Board takes up cost of school administration


The Haines Borough school board zeroed in on administration at its first run-through of next year’s budget on March 16.

“Talking about perceptions, one of the things people come up and talk to me more about in public than any other topic when the budget comes up is how much we pay administration,” said board member Lisa Schwartz. “I think it’s good to get ahead of these things…It needs to be looked at.”

About $225,629 was budgeted for school administration costs - including principals’ salary of $137, 971, travel, insurance, and office supplies - and another $215,366 for district administration – including the superintendent salary of $114,130 and other associated costs - in the first draft of the fiscal year 2018 budget.

The budget was created with assumptions of decreased enrollment, increased insurance costs, the same base-student allocation, a 20 percent reduction in federal programs, the same borough funding and a step increase for employees.

“Administrators make a lot of money when you look at how much money people make in the community,” said board member Jeanne Kitayama. “People are scrutinizing that.”

Schwartz said she thought the school board should “get out in front” of that discussion and be transparent instead of “people making it up as they go.”

Superintendent Tony Habra said some duties previously held by teachers or staff have been shifted to administrators. National and state testing responsibilities used to sit with the school counselor before it was determined that more counseling services were needed in the younger grades, Habra said. Teacher evaluation processes have become more stringent and take more time than five years ago.

Principal Rene Martin said legal obligations with special education also have increased, along with other mandates that have become “time sucks” for administrators. Board president Anne Marie Palmieri said coordination of federal programs – previously done by a teacher – is now an administrative responsibility.

Habra also will take over some of the curriculum coordinator duties currently held by Cheryl Stickler, assistant principal and curriculum coordinator, as she retires at the end of this school year.

“Is there a cheaper way to get the testing done?” asked board member Sara Chapell. “Is there a less expensive person to do it?”

Kim Cunningham, director of student support services, said administrators have discussed how to handle the testing duties. Martin and Stickler said they don’t want to burden a teacher with those responsibilities for fear it would reduce classroom instruction time.

Schwartz said she “didn’t believe” those tasks had to be taken over by administrators.

Palmieri responded by saying, “I think it’s really important that all of us on the board buy into this and believe it. And believe that we need to have the level of administration that we do.”

“If the state drops us another $170,000, we’ll be back at this table with a whole new plan,” Habra said. State lawmakers are looking to cut education funding to help control the statewide budget deficit. “As things get tighter, every position is going to have to be looked at.”

“We are reducing, but we also need to bear in mind that administration does do good things for a school district and needs to be in place if you’re going to continue to move your school district forward and grow,” Habra said.

Habra said he is hopeful there will be a significant budget update in April, but not until contract negotiations are completed or state legislators complete their work. The school board will meet again on Wednesday, April 5.


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