Supt. Ron Hanson will receive a 2.5% raise in each of the next two years, School Board President Mike Morrell said Monday as the board discussed administrative salaries and approved a contract with teachers.
Hanson’s raises are not final yet, but Morrell said the board has considered the salary in closed session. His compensation will be on the agenda next month, when the board is also expected to approve salaries for the top 20 or so administrators, including those at the central office, as well as principals and assistant principals.
Those top administrators are slated to receive a 1.8% increase, the district’s chief financial officer, Stuart Simpson said, which is in line with a 2.1% increase in the consumer price index from January 2017-January 2018, he added.
Board members said they discussed the superintendent’s salary at length. Morrell said the last closed door discussion lasted an hour or so.
Simpson said the discussions were about fairness, comparisons with other schools and supportiveness.
Board members like the job Hanson is doing, five of them said. Alecia Hothan, who decided to not run for reelection, was absent.
“We feel leadership is important,” Ivan Mitchell said, citing Hanson’s ability to create a “career academy”, enhance the dual credit program with the community college and bring agriculture and FFA to the high school.
Even with Hanson’s raises, his salary will be $10,000 or so a year less than comparative salaries in an array of similar size schools, Mitchell said.
Last year, Hanson received a 5% raise.
In the only vote of the meeting, the board approved a one-year contract with the North Platte Education Association – the teachers’ union.
The base pay for a beginning teacher will remain the same at $36,950 a year, but each teacher will receive an additional $1,100 stipend to help pay their health insurance costs.
After the meeting, Bobbi Isom of the teachers’ union said health insurance costs are an overriding concern. She said the cost of a family health insurance policy can reach $20,000 a year.
Teachers currently receive $6,500 toward their health insurance, as well as a $600 a year bonus to use as they choose, she said.
Next year, they will receive the $1,100, plus the $600, plus the $6,500, for a total of $8,200 over and above their salary, according to the new contract.
Simpson predicted that normal teacher raises for experience and graduate studies would bring the total increase for teachers’ pay next year to around $2.5%.
The teachers’ union members voted 54-4 to accept the $1,100 increase, Isom said.
“We are satisfied,” she said afterwards, “but members are going to be concerned with what administrators receive.”
Isom said teachers know the district is facing another $1 million cut in state aid in the coming year, and teachers are the essential part of the school district.
As it looks now, property taxpayers will cover the $1 million state aid shortfall, according to budget projections. An increase in property valuations is expected to generate another $1 million next year if the levy stays the same, according to projections that Simpson presented to the board.
Administrative salaries at the North Platte schools have been discussed in executive sessions and at school board sub-committee meetings since September, and on Monday the public had the opportunity to talk to the full board.
Two people spoke during the time allotted public comments – longtime taxpayer advocate Bernice Zeigler and Nebraskaland National Bank CEO Mike Jacobson.
Ziegler told the board they act like an arm of the administration instead of representatives of property taxpayers.
“Your actions are more favorable with administrative priorities than concerns of the public,” Ziegler said.
She’s followed the school board closely for more than a year, and only heard one nay vote, even though board members represent different areas, income levels, and people in their wards, she said.
She also implied that the board was hypocritical. She cited a school district handout that said the board “has done a great job in addressing administrator salaries with the public,” but she heard no specific salaries numbers at school board meetings through the year, until earlier in the meeting.
On the other hand, Jacobson said the raises for Hanson are deserved.
“I’ve watched superintendents come and go (in the last 25 years),” he said. “We’ve never had a finer one. And, when there is turnover at the top, it disrupts everything we do. I’m pleased with what I see. I think we’re seeing very good results.”
The vote on teachers’ salaries came after nearly two hours of reports.
School board meetings are held at the McKinley Education Center, 301 West F St. The next board meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 9.