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School board rejects superintendent pay cuts

POULSBO — North Kitsap School District superintendents will keep their pay intact for the 2010-11 school year.

The school board on Thursday rejected a measure to reduce the pay of superintendent Rick Jones and assistant superintendents Chris Willits and Shawn Woodward by 2 percent each for the coming school year. The superintendents volunteered for the pay cut in July, saying it was a way of modeling the sacrifice that would be necessary throughout the district in the coming year to deal with tightening budgets.

“If everybody did their part, it would make a huge difference,” Jones told The Herald in July. “I believe that conversation is difficult for people, so we need to model that. ... I believe no one would do it if I didn’t do it.”

The school board was set to vote on the measure Thursday, when board member Ed Strickland said the idea of reducing pay sets a bad example for young people considering a career in education. The board discussed the matter and agreed to kill the measure.

“We do get some fantastic teachers out there, because they have a missionary attitude,” Strickland said after the meeting. “Others say, ‘I would love to teach, but I cannot expose my family to that.’”

Now that the superintendents will not be taking a reduction in pay, and with the board opposed to such reductions, convincing other district staff of the need for sacrifice could be a challenge. Jones said he plans to re-enter that discussion with staff later in the school year if necessary.

“I think that people are aware that we made the offer (to take a pay cut), and I hope that people see that for what it was,” Jones said. “I still intend to talk with all the groups about where we are and ways that we can get through the next budget with those reductions, and I certainly will line up with them again.”

Chris Fraser, president of the North Kitsap Educators Association, the local teachers’ union, said the lack of a superintendent pay cut may hurt the district’s ability to convince other staff to make sacrifices.

“We have seven bargaining groups,” Fraser said. “It might weaken (the administration’s) ability to pursue that discussion with other associations.”

But the board’s decision did not affect Fraser’s stand on pay cuts. She was not inclined to accept a reduction for teachers, even if administrators did the same.

“I really think teachers have already taken their compensation hit through the loss of the LID (Learning Improvement) days,” Fraser said.

Strickland added that school districts across the nation need to figure out new ways of teaching and running schools, to lure the top teachers, better educate students and avoid discussions of lower pay.

“If we don’t get competitive, we don’t get great teachers,” Strickland said. “It jeopardizes the kids not to give them high-quality instruction.”

Despite his suggestions of salary reductions for district staff, Jones said he agrees with Strickland’s comment that teachers are already underpaid.

“I’ve always believed that same thing that Ed says,” Jones said. “I’ve always felt like educators are not compensated adequately, so I support what he said.”

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