All but three returning Mehlville administrators receive 6-percent salary increase

Board approves 3-percent raise for new administrators

By BURKE WASSON

The Mehlville Board of Education last week approved a 6-percent salary increase to all but three returning administrators for the 2007-2008 school year.

In addition, the board’s 5-2 vote also authorized a 3-percent raise for several incoming administrators on top of those individuals’ already-negotiated salaries for the coming school year.

Board Vice President Karl Frank Jr. and board member Venki Palamand were opposed to the 6-percent salary increases.

While nearly all Mehlville administrators will receive a 6-percent salary bump, Buerkle Middle School Principal Scott Hayes and Mehlville Senior High School Principal Vince Viviano will receive raises of 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

The only administrator in the entire district denied a raise for 2007-2008 is Director of School/Community Relations Patrick Wallace, whose contract expires at the conclusion of that school year.

Board of Education President Tom Diehl said the board approved an overall raise of 6 percent for all but three returning administrators because many other districts approved raises as much as 9 percent.

“This year, competing districts have been giving cost-of-living increases or raises of from 4 percent to 9 percent,” Diehl said. “We are at the lower end of that range. Unlike past years, no administrator or principal will be getting any more than what we will be giving teachers, secretaries, bus drivers, maintenance workers or cooks.”

As for Hayes, Viviano and Wallace, Diehl said each has been given specific criteria for improvement in the next school year.

“Those who have not met the expectations of the superintendents received significantly less and have been given improvement plans with specific goals and expectations to be met in the coming year,” Diehl said. “Based on performance, some (Wallace) got no increase.”

While he and Palamand voted against the proposal to raise administrators’ salaries, Frank said his vote should not be misconstrued as a criticism of the administration.

“I think the community can feel pretty confident that we are getting every penny out of what we’re spending on our current administration, especially our Central-Office team,” Frank said. “I can’t speak so much for our building level because we don’t work with them on a daily basis. But feeling how confident of how our Central-Office staff has been, I don’t believe that we’re overpaying our administration right now.”

Despite that belief, Frank said because he also feels that teachers need to be more generously compensated, he stuck to a 2005 campaign promise of not approving raises for administrators until teachers reach St. Louis County’s median pay rate.

“My vote was in line with the fact that as a candidate, and I still believe this, that as long as in fact our classroom teachers are the ones in the trenches every day, until they’re brought up to the county median, I will not approve any administrator pay raises,” Frank said. “And unlike most elected officials nowadays, I intend on keeping my campaign promises.”

Anticipating some criticism of the board’s decision to approve 6-percent raises to all but three returning administrators and 3-percent raises to incoming administrators, Diehl said the fraction of the district’s total budget spent on these raises is less than 1 percent.

“In total, the increases we gave to administrators amounts to less than one-fourth of 1 percent of our budget,” Diehl said. “Some folks in south county would be upset whatever we give. However, our principals are not just numbers.

“They are people. They have families. The vast majority of them live in our district. They attend our churches, and their children go to our schools. They pay the same taxes that we do. They spend their paychecks in our stores, our restaurants and at our car dealerships. When their homes need repairs, they hire our neighbors to do the job. Using traditional economic multipliers, they pump about $200 million back into our local economy.”

With respect to the board’s decision to approve 3-percent raises for new administrators who have yet to work a day in those positions, Frank said he anticipates that could change in the future and expects the board to further discuss that possibility for next year.

“They’re always hired under the assumption that they’re brought in at the current year’s rate,” Frank said. “But if everybody else gets nothing, they’ll get nothing. So they always start the next year at what everybody else would start at. So that’s the explanation that’s given.

“The difference is it’s not written into the actual verbiage of the contract. It’s more of just past history and a verbal contract that happens. But that might change in the future. We’re going to have some discussions on making sure that wording is included in the contract so that it doesn’t have the appearance that of actually getting a raise — that they’re actually hired at that rate.”

Board Secretary Micheal Ocello said he believes the 6-percent raise for the vast majority of returning administrators “was the right thing to do” and that the district should be able to better evaluate performance of all district employee groups next year with the district’s recently created exploratory committee.

“I look at these folks and I feel strongly that (for) the whole district and the educational process, it takes a team and these are the leaders of the team and they should be recognized,” Ocello said. “Now the process that we’re doing with this review of all the employee groups is going to give us data that next year when we get to the raise process or the negotiations process, we’re going to have data to ultimately say: This is what we need to do to equalize all of the employee positions …

“This review that we’re embarking upon is not just how do the administrators relate to the teachers, to the bus drivers and (how) that relates to the mean. We’re going to also get into how do we handle raises in the future — should it be performance based and kind of go back and go over some things that apparently haven’t really been addressed for awhile but really need to be addressed.”

During a discussion of specific employees’ performance in closed session, Palamand made a motion that was seconded by Frank to offer a 3-percent overall raise to administrators instead of 6 percent.

That motion was defeated 5-2 with only Palamand and Frank supporting it.

Palamand said while he values administrators’ work, he believes that considering the district’s resources, a 3-percent salary increase consistent with the increased cost of living in the district is fair.

“We have a good group of administrators who I currently feel are paid well,” he said. “I made that assessment based mainly on two facts. One, relative to other districts in St. Louis County and a couple in Jefferson County, administrative pay is somewhere slightly below the median, but competitive. Two, we received a large number of applicants for the open administrative positions we had for the ’07-’08 school year. That tells me educators are interested in working for Mehlville. There is so much more to a job, any job, than just collecting a paycheck.

“So, working with the resources provided to us by this community, I felt a 3-percent cost-of-living increase was fair. I was unable to support the pay package that was presented for a vote.”