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School salaries on the rise

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At its meeting on Sept. 12 the Yellow Springs school board approved new contracts for district Superintendent Mario Basora and Treasurer Dawn Weller.

The board agreed to a five-year contract with Basora, including a 12 percent raise the first year and 3.5 percent for each of the remaining years. Basora came to the district three years ago with a salary of $105,000. If he completes the current contract, his compensation after four years would be $134,834.

The board agreed to a three-year contract for Weller, including a 3.5 percent increase per year. Weller is currently paid $99,700 and would be making $110,538 after two years.

Board members Sean Creighton and Sylvia Ellison praised the district leaders, saying that their multi-year contracts would make the district stronger.

“This is a positive step for stability,” Ellison said.

Over the summer, the board approved teacher and classified staff raises of 3.5 percent per year for three years. Board members also approved three year contracts with annual 3.5 percent raises for its five mid-level administrators, including two principals and the part-time positions of assistant high school principal, special education coordinator and athletic director.

The district-wide raises follow last year’s passage of a new 7.35-mill levy that raised about $915,000 for the district each year, out of a total $9 million budget ($7.5 million general fund.) Best practices indicate that public school budgets should keep spending on salary and benefits to between 80 and 85 percent of revenue. Currently the district spends roughly 77 percent of its revenue on salaries and benefits.

According to Weller, the increases are in line relative to the inflation rate.

“Due to inflation and the economy, the value of these dollars in 3–5 years is going to sound more tolerable as the value of the dollar goes up.”

Administrator salaries are difficult to compare to districts of similar size, partly because many top administrators receive additional benefits that increase the value of their overall compsensation package, according to Weller. Yellow Springs’ administrators do not receive such “perks.” As a point of reference, according to data from the State treasurer’s office and Buckeye Institute, superintendent salaries alone in the region range from $121,000 in the Cedar Cliff district, to $114,000 in the Oakwood school district, and $103,000 at both Bethel and Ansonia local districts.

In other school business:
• The board agreed to use the second meeting of the month (Thursday, Sept. 26) as a work session to discuss team building options. Board President Benji Maruyama proposed that the board discuss which issues they needed to work on, which professionals they should retain to facilitate and when to hold the more substantive work session.

“As a district we’ve been sprinting for four years, especially this last year,” Maruyama said at the meeting. “You’ve done amazing work,” he told the district’s leadership team, adding that “in any team, there is always work to be done — there’s always room for improvement, and it’s good that we take the time to do that.”

• Basora reported that a development director had been hired for Yellow Springs Exempted Village Schools Capital Endowment Fund, or YSCAPE. The position is to be funded completely by YSCAPE dollars. YSCAPE is a private fund hosted by the Yellow Springs Community Foundation with input from the village school board intended to fund the transition and professional development specified by the 2020 strategic plan.

Regarding the 2020 plan, Basora also reported that the district is planning a parent engagement event focused on the book The Ethics of Excellence. The dicussion is meant to raise awareness about the direction the schools are headed and spur public participation in that creative process.

• Treasurer Dawn Weller reported that the athletic fund is currently $1,000 in deficit. The athletic fund is supposed to be self sustaining, and the fund was solvent when the district had a football team. But since the football program was dissolved three years ago, the athletic fund has been depleting its reserves and finally ended last year in the red.

• The board listened to the district’s three major 2013–14 goals, recommended by Basora. The district plans to present more information on the goals and explain how they align with the 2020 Strategic Plan at the October board meeting.

In general, the first goal is to transform student learning by implementing project-based learning and ensuring each student demonstrates growth. The strategies include having each teacher lead nine weeks of project-based learning for each of their classes and creating a more collaborative culture through peer project and process reviews for both students and teachers.

The second goal is to fully and effectively implement the new curriculum, evaluation and assessment changes required by law. There are currently nine new federal- and state-mandated changes that must be implemented this school year, including Common Core academic standards, PARCC college readiness standards, a new teacher evaluation process (50 percent of which is based on student performance,) crisis prevention training and the third grade reading guarantee.

The third goal is to implement sustainable fiscal practices that focus resources on strategic plan initiatives. The strategies include passing the permanent improvement levy, increasing revenues through fundraising and open enrollment, reducing expenses and bolstering the YSCAPE fund intended to support the 2020 Strategic Plan.

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