A sometimes contentious and high-profile process concluded last Tuesday, Feb. 25, when the Waconia School Board approved a new two-year contract for District 110 Superintendent Pat Devine.
Contract discussions with Devine began last fall; however, delays and complications in the process had the current superintendent interviewing for positions in other districts in recent weeks, and teachers, staff and community members rallying at two school board meetings in January demanding that the board resolve the contract and retain Devine.
While last Tuesday’s school board special session was conducted without an audience, the superintendent’s contract did draw considerable attention and discussion before being approved on a 5-1 vote.
The final contract was developed with direction from the school district’s lawyer Mick Waldspurger. The contract runs from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2022, the superintendent’s anticipated retirement date. Devine will be paid $175,000 the first year of the contract, reflecting no increase from his current salary, and $178,500 for the 2021-2022 school year, a two percent increase.
The increase was recommended by the district’s legal counsel to better reflect superintendent salary market conditions, and avoid a budget hit and perceived salary jump when Devine’s successor is selected.
“Pat is working for a lot less than any comparable superintendent,” Waldspurger said. “It will be hard to attract any qualified candidate to this district at this wage.”
A 2017-2018 contract comparison of superintendent wages in surrounding districts reflects an average salary range of approximately $182,000-$205,000.
However, some board members expressed concern with the proposed salary increase in light of earlier contract discussions about Devine taking no additional compensation given the district’s current financial position. Also concerns about a potential “return to work” compensation package Waldspurger proposed should Devine decide to stay on after his Teachers Retirement Association defined-pension retirement date, although that is not part of the current contract.
Board member Mike Bullis called the contract “a far cry from what we agreed to Dec. 2” and pointed to the recent teacher contract negotiated at about a one percent increase over two years. He also called a two percent increase on a $175,000 salary “a lot more than a percent increase on a $40,000, $50,000, or $60,000 teacher salary.”
Board member Cathy Thom echoed that concern and the potential perception in the community about a “sudden raise” for the school superintendent in light of the district’s operating debt, particularly if the board decides to propose an operating levy referendum this fall.
The district’s proposed statutory operating debt recovery plan is currently being reviewed by the Minnesota Department of Education.
And Jackie Johnson expressed concerns about feeling removed from latest contract discussions and “feeling pressure to approve the contract now.”
However, all members expressed a desire for Devine to continue as Waconia school superintendent and Rachel Myers strongly urged the board to get the contract done.
Bullis proposed a motion to approve the contract without a two percent increase, but it failed for lack of a second. A motion to approve the contract as proposed passed on a 5-1 vote with Bullis opposed.
“I would like to thank the school board for making it possible for me to receive a continuing contract for the next two years,” Devine said after last Tuesday’s meeting. “And I would also like to thank all the staff, students, parents and community members for their outpouring of support throughout this process. I am extremely humbled by all of it. We are ONE10!”
In other contract business last Tuesday, the school board finalized a two-year contract with its education support professionals (ESPs), which includes about 125 educational assistants and front office personnel.
The ESPs ratified a tentative agreement for a two-year contract effective July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2021.
Like the latest teacher contract agreement finalized earlier this year, the ESP contract includes wage concessions from the group in light of the district’s current financial position. The terms and conditions include delayed step advancement and a salary schedule increase of one-half percent in April 2020 and an additional one-half percent increase the second year of the contract. The contract also comes with a longevity provision salary increase, an increase in the district’s contribution to health insurance and Memorial Day added as a paid holiday.