For the Record:
Here are the facts behind the raises from the Clinton Board of Education.
Two years ago when Jack Cross became the Clinton Superintendent of Schools and Maryann O’Donnell, his assistant, the Board of Finance reduced the budget by $537,000 before the referendum. Both of them did not take raises that year.
Last year, the Board of Education completed the Superintendent's review and evaluation prior to the end of the fiscal year according to the contract, after the budget passed. The budget failed the first time.
This year, in response to the townspeople and the Board of Finance, we moved the review and evaluation up and gave Mr. Cross and Mrs. O’Donnell 2 percent raises before the budget vote—for the purposes of transparency and clarity. The budget has been defeated twice.
Did it make a difference? We don’t think so. Do the voters realize that the total of the two raises is $5,300? No, the amount of money is not the issue but putting it in perspective, it is a very small part of our $30 million budget.
Do the voters know that this does not add to the bottom line after the budget is presented? The raises come from a line item called degree changes and unsettled contracts.
Yes, the teachers will receive no raises next year. But that came after the Board of Education hung tough in negotiations and finally went to arbitration on the one year salary. Had the teachers prevailed, that would have been an additional $140,000 in the budget.
The Board of Education does not make decisions lightly. We take our charge seriously and contrary to the beliefs of some, we put in many volunteer hours at countless meetings to formulate a budget that we feel will serve the children well but will not break the backs of our citizens. To that end, our original 2011-12 operating budget came in with a 1.14 percent increase. The lowest increase in 20 years.
It is important to note that the total Board of Education budget is made up of three components—Operational, Capital and Debt Service. The original proposed total Education budget (Operational, Capital, Debt Service) represented a 1.78 percent increase. The current reductions will reduce the total budget by $444,772, a reduction that will make the total Education increase only 0.35 percent.
Mr. Cross and Mrs. O’Donnell work many more than the standard 40 hours a week and are responsible for the welfare of more than 2,000 students, 400 employees and a $30 million budget.
Are they paid too much to begin with? The Board doesn’t believe that is true. Not when their salaries are compared to surrounding towns and other school systems in our District Reference Group (DRG). That was one of the many factors we took into consideration before granting the raises.
Neither of them received a raise in the first one and a half years they were working here in Clinton. They were hired at a low level of pay, have gained experience and proven themselves, and the board unanimously decided to give them raises. Their raises total six percent over the past three and one half years they have been in Clinton.
For instance, the school system to our north recently hired a new superintendent with no central office experience at $155,000 per year. Our Superintendent made $145,496 in 2010-11 and our Assistant Superintendent, $131,040. Old Saybrook paid its superintendent $165,917 last year; Westbrook, $154,500; Madison, $175,000; and Guilford, $189,000.
In our DRG, which encompasses 24 school systems, our superintendent ranks sixteenth in base salary.
Are they worth a 0.0002 percent increase in our budget over last year? We believe they are. If they decided to leave Clinton, would we be forced to hire someone at a higher rate? Probably.
We believe the raises we have given to our top administrators to be an appropriate expenditure.
We did not come to that conclusion without a great deal of discussion, a thorough review and evaluation of their performances.
As elected officials, Board of Education members work very hard to represent the citizens of Clinton. We are constantly looking for ways to cut financial costs and give the children of Clinton the best education possible.
From the Clinton Board of Education: Deb Grass, Gerry Vece, Ethelene DiBona, Kim Campanaro, Joan Johanson, Al Mantilia, Phil Williams.