Administrator’s contracts draws discussion at Onekama workshop

ONEKAMA — One year or two years?

That appears to be the main crux of the disagreement that the Onekama Consolidated Schools Board of Education is having over the length of superintendent Kevin Hughes and Gina Hagen’s contracts.

Following Tuesday night’s workshop at the Onekama School media center, it appears the board is split 4-3 in favor of a two-year contract. Board members Sally Koon, Karl Domres, Dennis Zupin and Lynn Mathieu support the two years, while Kevin Miller, Shelly VanVoorst and Amy Hillard-Fitch want one year. Hughes and Hagen have both operated under two year contracts for the duration of their employment in those positions with the Onekama schools.

Hughes told the board on Tuesday that he feels he deserves a two-year contract.

“I just think that after working for the district for 21 years that asking for a two-year contract is not out of line,” he said.

Hagen added that based on other administrators’ contracts in the county they weren’t asking for anything out of line.

“We haven’t come and asked you for raises, and in fact we were the first to take the decreases like less insurance,” she said. “A two-year contract is not a lot to ask for when we are not asking for additional money. If you would like a job duties list from us compared to other administrators in the county you would be amazed at what do.”

Board members are expected to bring the item up for a vote at the 7 p.m. March 10 meeting in the school media center. Tuesday’s special workshop was scheduled to discuss the issue.

The special workshop was requested by several board members at the February meeting to look into the two contracts. Board member Shelly VanVoorst is new to the board since the last contract was signed, and she requested additional time to review the contracts.

That led into Tuesday evening’s special meeting. Board members Zupin, Mathieu and Koon opposed the special meeting saying it wasn’t necessary.They contended that both administrators were given positive evaluations this year, and Hughes was named the Region 2 superintendent of the year.

During the discussion period at Tuesday’s workshop, board member Amy Fitch gave her reasons for wanting to look at the contracts.

“I think Kevin and Gina are doing a good job, I think something else needs to be put in their contracts about achievements or requirements,” she said. “Our (student test) scores have been low, and we all know that. We are working on it. I think we should put something into the contract that relates to some sort of merit or achievement. I am open to suggestions and don’t have anything in mind.”

Hughes currently serves as a 75 percent time superintendent and his pay reflects that time. He pointed out there are times when he does put in more time than that, like when the district went through a building project several years ago.

Miller said he felt the board needed to be more flexible with administrator contracts.

“I think we should go with one-year contracts with everyone (all district employees), from top to bottom,” he said.

Miller said he felt the situation could change a lot in 12 months with unpredictable state funding.

“If we are locked into a two-year contract then we can’t get out of it (a contract),” he said.

Zupin disagreed, saying there were ways to get out of it if necessary.

At the present time no other school district surrounding the Onekama Consolidated Schools does one-year contracts for administrators. All the contracts are for two years or more both for principals and superintendents.

Miller said he felt a merit pay should also be part of the contract. Koon pointed out that merit pay that is used for the teachers is above and beyond what the contract calls for their salary.

Discussion from some of the board members supporting the one-year contract felt that maybe the administrators guaranteed base should be lowered and by meeting certain criteria the administrators could reach the level they presently are located at in pay.

Koon said nothing should be changed in the contracts.

“I just feel that Kevin has come to us with no changes on the contract and both he and Gina are outstanding administrators who have had their evaluations and not requested any increase in pay,” she said. “I have went over the contracts of a lot of other schools and they are similar to all the other ones that I read. I feel we have no reason not to grant their request. If it isn’t broken why fix it? We have to renew them by March 30 and to figure in merit pay, where additional funding would come from, I just don’t see how we could do all that in that time frame.”

Mathieu agreed with that assessment.

“I guess I am a little confused based on evaluations,” she said. “I spoke to Sarah Bailey, who is the person we have been in touch with on the focus school status, and she has said our administrators have done everything they have been asked to do. I don’t understand why there is a hesitation to renew the contracts. Why would we stick a carrot out there in front of them with merit pay when they are already doing what we are asking of them based on the evaluations?”

Koon went on to say that she favored the two-year contract rather than to go through the process every year. Zupin added that if there were going to be changes in the administrators contracts it should have already been done.

“That should have been discussed last fall and not at the last minute,” he said.

Miller said he didn’t see any reason for continuing the discussion.

“I guess the bottom line is if it is going to pass on March 10, we are kind of wasting our time here,” he said. “If it is not than we need to discuss it more.”

Several people spoke up during public comment.

Eric Beeman, who is the father of four children in the district said he felt the discussion was missing the boat. He pointed to the Top to Bottom list where the Onekama schools were in the 33rd percentile. He said that is why he favors merit pay.

“Not one of the board members has brought that up, and we have to focus on this and roll it into the contracts,” he said. “The way you manage your team is to make sure that is in your contract. I haven’t heard any of you guys talk about that except for Amy (Fitch).”

Bob Evans offered a differing opinon.

“If you are going to do that you guys should know the facts and what those rankings mean,” he said. “If you are going to write someone on it you ought to know what backs it up. From what I heard tonight there is no facts based on it. It is truly sad that you guys are elected officials to do a duty for us, and I don’t see that happening.”

District resident Jerry Brown said he had concerns for the future of the district unless the board started working together.

“It kind of looks like a house divided,” he said. “You should kind of look at it as a tug of war and some of the people in this room are on different sides. We all need to get on the same side of the rope, and we need to get together.”

 

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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