Four weeks later and the teachers contract remains a secret

It’s been 27 days since the Sioux Falls Education Association voted in favor of a new five-year employment agreement with the school district.

The school district and teachers held a joint press conference, and the school board voted to approve the agreement.

You’d think by now that the document, which explains how the public school district is going to spend roughly $640 million in salaries and benefits over the next five years, would be public.

Alas, it is not. The district’s web site continues to link to the old agreement.

What makes that particularly troubling is that what we were told at the press conference was not entirely true. I asked board president Doug Morrison then whether there were any changes to the salary schedule, whether there were winners or losers among new or veteran teachers. He answered:

“The schedule won’t change except the base of all those numbers on there will go up by 8.54 percent, and teachers will continue to move across those.”

“Every point on the salary schedule goes up 8.54 percent, and then it’s a matter of where they’re at on their steps.”

“The basic salary schedule stays the same, it’s just that all the numbers on it go up by 8.54 percent.”

I don’t think Morrison was lying, but what he said clearly was not accurate.

Someone, presumably a teacher, mailed me the new salary schedule with a note that read: “If you look at this you can easily see all teachers did not receive an 8.5 percent increase. Maybe you should do an in-depth story about this and see why the teachers are not all happy. Interview some!”

Without that letter, I couldn’t have written my Sunday story, which revealed that some types of teachers would receive far more than 8.54 percent, and some less than 2 percent.

In fact, the salary schedule was expanded, by two rows. Twelve positions on the new schedule are up 8.54 percent. But 14 positions are up 14 percent and 16 positions 19.7 percent.

The expanded schedule will benefit only new hires, who will make significantly more money than if they had been hired last spring.

“I was using the 8.54 percent in a general sense,” Morrison told me after I sent him a spreadsheet I put together comparing the two pay schedules. “We did change the structure of it.”

It struck me as a pretty big deal that starting pay for new hires with experience was going up 14.7 to 19 percent. You’d think the school board and administrators would be happy to talk about it, right?

So why didn’t they talk about it during their press conference? And why did Pam Homan and Sue Simons refuse to meet with me or take a phone call about it, insisting I submit questions by email?

I have to wonder too whether the teachers knew what they were voting on. Would an experienced teacher hired last year have voted for the agreement if she knew a new hire with the same experience would be making as much as $7,333 more in year one?

The agreement puts a lot more money into teacher salaries. Maybe that’s enough to overcome the inequities that come along with it.

But it would have been nice if the administration and school board would have been upfront about what they were doing, and at least a little transparent after the fact.

Teacher contract means $15k raise for Homan, but she doesn’t want it

Since she became superintendent, the automatic annual increases in Pam Homan’s salary have been tied to the state aid formula, just like the average pay increase for the district’s teachers.

If she were so inclined, that could have made Wednesday a big pay day for her as teachers reached a new employment agreement that raises their pay 8.54 percent.

Homan wasn’t thrilled when I asked her before the news conference about what the contract means for her paychecks. She wanted the story to be about the teachers, which it was going to be anyway.

But she indicated she wouldn’t be taking the full 8.54 percent increase, saying something about how she’s never taken more than the least employee. Something like that.

I think I knew what she meant but she declined to clarify, referring me to school board president Doug Morrison.

“Knowing Dr. Homan, I think she might be uncomfortable with that,” he said.

So, no, she’s probably not going to take a $15,339 pay increase next year, for a total of $194,947.

If she were to take the same 4.87 percent increase that other administrators and clerical staff are getting, she’d make $188,355 next year, an increase of $8,747.

— update: This is what happened. —

Or, maybe she’ll do something else.

Homan’s salary as superintendent by year

FY05: $153,000 (was promoted to superintendent)

FY06: $156,060 (up 2 percent)

FY07: $161,741 (up 3.64 percent)

FY08: $165,785 (up 2.5 percent)

FY09: $170,759 (up 3 percent)

FY10: $175,882 (up 3 percent)

FY11: $181,000 (up 2.91 percent; new contract)

FY12: $175,570 (down 3 percent; all administrators agreed to take larger pay cuts than were scheduled)

FY13: $179,608 (up 2.3 percent)

FY14: $188,355 (up 4.87 percent)

Daugaard’s education budget: why so happy?

The positive reaction to Gov. Daugaard’s education budget was a bit puzzling. Sure, it’s better than a 10 percent cut or a kick in the teeth, but is a .8 percent per-student increase really worth celebrating?

The first thing Harrisburg Supt. Jim Holbeck told me was: “I’m pleased to see the dollar figures that were dedicated in light of the current revenue streams the governor was facing.”

Wade Pogany, the new top guy for the school boards association, was decidedly positive in his reaction: “We’re glad that we can get back to some predictability.”

He allowed that some school boards might have to continue making cuts, but he portrayed the budget proposal as good news for schools.

Positive, even though the plan wouldn’t give schools what ASBSD asked for: making the 2 percent in one-time money from last year permanent before adding the 2.3 percent inflationary increase already in law. Daugaard’s plan falls about 1.5 percent short of that.

(The $8.4M in training money is a big deal, but it could be described as the state paying for some things that they’ve mandated schools adopt.)

Sioux Falls School Board members struck a different tone Wednesday during a work session:

Board President Kent Alberty said he didn’t share Pogany’s view that schools did just fine.

Doug Morrison said the teacher salary schedule “will take a step backwards” if Daugaard’s plan becomes law.

I emailed Superintendent Pam Homan for some reaction to the budget address but she didn’t respond. Maybe we’ll have to wait for a Rotary meeting.

Voting “none of the above” for school board

One of the fun things about looking at election results is the number of “others” – voters who over-vote or under-vote. That’s especially fun when there’s only one race, as was the case with the May 24 Sioux Falls School Board election.

With one seat available and two candidates, it should have been pretty straight-forward: Fill in either the circle next to Doug Morrison’s name or Debbie Hoffman’s name and turn in your ballot.

Yet, seven of the 4,090 people who took the time to vote did otherwise. Two chose both candidates; five chose neither.

Again, that’s five registered voters who traveled to a voting center, scanned the two candidates’ names and turned in an empty ballot.

Perhaps their pencils broke. Perhaps they were expecting to find a space for a write-in candidate. Perhaps they thought they were voting on an opt-out resolution.

More likely, these were protest votes – er, non-votes.

The candidates made little effort to distinguish themselves from one another, offering no public criticism of the other and spending no money on a campaign (according to pre-election campaign finance reports). Both candidates have served on the school board before, so attentive voters knew what they’re getting.

The under-voters remind me of a teacher I talked to briefly in April 13, 2010, during the last school board election. That year, the school board race shared a ballot with the mayoral primary. This anonymous teacher told me she didn’t vote for any of the school board candidates, saying: “Pam Homan has so much power, and I don’t think any of them will stand up to her.”

(originally published June 13, 2011 at argusleader.com)


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