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Wed, March 20

Column: Another look at the PUSD Bond and Override Election

I am writing in response to John Stevens who wrote affirming his love of kids but asked some good questions about the upcoming PUSD Bond and Override Election.

Why do school administrators deserve the same percentage salary raise as the teachers? First, the numbers: Last year, the district gave all employees a 3% raise as there had been no raises in the previous seven years. We all know PUSD teachers are well below the national average, and 22% below the state average, but they are not alone. Elementary principals in PUSD make an average of $56,646.57. These are people with Master's Degrees in Educational Leadership or Administration if not more education and many years of experience in the classroom. The national average is $89,951.00. Our elementary principals are 27% below the national average. Middle school principals in PUSD make 21% below national average with an average of $65,459.58. The national average for this position is $95,426.00. Our high school principal makes $81,955.04 and the national average is $102,191.00. So, our principals are well below the average salary-just like our teachers.

As far as the numbers for PUSD's CFO, he gets paid $68,380.67. He took a pay cut from $75,000.00 in a district with 350 students to work here because he loves Prescott. The average salary for his position is $101,347.00. The Assistant Superintendent came over from a middle school principal position in another district and also took a pay cut to make $81,719.17. The average for her job is $122,333.00. The Superintendent of PUSD makes $118,000.00 whereas the national average is $161,992.00. Bear in mind that the district administration is charged with hundreds of employees, over 4,300 students as well as managing the complexity of a school district and all of the State rules and regulations associated with it. In the private sector, a business CEO would make a much greater salary for the same job description.

Secondly, the job: Administrators are managers of schools, teachers, and staff. They deal with parents, community issues, budgets, law enforcement and liability issues, school neighbors, and so much more. The "buck" stops with them. Higher responsibility, greater duties and more liability = greater salary. At least it does in the business world. Critics of public education often state that the schools should be run more like businesses and then they would be successful. First, they are successful. The product coming out of PUSD is incredible-Flinn Scholars and over $7 million in scholarships to PUSD seniors last year alone. But second, what business pays the CEO the same as the teacher? What successful business does not appropriately compensate the effective leadership guiding that business to success? We have successful schools. We need to compensate our gifted and amazing administrators and our amazing teachers.

The other question raised by Mr. Stevens was why is it smart for businesses to own vacated buildings? Well, public schools can't just sell buildings. According to Arizona statute, a public school must obtain taxpayer permission to sell the schools. After all, the schools were built with tax-funded bonds. So, when your ballot is mailed the week of October 12, you can vote to allow PUSD to list the properties for sale or not. Whether they find a buyer willing to pay fair market value is another matter.

In 1998, PUSD requested voter permission to sell some smaller parcels of property near Dexter School, property off of Thumb Butte Road and property in the Cliff Rose neighborhood. The voters approved this measure and those properties sold. The voters also approved the sale of the district office in 1998, but PUSD has been unable to sell this property despite its efforts to do so. In 2013, PUSD once again obtained voter consent to sell Dexter School, yet it has been on the market for nearly two years with no offers to bring to the school board. Despite the voter agreement to sell both Dexter and the district office, the properties have not sold. Because of the District's fiduciary duties, these properties cannot be sold for less than their appraised values. PUSD has little wiggle room in adjusting the sale price of the property in an attempt to sell it more quickly. However, PUSD, like a smart business, has leased Dexter, generating income to the district to cover costs associated with Dexter and allowing for emergency funds as needed. Miller Valley and Washington are in the hands of the voters.

Thanks Mr. Stevens; we are glad you like kids. If you and your two kids are like 90% of Americans, you went to public schools and were supported by the taxpayers that gave you that privilege. I hope you will do the same for the kids who are in PUSD today.

Krista Carman, Prescott, is a local attorney and business owner, co-chair of the Support Our Students campaign and mother of four PUSD students.


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