The Wichita school board unanimously approved a $3,441 bonus for superintendent John Allison on Monday, doing so without discussion but after a heated exchange with a local teachers union leader.
The board also extended Allison’s contract for an additional year, through June 30, 2019.
Addressing board members near the start of Monday’s meeting, Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita, said he had fielded calls from many Wichita teachers who “expressed frustration” over the proposed bonus.
“I want to make our position really clear: We don’t believe the superintendent is overpaid. We think that teachers aren’t paid enough,” Wentz said.
Nonetheless, awarding a bonus to the district’s highest-paid employee “lands on people hard,” Wentz said. “That’s just the reality of it.”
According to the contract addendum approved Monday, Allison will receive a 1.5 percent lump-sum amount before Jan. 1. The payment will be calculated from his base salary, which is $229,408.
Wentz said lump-sum payments teachers received as part of this year’s contract were offset by increased health care costs, meaning most teachers will take home hundreds or even thousands of dollars less this year.
Awarding the superintendent a bonus, Wentz said, highlighted a “disconnect between the leadership and those who are in the trenches doing the day-to-day work.”
He also raised concerns about the district spending more than $4,500 recently to send Allison and two board members to a conference in Orlando, Fla., where Allison was a finalist for a national school leadership award.
“Surely you can see how this frustrates the average teacher in the district, how they perceive that,” Wentz said.
Surely you can see how this frustrates the average teacher in the district, how they perceive that.
Steve Wentz, United Teachers of Wichita president
Several board members took issue with Wentz’s comments and took him to task from the board table.
Betty Arnold suggested Wentz should meet regularly with the superintendent to discuss specific questions and concerns. She added that some spending on administration and travel is necessary as part of professional development in a large school district.
“It’s kind of a black eye to suggest ‘Oh, they’re just spending money,’ ” Arnold said. “There still are some administration expenses that will continue. We just can’t absolutely cut everything.”
There still are some administration expenses that will continue. We just can’t absolutely cut everything.
Betty Arnold, Wichita school board member
Wentz said his job as union president requires raising issues and concerns brought to him by teachers and others. “If you’ve got a black eye, keep your guard up,” he said.
Board member Lynn Rogers said it’s “not right” to pit teachers against administration.
“We have disagreements. That’s fine, and we should talk about those,” Rogers said. “But we also have a great priority to fight for and support public education.”
Board president Sheril Logan concurred, saying she and other board members couldn’t help but take Wentz’s comments personally.
“This board has worked very hard over the years to protect our teachers every way that we can,” Logan said. “We have got to get ourselves on the same page. We are not enemies.”
Allison’s gross pay last year was $264,148, according to district documents.
In addition to his base salary, Allison receives a $750-a-month car and mileage allowance and $500 a month for “professional, civic and incidental expenses.”
In other action Monday, the board voted to rename the former Southeast High School, at Lincoln and Edgemoor, the Alvin E. Morris Administrative Center.