By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS -- Some St. Marys school district residents are outraged at the 5.5 percent salary increases the board of education approved last week for eight school administrators. One resident is calling for those administrators to "graciously decline" half of the increase.
At Wednesday morning's board of education meeting, resident Bob Valentine addressed the board from prepared notes.
"(The 5.5 percent increase) is disturbing, uncalled for and out of line. You gave us a magnificent gift two years ago when you accepted a salary freeze at what we were told was a crisis time. We passed the 7.9-mill increase. Now you're taking (the gift) back, and I feel deceived. It's outrageous," Valentine told the administrators and board members present at the meeting.
"The most honorable thing for you to do now is to refuse all but half the increase, particularly Mr. Baker (district superintendent) who was not yet here to be affected by the freeze," Valentine said, adding a request that the board "rescind" its approval vote.
He also expressed chagrin that the hometown newspaper did not report the increases and he "had to read about it in another local paper." Superintendent Ken Baker, who is just completing his first year as head of the district, has said the 5.5 percent increase for administrators covers the year they took a freeze. He pointed out that the 5.5 percent spread out over two years was actually a savings because the second year's percentage was not based on a higher base from the first year.
Baker also defended the raise by saying the increase was in line with teachers' salaries, citing last year when, he said, teachers' increases averaged 9.5 percent. He said that included a board approved raise of 5 percent, along with teachers moving up on the salary scale due to years of service or educational advancement.
"I'm not begrudging them, I know they work hard for their money. But there is a diminishing gap between teachers and administrators. Teachers have done a better job of negotiating than administrators have," Baker said.
The teacher salary scale is based on years of experience and level of education. A new teacher at St. Marys with a bachelor's degree will receive base pay of $30,648. The top pay is $60,377 for a 25-year teacher with a master's degree plus 15 semester hours.
Board member Craig Gottschalk responded to the residents complaints, saying the total administration increase was still less than the increases two years ago, due to personnel changes and cuts. Baker added St. Marys district ranked 18th in administration salaries of 21 comparison schools in Ohio and also ranks ninth of 10 in the Western Buckeye League schools.
Also at Wednesday's meeting, Valentine noted he had attended the July 6 special board meeting and heard only that the administrative increase was being approved. He said he is disturbed because there was no discussion of the details or amount.
"This board does not discuss openly or in depth," he said.
Valentine said he did not expect the board or administrators to take any immediate action on his remarks.
"I think the jury's out. It remains to be seen if administrators will take what I and others have said to heart," he said.