendent, and get a current salary, plus perks.) They do not collective bargain. Their contracts are negotiated and approved by the individual school boards. If Kasich were to mandate the superintendents' salaries, it would be like government determining individual workers in private industry's pay.

The real villains and people who should be ashamed are the school boards who approve these pork laden contracts. They are too busy taking junkets to this workshop/vacation spot or living off taxpayer dollars to actually read the contracts. Sounds like Congress. Many board members are almost lifers who are never opposed or booted out of office because voters rarely pay attention to these races. That is a huge problem, because quite frankly, the board members control where money goes and what contracts non-collectively bargained say. They are the ultimate hirers and firers. They are the ones who need to be accountable, because they have the most direct control. However, whenever one asks board members about spending, the first thing they always do is point the finger at the state. That is just passing the buck, and I don't know about you, but I am sick of that garbage. If we want to work on these funding issues and are disgusted by the largesse of the superintendents' contracts and by the crap (see the WMD Education tab for the garbage the OEA wants teachers to teach your kids) teachers are brainwashing your kids with, then the thing to do is inquire with the school boards, stay vigilant, and vote the bums out. However, the I-team is not being totally fair with this stuff:
Cincinnati's Mary Ronan, who makes a base salary of $189,000 -- less than her predecessor -- has agreed to pay 20% of her health care like her teachers, and she's giving back a $1,300 disability insurance premium that's part of her contract .

Some of these contracts were signed before the latest round of deep cuts. But other than Mary Ronan, no superintendent we contacted is offering to give up any of their perks this year, even though many are pulling teachers out of the classrooms and sending them to the unemployment office. The Princeton School Board also gave Dr. Pack a new contract last summer -- amidst the deep cuts -- full of fringe benefits.

Dr. Pack gets 100% of his pension funded by the school district, 25 days paid vacation per year, five of which he can take as pay. The district puts $10,000 into his tax sheltered annuity, pays for full medical and dental coverage and a $4,000 healthcare spending account, that $550/month car allowance, plus $3,000 in annual life insurance premiums, and a $3 million liability insurance policy.

The laid-off teachers have calculated those annual perks at nearly $87,000 on top of Dr. Pack's $140,000 salary, and his contract is typical of the superintendent compensation packages we've examined.

Dr. Pack and the president of Princeton's School Board refused our requests for an interview.

By email, Dr. Pack justified his car allowance, saying "the $550 a month covers all auto travel, maintenance and operations of my vehicle. I do not receive mileage reimbursements. Last year, I traveled over 8,000 miles within the district and trips to the city and Columbus to do the work of the school district. If you figure the mileage rate at about 50 cents a mile, plus oil changes, tires, maintenance of the vehicle and depreciation, I believe I may have gone in the hole."

The IRS considers 50 cents per mile as full reimbursement for gas and all the expenses he describes.

Dr. Pack's car allowance comes to $6,600 a year. Had he sought mileage reimbursement instead, the district would have paid out only $4,000 -- a $2,600 savings to taxpayers.

Even though Princeton's school board just approved deep cuts to special education, libraries, and textbooks -- and slashed preschool and gifted programs in half -- the board president says Dr. Pack may still get another $10,000 performance bonus at the end of this year. The superintendent has not ruled out accepting it.

I know of one superintendent who offered to cut his current benefits deeply in exchange for keeping his job. His name is Allan Simmons of the Eastern Brown School District. His reward? The board decided he had to go and not be renewed after years of excellent service. AND they cut teachers! Here are some links regarding the Eastern situation.
link 1
link 2
link 3
link 4

Go the Brown County Press website and search for Simmons or Eastern Board to get these and more. One can also probably do the same at the News Democrat website as well.

Why wouldn't the board accept Simmons proposition? Were they worried the community would ask them to take a cut in pay? Hmmm. Many of those on the Eastern Board and boards across Brown County and SW Ohio and longtime members or the seat has been in their family for years. Think about that. And we complain about education funding and don't hold accountable those who are most responsible for such ridiculous contracts!

5/10/2011 Update

OK, look. I don't begrudge anyone for making money. If someone is willing to give you a ridiculous contract, then take it, by all means. My issue is that everyone is talking about school funding. We are losing teachers. Instead of losing teachers, why don't more superintendents follow the example of Ronan in CPS and Mr. Simmons formerly of Eastern and cut the perks and the extra cash. The ones double dipping (which should not be allowed)should forego over 50% of their salary. If it is about the kids, who has the most impact and contact? That would be the teachers. And who is ultimately responsible for how WHATEVER money is spent? The school boards. For too long, school boards have been like Congress, expecting the money train to never dry up. Guess what? Drying up.....These clowns who have as much a sense of entitlement as Pelosi are the ones we need to hold accountable. We as voters need to ask do they read these contracts or what? That was the point of my post.