Some of the highest-paid school district employees in Idaho will likely take pay cuts in the next year as local school boards look to cut pay for principals and superintendents to save money. One school district already has cut compensation for administrators district-wide and another has eliminated one administrative position and is continuing to consider making more reductions in administrative staffing levels.
During the 2010 legislative session, lawmakers cut school funding by $128 million and some districts are finding diverse ways to deal with cuts. IdahoReporter.com reported last week that some schools are moving to four-day school weeks and some are cutting a full week of school of the end of this school year to save money on labor and transportation. As school boards look to set budgets for the next school year, many districts are looking at cutting or freezing teacher wages as well as some administrative salaries.
It was reported by 8 News in Pocatello that on May 8, members of the Pocatello School District board met and voted to reduce the salaries of administrators in the district by 6.9 percent. In some smaller school districts where there are only one or two principals, that cut might not have much of an impact. The Pocatello School District, however, employs 31 principals and assistant principals to staff elementary, middle, and high schools. Many principals and assistant principals make twice the amount of some of the teachers in the district. Each administrator employed by the district makes more than $60,000 each year. The principals for the three high schools in the area, Highland, Century, and Pocatello, are the tied as the highest paid among the group, with each making $87,500 each year. The superintendent for that district, Mary Vagner, makes $129,857 annually.
Melba School District has also made cuts on the administrative level. That district has eliminated one administrative position, a middle school principal, as way as to curb spending. Melba Superintendent Bob Larson believes the move will save the district about $55,000 during the next school year. To accommodate the change, two other principals will split responsibility over the grades left from the loss of the principal position. Additionally, Melba has frozen teacher wages for a year, meaning that teachers will not receive automatic raises based on number of years worked, and has cut teachers' current contracts by five days. It has also eliminated an elementary school librarian position and is continuing to consider installing a pay-to-play policy for athletics, cutting non-required classes such as band and choir, and continued reductions of administrative staff.
The Ririe School District in eastern Idaho has taken drastic measures to save money. That district has decided to close down its elementary school and transfer those students into the middle school. Ririe is also looking at cutting pay for teachers and administrators, though the percentage of the salary cut has yet to be set for either group. "That has not been determined by the board as we have not started negotiations with the teachers and once that is determined the board will then determine administrator’s salary cut," said Ririe Superintendent Ron Perrenoud, who makes $91,000 a year and also serves as the principal for the district's middle school.
One school district which recently asked taxpayers for more funding through a levy is also looking into reducing pay for teachers and administrators, though no decisions have been made by board members. "That's something we are going to be considering at the next meeting," said George Blickenstaff, chair of the Kellogg School District board of trustees. Sandra Pommerening, superintendent for the district, makes $87,627 annually. The district employs four principals, with each making more than $60,000 per year. Shelley Brooks, principal of Kellogg High School, is the highest paid principal at a rate of $73,081 a year.
Briana LeClaire, an education policy analyst with the Idaho Freedom Foundation, says that districts should make wise choices when deciding where to cut to make necessary reductions. "School districts should consider all expenses when deciding where to cut. Salaries and benefits are typically at least 80 percent of a district's expenses. From what I'm reading in reports from around the state, school boards are working hard to be as fair as they can without holding salaries sacred. This can't be very fun for someone in a volunteer job, and they should be commended for their courage, especially in the really small towns," said LeClaire.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Luna penned an opinion piece Tuesday in which he outlined some of the cuts being made around the state in various districts. And he added, “School districts will still have to make tough decisions. Every adult in education will have to sacrifice a little bit for a little bit longer for the benefit of Idaho’s students,” said Luna
Note: IdahoReporter.com is a product of the Idaho Freedom Foundation