Principal’s salary over budget; BOE responds
By CORY ALLYN - Staff Reporter
September, 09, 2010
WEBUTUCK — The negotiated contract between newly rehired high school principal Ken Sauer and the Webutuck Central School District was approved last week at the Board of Education’s (BOE) Aug. 30 meeting.
Within that contract were two years of salary stipulations, paying Sauer $110,000 for each of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years.
The 2010-11 school year’s salary is prorated to reflect the actual starting date for Sauer, which Superintendent Steven Schoonmaker said would be mid-October, due to Sauer’s professional obligations to the North Carolina school where he is currently serving as high school principal.
Sauer was previously Webutuck High School’s principal from 2004 to 2007, before turning in a letter of resignation and heading to Brockport, near Rochester, N.Y.
The board voted 5-1 to approve Sauer’s contract and salary (Vice President Joe Herald was not in attendance). The lone voice of dissent was Trustee Casey Swift, who brought up concerns about how the district would afford Sauer’s salary.
“How much was budgeted for that position?” Swift asked Mary Grden, the district’s business administrator, at the BOE meeting.
“Ninety-five thousand dollars,” Grden replied.
Swift then asked how the district would come up with the additional $15,000.
“We’ll have to look for other areas of saving in the budget to accommodate any changes,” Grden replied.
She added that from a financial standpoint the salary increase wasn’t much different than fuel costs increasing higher than what the district anticipates.
Swift revealed during an interview after the meeting that Sauer “set the bar for his own salary, and said that he wasn’t coming for any less than that.” She said that he also requested instant tenure, which the board did not grant.
The difference in salary was more of a issue of principle than actual finance, she said. The previous principal, Drew Hopkins, was hired $15,000 under budget the previous year at $80,000, she said, and the two years collectively would be budget neutral.
“I believe Ken [at the salary that the board approved] would either be the second-lowest paid high school principal in the county or the lowest,” BOE President Dale Culver said after the meeting. “I’m sure that no other principal in the county would say that Ken Sauer is overpaid.”
Trustee Joe Matteo, in a telephone interview, said that the $95,000 budget line was based on Hopkins’ salary. Hopkins had never been in a principal’s position before Webutuck.
“Ken has more than five or six years as principal experience,” he said. “And making up the $15,000 is not an issue. It’s something that happens periodically with the personnel budget.”
Swift had questioned Sauer’s appointment at the Aug. 24 meeting, pointing out the lack of information surrounding Sauer’s departure from Brockport, the school district he was employed by just before moving to North Carolina. Due to confidentiality agreements, neither the Board of Education nor the superintendent were able to discuss the circumstances of Sauer’s departure with a representative from Brockport.
“That threw up a red flag for me,” Swift said at the Aug. 24 meeting, before voting against Sauer being hired.
Reached by phone after the Aug. 30 meeting, Swift said that Sauer was not her first choice and wouldn’t have been in her top three choices. She said that she had no personal history with him, and that she had to go with the community’s history and relationship with him.
“I just think there wasn’t enough positive information to bring him back on,” she said. “What’s to say he’s not going to leave again, or create more turmoil? Most districts do not bring someone back unless they were a stellar performer, and he wasn’t.”
Matteo pointed out that there were several students at the Aug. 24 meeting who were not in favor of bringing Sauer back but listed values they wanted the new principal to have.
“What they wanted, to a large degree, was exactly what Ken had brought,” Matteo said, saying that Sauer’s leadership at Webutuck as a whole brought a better climate, with less drugs and disruptive behavior and more school spirit.
“I know his biggest downfall was his temper,” Matteo continued. “And we talked to him [during the interview process] ad nauseam about that.”
“The problem I have with all this,” said Culver after the meeting, “is I don’t want the impression to be that we went for the toughest dog in the yard. What we really were looking for was veteran leadership with many facets that can help Webutuck academically, disciplanary-wise and pride-wise.”
“I think he’s matured a lot as an administrator,” Matteo said, “and I think he will be a tremendous leader.”
Swift, however, remains unconvinced.
“It just seemed that there were better fits,” she said. “I think we should have started fresh.”
But Culver said that approach has not been working for Webutuck.
“I understand the fresh approach, but we had that last year and a couple of years earlier, and here we are again,” he said.
“My hope and wish is that the administrative team improves overall and that this is just one piece of that,” Culver continued. “Don’t look at this year as just being about Ken Sauer. He is part of a team that better work their darnedest to help our students achieve academic success and personal growth.”
As far as granting tenure, or even being able to gauge whether Sauer has changed, Matteo said it would be evident very soon.
“It’s not going to take very long,” he said. “I think by December or January, when you get through a full semester, we’ll know what we have.”
© Copyright 2010 by TCExtra.com
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