Our Tax Dollars (Not) At Work

I am a faithful supporter of the New Albany-Plain Local school system.  I always vote for school levies and believe that a strong public school system is a crucial element of any successful and prosperous community.

That is why I was infuriated when I read the article in the New Albany News about the Board of Education’s decision to approve the resignation of Steve Castle, the superintendent of schools.  Under the deal that has been worked out, Dr. Castle will become “immediate past superintendent” and receive the benefits and salary due under his contract until it expires on July 31, 2011 — which comes to $173,666 in salary, plus benefits.  The article reports that if Castle find other employment during that one-year period, he will receive $134,769 in severance benefits, plus the difference between his New Albany salary and the salary at his new job.  What will Dr. Castle do for his $173,666, plus benefits?  He will “help to facilitate the transition of the office of superintendent” and “perform other services for the board yet to be detailed.”

Why are taxpayers paying Dr. Castle $173,666, plus benefits, to twiddle his thumbs?  Although the New Albany News story doesn’t tell us, a Columbus Dispatch article states that the Board and Dr. Castle disagree about their respective “visions” and strategic planning for the school district.  Ironically, the school board also found fault with his approach to teacher compensation and his recommendation of additional teacher increases even after the economy went into recession, and three of the members of the school board were elected in November on a fiscal restraint platform.  Yet now we are going to spend nearly $175,000 for an administrator to sit idle while we also pay a new person to assume the superintendent’s role until a permanent replacement can be found.

That is not a prudent use of tax dollars — particularly not during a tough recessionary period when schools should be squeezing every penny.  I don’t know whether Dr. Castle was a good or bad superintendent; that decision rests with the school board.  Once the school board decided that Dr. Castle’s contract would not be renewed after it expired in July 2011, however, it should have figured out a way to deal with the “vision,” planning, and other issues and work with him during his last year on the job while a new superintendent was located.  This isn’t like baseball, where team owners routinely bear a fired manager’s contract payments as part of a cost of doing business.  Taxpayers should not be paying ex-administrators to do nothing.

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