My Thoughts on the December 14th Board Meeting

My Thoughts on the December 14th Board Meeting

The school board met on December 14th. To watch the meeting, click here.

While the board covered several issues, I will focus on retention bonuses and the hiring a new Director of Security and Emergency Services.

Retention Bonuses

We voted unanimously to provide a $1000 “retention bonus” to all full-time employees and $500 to all part-time employees. Employees have already received half of their bonus and will receive the remaining half in May.

This vote was easy for me (and I suspect everyone else on the board). Our teachers and other school staff are underpaid. And we, like others, are struggling to keep them (i.e., we are currently short on bus drivers, custodial staff, and teachers, to name a few). This was at least an acknowledgment of this reality. It’s less than what teachers and staff deserve, but it’s what we could give right now. So, I think it was the right call.

There was some discussion (based on Ms. King’s questions) about whether this retention bonus should apply to the district administrative level. I think this raises a valid point. I certainly believe that folks at the district level are essential parts of the team. Indeed, for years I have touted the student nutrition department for all their work to ensure families don’t go without food during closures and holidays. But I think it was worth considering whether department heads and others we are not struggling to retain and who get paid more than teachers and other staff needed this bonus. I think one can articulate this position without suggesting that those at the administrative level are less important. When we’re figuring out the best way to spend a finite amount of public money, I think it’s always worth looking at how precisely we are targeting our bonuses. And whatever money that we can save can be spent on teaching aids for classrooms, school social workers, etc. I think we should revisit the scope of the next bonus.

More broadly, we need to do more in the area of compensation. For example, I asked about the growing difference between the Richland One neighboring districts’ salary schedules. For example, a Richland One teacher with substantial experience can make around $10,000 more in Lexington One. The HR director assured me that he is aware of this discrepancy and is looking into narrowing that pretty significant gap.

School Safety

The board hired a new Director of Security and Emergency Services. Our current director has been with the district for over two decades. His will be big shoes to fill during a time when school climate and safety are more fraught than ever.

Before we voted, we were supplied with one candidate’s resume. That’s it. I don’t think this is sufficient, especially for a director position.

This position was open for almost two years, and countless candidates were interviewed. We were not provided with any information about the interview ratings or the answers to questions. I would like to know more. For example, I would like to know his philosophy about school safety. Does he view it as a mostly law enforcement role? Does he believe that student support services have a significant role in the safety and climate at a school?

When I objected to this process and requested more information, I was told that this is the way things have always been done. I don’t believe that we should ever continue a particular practice simply because that’s how it’s always been done.

I voted against this candidate because I did not believe I could make an informed decision. I wasn’t suggesting that he isn’t qualified. Instead, I voted against a process that provides so little information that the board becomes nothing more than a rubber stamp. I believe that the board has a greater responsibility than that.