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Citizens' report critical of school administration pay raises

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education River Falls, 54022
Hudson Star Observer
715-386-9891 customer support
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

What began as a discussion over coffee at a local bagel shop turned into a serious research project for three local men with concerns about the administration of the Hudson School District.

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What resulted was a 15-page document written by Daniel Bruch, Dennis Davis and James Kubiak. The short version of the study would probably read: Administrators are paid too much, teachers not enough. But, the report touches on a number of issues.

Chief among the concerns the men identified were the raises received by school administrators earlier this year. In May the Board of Education voted to give school district administrators a 4.8 percent salary increase for the 2010-11 school year. Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten received a 5.4 percent increase in 2010-11 and will get another 5.4 percent increase in 2011-12. All district employees took a pay freeze in 2009-10.

Bruch said the men are concerned because it appears that trust between the board, the administrators, and the constituencies they serve has been severely challenged.

"Once that occurs, it can be predicted that any future public requests for facility or expansion needs will not have public support for perhaps a decade or more," the report indicated. "This would be tragic in a time of continuing community growth."

The report suggests that administrators voluntarily return the current and promised salary increases as a good faith statement to the community of their desire to be good public servants who prioritize community needs and expectations.

While the school district offered salary comparisons with districts of similar size and others in the area, the three men did not feel the comparisons were appropriate. The men used what they considered more appropriate districts for comparisons (Neenah, Oak Creek, West Bend, Howard/Suamico, Mukwonago and Wauwatosa) and found Hudson's administrative salaries on the high end and teacher salaries on the low end.

The district had used comparative information from the following districts: Eau Claire, Superior, Menomonie, River Falls, Rice Lake, Chippewa Falls, Whitefish Bay, Cedarburg, Mequon-Thiensville, Elmbrook, Kettle Moraine, Middleton-Cross Plains, Howard/Suamico, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin Rapids, Stevens Point, West Bend, Neenah, D.C. Everest, Beloit, La Crosse, Manitowoc, Wauwatosa, Oak Creek-Franklin and several in Minnesota.

The men claim that their list of districts more closely resembles Hudson, specifically with respect to "student, school district and community characteristics." In addition to enrollment and population, other variables they considered were:

  • number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.
  • ethnicity and non-English learners.
  • household income and property values.
  • educational cost per student.
  • administration and teacher salaries.

    More specifically the group analyzed the characteristics of administrators in the district's they compared. Their findings concluded that "Hudson administrators are slightly less educated, somewhat less diverse, considerably more female and less experienced and older than in comparable districts."

    With regard to salary and compensation, the group concluded that the Hudson School District "arguably has one of the higher averages for administrative total compensation, one of the lower averages for teacher total compensation and ranks third from the top (of their comparable districts) in the disparity between the two..." The report points out that their information contradicts the Board of Education claims that Hudson administrators are paid at or below the pay of comparable districts.

    The report offers some recommendations to the school board based on their findings including:

  • the creation of a "socially aware advisory board" of citizens not employed by the district to act as a sounding board on salary decisions.
  • that administrator salaries reflect "social norms rather than market norms and be more equitable when compared to teacher salaries."
  • future administrative advancements and hires be based on "social norms with an emphasis on personal education, quality of service and demonstration of servant leadership values."
  • implement the return of classroom teacher aides and driver's education as one means of demonstrating to the public its sensitivity to the concerns for justice and fair play.
  • Offer more data to the public. The men said that data and information are no longer available only to the administration and other "insiders"; it is available to anyone with the proper knowledge and access to the Internet. This availability of information changes the paradigm of "who is in the know." Bruch said it is seemingly apparent that HSD's administration has not yet adjusted to this shift.

    "As in many instances, the Internet is the 'great equalizer,'" Bruch said.

    The report also recommends that the Board of Education hire or contract an individual or group to independently analyze data and reports presented to the board by the administration.

    Bruch said the group did present their findings and their report to Board of Education president Barb Van Loenen but, at present, do not have plans to present it to the full board.

    Bruch, Ph.D., D.Min. and Sc.D, is the former pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church and a university professor; Dennis Davis, M.Div., Ph.D., is a research and evaluation consultant; and James Kubiak is a Notre Dame graduate and management consultant with 35 years of experience.

    The report can be viewed by the public online at www.AEG-Research.org.

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    Meg Heaton
    Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
    (715) 808-8604
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