May 18, 2013

Budget shrinks; supplemental pay increases for Wichita school administrators

The Wichita school district has cut dozens of administrative positions in recent years, but part of the savings has gone toward higher pay for some remaining administrators.

The Wichita school district has cut dozens of administrative positions in recent years, but part of the savings has gone toward higher pay for some remaining administrators.

Records show that several central-office administrators have received thousands of dollars a year in addition to their base salaries, including an assistant superintendent who has received an additional $67,500 over the past three years.

Superintendent John Allison said he authorizes additional compensation when employees assume responsibilities “beyond their typical job duties,” and that recent reductions in district-level administration mean certain employees are working longer hours.

“When you reach a point where the expectation to complete the job is going to be extensively beyond the day – the weekends, evenings, those types of things – then we try to look at that,” Allison said.

The Eagle recently filed a request under the Kansas Open Records Act for information about total compensation paid to Wichita school district administrators. Of the 217 administrators – principals, assistant principals and district-level leaders such as division directors and program coordinators – 64 received some supplemental pay.

Since January 2010, the district has paid about $376,000 in “additional compensation,” the records show. Most went to principals and assistant principals who get additional pay if their schools’ enrollment surpasses certain levels or for attending evening activities.

About $142,000 – about 37 percent of the total administrative supplements – went to nine district-level administrators.

Requests for additional pay must be approved by the Wichita school board and typically are listed on the board’s human resources reports along with new hires, transfers and terminations. The board generally approves the report without discussion.

School board president Lynn Rogers said the amount spent on additional compensation may look “frightening” on the surface. But it is “really a management tool to reduce our administrative costs” and proves the district is doing more with less, Rogers said.

“We’ve cut and cut and cut (administration) and distributed those duties over a number of different people,” he said. “In some cases, that stipend is saving us a much larger salary that we didn’t fill elsewhere.”

‘We’re still spending less’

Alicia Thompson, assistant superintendent of elementary schools, received the largest amount of additional compensation: $67,500 over the past three years, records show. Her annual base salary is $124,177.

Allison said he authorized the additional pay after former assistant superintendent Greg Rasmussen left the district in 2010 and Thompson began overseeing all elementary schools.

“It depends on responsibilities,” Allison said. “If somebody is assuming dual roles, there may be a supplemental (salary) that will be reviewed at that time.”

Thompson currently oversees 54 elementary schools. Bill Faflick, assistant superintendent of secondary schools, oversees 30 middle and high schools and makes the same base salary as Thompson. Faflick does not receive supplemental pay.

As part of a top-level restructuring in July 2011, the district created two new positions – executive director of elementary schools and executive director of secondary schools – and appointed Tiffinie Irving and Lori Doyle to those roles. Irving’s annual salary is $90,059; Doyle’s is $102,356. They report to Thompson and Faflick.

The next largest supplement, $20,000, went to Allison. As part of his contract with the school board, the superintendent gets $6,000 a year for “incidentals” in addition to his $224,910 annual salary. Allison also receives a $9,000 yearly car allowance and a $1,080 cellphone stipend.

Kelly Rundell, the district’s new director of employee benefits, was hired last August and given an $11,500 supplement in addition to her $84,107 annual salary. Officials said the district eliminated a position in its legal department as part of budget cuts in 2011 and Rundell, an attorney, provides some legal services in addition to her work in human resources.

Shannon Krysl also worked part time in the district’s legal department and received a $10,000 supplement before being promoted to chief of human resources last year.

“That’s one of those, again, where they’re doing more than what their job entails,” said Rogers, the board president.

“We can’t look down to the penny, but we’ve got to look at the big number: Is it covering what we need to cover? Is it doing what we need to do?

“We’re still spending less.”

Klaus Kollmai, supervising hearing officer, has received $10,500 in addition to his $94,409 annual salary because he serves as building administrator for the Joyce Focht Instructional Support Center at 412 S. Main in downtown Wichita, officials said.

Other administrators have received additional compensation for work related to grant writing, helping with new payroll and accounting software and other duties.

Principals at four new schools that opened last fall got $4,000 each for “additional duties related to new school opening,” according to records.

Covering extra work

Administrators aren’t the only school district employees who receive pay beyond their base salaries.

As part of its contract with the district’s 4,000 teachers, the district agrees to a “supplemental salary schedule” that outlines additional pay teachers receive for additional duties such as coaching, monitoring the lunchroom or supervising after-school programs.

Teacher supplementals range from $1,343 a year for jobs such as sponsoring a club to $8,251 a year for being a peer consultant or high school department chair.

A separate salary schedule for coaches and athletic directors ranges from $1,603 a year for a middle school cross-country coach to $8,981 for a high school athletic director.

In 2012 the district paid out more than $15 million in additional compensation to teachers and other certified employees – a figure that includes supplemental pay as well as workshop stipends, longevity bonuses and cash in lieu of benefits, officials said.

District spokeswoman Wendy Johnson said all supplementals, whether for teachers or administrators, are based on the same question: “Are you taking on extra work?”

The district has cut 80 full-time administrative positions since 2009, she said. Some were eliminated through layoffs, others through retirements or employees returning to the classroom.

“The reality is, even when those (administrative) positions were cut, there was no reduction in expectation on the public’s part … that the work wouldn’t happen,” Johnson said. “The work duties remained, and we’ve had to find different ways to make the work happen.”

Difficult to raise salaries

While teacher supplementals are specifically dictated by the contract, additional pay for administrators is at Allison’s discretion and approved by the school board.

Why not just raise salaries?

Rogers, the board president, says that isn’t so simple.

“We’re not in an environment where we can add administrative costs. It’s very difficult to raise those salaries,” in part because taxpayers and lawmakers balk at those expenses, Rogers said.

“We have salary grades and a structure in place, but just like any company, when there are special duties, special requirements, we use (supplemental pay) to get those things done.”

Just last week, Allison said he doesn’t plan to hire a new chief operating officer, a top administrative post that has been vacant nearly a year, in part because he can’t find a qualified candidate who would agree to the proposed salary.

All the recent vacancies and shifting in administrative ranks may prompt Allison and board members to re-evaluate salaries and supplemental pay.

“One of the things we need to do is a salary study, and it’s something that I’ll ask HR to do here in the next year or so,” Allison said.

“We may reallocate funds and put it someplace else, but there have been no additions. It’s all been reduction. … When you’ve done budget cuts and salary freezes and people pick up more and more work, it has an impact on your ability to recruit talent and to keep talent.”

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