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Wed, Dec. 11

Salaries save HUSD budget less than $2k for new admins

Losing three veteran administrators and gaining three "rookies" should have saved Humboldt Unified School District thousands of dollars in salaries.

It would have except for promoting a high school principal into a director's position at his current salary - more than $12,000 over what the director, at Step 1, would normally make.

The salary schedule for high school principal, the highest in the district with a range of $77,750 to $95,100, reflects the difficulties HUSD has had in the past with hiring and retaining highly qualified individuals for the position.

Bradshaw Mountain High School had nine principals in 14 years prior to 2009 when the governing board hired Dan Streeter at Step 3 on the salary schedule at $80,860, where he has remained since then. Streeter came to the district with no experience as principal, but with three years as assistant principal at Apollo High School.

Teachers and administrators normally start at Step 1 when they have no previous experience in the position for which they are hired. They receive one step for each year's experience up to a maximum of five years or Step 5. However, candidates and the superintendent can negotiate salaries before the superintendent makes a recommendation to the board. The board then makes the final decision whether to approve the salary and hiring of the individual.

HUSD policy G-2200 GBCA Professional Staff Salary Schedules states "The Board will enter into an individual contract with each member of the administrative staff commensurate with the requirements of the position."

Sometimes that means hiring a person at base salary for the position or on the corresponding step based on years of experience, and sometimes it means paying more for quality people and placing them on a higher step with a higher salary than their experience warrants.

"We tend to limit the times we do that," said HR Director Phil Young. "HUSD is located in a rather small quad-city community. Given the fact that overall our salary schedule is not as competitive with the Valley as we'd like, we occasionally need to take specific action to hire highly qualified individuals.

"We tend to limit those times just because of the fact we're also deeply interested in providing a good wage to all of our employees. As soon as the economy turns around, that will be addressed," he added.

Incoming BMHS principal Kort Miner starts at the base salary, Step 1, for high school principal, a jump of $17,690 from his previous assistant principal position, Step 3, of $60,060. With the added responsibilities also comes an increase in hours, moving him from an 11-month contract to a full year. Miner started with HUSD in 2009 with one year's experience as AP at Thunderbird High School.

Newly hired Director of Special Services Stephanie Rowe starts at Step 1, Masters degree plus 30 hours, at $72,250, which saves the district $1,000. Dr. Kay Turner, who retired at $80,790 several years ago, returned to the district, and is again retiring, at a salary of $73,250.

Tami Hitt-Wyant, the new director of Food and Nutrition, starts at Step 1, $50,000, a savings of $2,530 from former director Rick Littell, who was on a 218-day contract.

When HUSD Supt. Paul Stanton and the governing board unanimously decided on Streeter as the top pick for an advancement to the HR director position, it would have been difficult to offer him the position at a base salary, Step 1, of $68,750, when he currently earns $80,860. Hiring him at his current wage pushes Streeter somewhere between Step 9 and 10 as HR director, with Step 11 topping out the salary schedule at $82,500.

Stanton, in his recommendation to the board, said "...Mr. Streeter has provided leadership and a vision for growth which have enhanced the high school's reputation in the community and around the state." He added that Streeter had created a "culture of success" for students, and had been actively involved with all administrators.

Young said the interview committee selected Streeter as its unanimous first choice from 16-18 applicants.

"They didn't have anything to do with the salary, just making the selection based on who could do the job well on behalf of HUSD," Young said.

All three interview committees, with no prompting, unanimously chose the internal candidate for the position, he said. "We felt pretty good about that, the whole process. That's one of the neat things about our current outcomes for hiring high-level administrative positions. We're really thankful we've been able to grow our own talent pool in our administration."

Some consider salary schedules archaic - giving employees an automatic step increase every year regardless of performance - and when districts' budgets can allow - which might decrease any drive or incentive toward innovation or excellence, said HUSD Director of Finance Cynthia Windham.

"In the private sector, you get compensated for being a performer. You don't perform, you're out," she said, adding that educational salary schedules and pensions are under scrutiny nationwide.

"It is what it is. It's not going to go away any time soon," Windham said.

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