My last blog, posted Monday, was about former school board member Debbie Hoffman taking $75 from the school district for doing an interview with KELO-TV.
KELO’s Katie Janssen did her own story on the matter on Tuesday. Janssen reported she spoke off-camera with Hoffman, who gave this explanation:
(Hoffman) did say she was very careful in what she  chose to expense while serving on the school board. She also says she  did two more interviews with KELO News in the two months that followed,  one about the budget and another about Hoffman’s school board campaign,  and she didn’t expense either one of those. 
It’s true Hoffman did not expense the campaign interview, which would have required some serious gumption, but she did get paid for the April 13 budget interview. The above minutes show that, as well as some of the other meetings that board members invoiced.
For what it’s worth, the budget for board member pay is $33,750 this year, down from $37,700 last year. That’s because budget cuts reduced the number of paid meetings from 100 to 90, so each member can expect about $6,750 this year, down from $7,500.

My last blog, posted Monday, was about former school board member Debbie Hoffman taking $75 from the school district for doing an interview with KELO-TV.

KELO’s Katie Janssen did her own story on the matter on Tuesday. Janssen reported she spoke off-camera with Hoffman, who gave this explanation:

(Hoffman) did say she was very careful in what she chose to expense while serving on the school board. She also says she did two more interviews with KELO News in the two months that followed, one about the budget and another about Hoffman’s school board campaign, and she didn’t expense either one of those.

It’s true Hoffman did not expense the campaign interview, which would have required some serious gumption, but she did get paid for the April 13 budget interview. The above minutes show that, as well as some of the other meetings that board members invoiced.

For what it’s worth, the budget for board member pay is $33,750 this year, down from $37,700 last year. That’s because budget cuts reduced the number of paid meetings from 100 to 90, so each member can expect about $6,750 this year, down from $7,500.

Should we pay a school board member for doing a TV interview? 
On March 21, the Argus Leader published a story I wrote about a proposed change in Sioux Falls School District policy  concerning searches of teacher’s personal property. Teachers were upset  with the policy, and they eventually got their way.
After our story ran, KELO-TV did its own story on the same subject. Katie Janssen spoke with the union president and  with Debbie Hoffman, one of two school board members who serve on the  policy review committee.
For that TV interview, Hoffman later submitted a claim to the school  district’s business office for $75. During the April 25 board meeting,  the rest of the board approved that claim.
I’d never seen that before. An elected official was paid for  participating in a TV interview. She was paid not by the TV station,  which is another matter altogether, but by the tax-supported governing body on which she serves. In other words, us.
I’d have written a story about it, but it turns out our Brenda  Wade-Schmidt basically did the same story for the newspaper in 2003. She  wrote:
“Sioux Falls School Board members get paid for reading to  elementary  school children, attending Chamber of Commerce events, doing  newspaper  and television interviews, and handing out diplomas.
Last year, the five members earned $31,680, ranking them among the highest paid school boards in the state.
They earned payments for attending dozens of meetings. But they  also  were paid for activities such as attending a press conference with  Gov.  Bill Janklow, taping a program for the district’s OWL-TV station  and lobbying legislators in Pierre, an Argus Leader analysis of district  pay records shows.
That story did not lead to a change in district policy - or perhaps more to the point, state law - although I’ve noticed it’s fairly rare for board members today to submit claims for payment.
The statutory language that allowed Hoffman to get paid is as follows: The per diem may be paid for each meeting actually attended by such member and also for each day a member was actually engaged in the service of the board when authorized by the board.
If it weren’t for KELO, Hoffman would not have been “engaged in the service of the board” on that Monday.

Should we pay a school board member for doing a TV interview?

On March 21, the Argus Leader published a story I wrote about a proposed change in Sioux Falls School District policy concerning searches of teacher’s personal property. Teachers were upset with the policy, and they eventually got their way.

After our story ran, KELO-TV did its own story on the same subject. Katie Janssen spoke with the union president and with Debbie Hoffman, one of two school board members who serve on the policy review committee.

For that TV interview, Hoffman later submitted a claim to the school district’s business office for $75. During the April 25 board meeting, the rest of the board approved that claim.

I’d never seen that before. An elected official was paid for participating in a TV interview. She was paid not by the TV station, which is another matter altogether, but by the tax-supported governing body on which she serves. In other words, us.

I’d have written a story about it, but it turns out our Brenda Wade-Schmidt basically did the same story for the newspaper in 2003. She wrote:

“Sioux Falls School Board members get paid for reading to elementary school children, attending Chamber of Commerce events, doing newspaper and television interviews, and handing out diplomas.

Last year, the five members earned $31,680, ranking them among the highest paid school boards in the state.

They earned payments for attending dozens of meetings. But they also were paid for activities such as attending a press conference with Gov. Bill Janklow, taping a program for the district’s OWL-TV station and lobbying legislators in Pierre, an Argus Leader analysis of district pay records shows.

That story did not lead to a change in district policy - or perhaps more to the point, state law - although I’ve noticed it’s fairly rare for board members today to submit claims for payment.

The statutory language that allowed Hoffman to get paid is as follows: The per diem may be paid for each meeting actually attended by such member and also for each day a member was actually engaged in the service of the board when authorized by the board.

If it weren’t for KELO, Hoffman would not have been “engaged in the service of the board” on that Monday.

Homan haters, remember this number

One of the more miscited figures of the last seven months has been Pam Homan’s salary as superintendent of the Sioux Falls School District.

Best as I can tell, there were two reasons Homan’s pay became a such topic of particular interest:

1. My Aug. 1, 2010 story about SFSD administrators getting 10 percent raises, which put the number making more than $100,000 at 33. As the story said, all other employee groups got similarly large raises during the first three years of the contract; in 2010, it was the administrators’ turn. Nonetheless, it gave ammunition to folks who criticize public schools for being top-heavy.

2. Gov. Daugaard’s decision to reduce his own pay by 15 percent while proposing a 10 percent cut in state funding for education. Homan publicly criticized the “half-assed” budget plan, which incited her critics to suggest she follow the governor’s example and reduce her own pay accordingly.

For the record, again, Homan’s salary was $181,000 last year.

And for the record, it will be $175,570 next year – a 3 percent decrease.

Annual percentage changes in Homan’s salary are tied to the fate of the district’s teachers, which in turn is tied to state aid. When the Legislature cut state aid by 6.6 percent, that meant Sioux Falls teachers and Homan would suffer pay cuts averaging 2.05 percent. But when the group of district administrators “volunteered” for a 3 percent reduction instead, Homan said she’d do the same.

Now, back to the number of six-figure administrators. School board documents show there are only 30 this year, but I think there will be 31 by the start of school. The decline is due to the retirement of Bill Smith, who will not be replaced, and the sudden resignation of Joe Foss principal Dave Yost, who was replaced by an interim principal making under $100,000.

(originally published June 28, 2011 at argusleader.com)


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