By NICK GRABBE
Friday, July 10, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
AMHERST - A divided Amherst School Committee approved 2 percent cost-of-living raises for a group of 24 non-union district employees that includes all administrators.
Member Irv Rhodes said he strongly objected to the June 24 decision, calling it "outrageous" at a time when teacher positions are being eliminated and there are cuts to supplies and after-school activities.
"On top of that, there was a warning to the (teachers) union to come to the table to possibly give up their (raises), so it was hypocritical," he said. "Here we are in this incredible fiscal crisis and people are in pain, and we're giving out raises. It's contradictory."
The School Committee had recently asked the teachers union to consider moderating its 3.5 percent cost-of-living raises under an existing contract, to limit the number of positions to be lost because of budget cuts, but the union declined.
Similar measures were attempted in municipal government here, but those too failed.
Rhodes and member Kathleen Anderson were in the minority in the School Committee's 3-2 vote, he said. The Regional School Committee voted 4-3-2, with member Marianne Jorgensen also voting no and members Catherine Sanderson and Steve Rivkin abstaining, Rhodes said.
Sanderson said she voted in favor of cost-of-living raises for the elementary principals in part because the teachers union did not give them up. She said the principals have had a difficult year, with much turnover in the superintendent position, the need to manage budget pressures, and the resulting challenges involving morale and workloads.
"Given the staff cuts that have been made at the administrative level, I felt that we were also asking the remaining administrators to shoulder an additional load over the next year," she said.
Sanderson said she abstained from the regional vote because she didn't understand all the raises, which included some "step" increases and varied considerably by position.
The total aggregate salary of the 24 employees was $1.8 million last year, said Kathy Mazur, the schools' human resources director.
Included in the non-union group are seven principals, one assistant superintendent, four directors (of human resources, business/finance, maintenance/transportation, and information systems), and 12 support positions.
Also in this group is the new superintendent, Alberto Rodriguez, who will make $158,000 this year. He will not receive the cost-of-living raise because it is his first year of employment.
The Personnel Board has also approved 2 percent cost-of-living raises for department heads and 3.5 percent for other non-union employees on the municipal side.
Town Manager Larry Shaffer said these raises are a "fair and rational" response to what teachers and school administrators are receiving.
Nick Grabbe can be reached at email@example.com.