I posted recently on the decision of the New Albany-Plain Local Board of Education’s decision to accept the resignation of the Superintendent of Schools, pay him his six-figure salary for a year (or slightly less if he finds another job during that time period), and then hire an interim replacement at additional cost. During this recessionary period when money is tight, this doesn’t seem like a very prudent use of tax dollars.
Now our school board is talking about hiring a consulting firm, at yet more cost, to help them hire a new superintendent. Two consulting firms seem to be the finalists for the job. One would charge somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000 to help the school board members do the job they were elected to do, and the other would charge 30 percent of the newly hired superintendent’s salary, plus travel expenses — a calculation that is expected to result in a fee of around $50,000. Both consultants would do some “focus groups” in the area and prepare a “profile” of what the school district should be looking for in its superintendent, which would then be used in recruiting and interviewing candidates.
Seriously, do our school board members really need focus groups and consultants to figure out what we want in a new superintendent? How about this for a job description: we need an intelligent individual who has experience in managing a school district, knows how to prepare and stick to a budget and spend tax dollars wisely, and has proven to be capable in hiring and managing school principals and in motivating administrators and teachers to achieve academic excellence. And how about having the school board members do the jobs they were elected to do and exercise some independent judgment, instead of seeking political cover by hiring consulting firms at still more cost to beleaguered taxpayers?
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.