In spite of financial problems and possible budget cuts, two high-profile employees with Columbus City Schools will soon be bringing home bigger paychecks.
Columbus City Schools Board of Education unanimously voted Nov. 6 to approve a resolution to give a salary increase to Superintendent Dr.Gene T. Harris, and Treasurer Dr. Michael E. Kinneer on the basis of performance evaluations.
Harris’s current salary annual salary is $161,132. She will receive a three percent bonus based on that salary of $4,834 in addition to a seven percent increase, which will bring her annual salary to $172,411.24
The board cited Harris’ leadership in bringing the district’s status on the State of Ohio’s report card to a level of Continuous Improvement, and her place as a role model and leader in a challenging environment.
"I’d like to say a job well done to the both of you. I think, Dr. Harris, it’s been very obvious it’s not just about your dedication; it’s about providing the best education for children. I understand you haven’t had an increase in 4 years, and I think that’s absolutely remarkable, and again it shows your character and the importance in educating your children," said board member Carol Perkins.
Board of Education President Terry Board said the board would be hard pressed to find someone else who could do the superintendent’s job as well as she does and with the challenges she faces, with a willingness to accept the same salary.
"Whether it’s for passing of the levy or negotiation with the teachers, you felt very strongly that you wanted to lead by example, and there were times you said ‘No, I do not want to accept an increase,’ this board stands here, almost twisting your arm, making you take this increase and it was no consequence that we put in your contract a clause where we can even give you a bonus," said Boyd.
Harris thanked the board for their generosity but stressed that she does not work alone.
"This doesn’t happen without a great team, and not just our leadership team here with Dr. Bosley and Mr. Hoskins and everyone else who is part of the team, but there are teachers in this district and bus drivers and secretaries and principals who are every day working hard for our children and I would like to thank them as well for their efforts too in this work," said Harris.
Boyd expressed ardent confidence in the board’s decision to give Harris and Kinneer a raise for their hard work and felt the timing of these raises were justified.
"The board doesn’t just make decisions hastily, of course we thought whether it was appropriate to give a raise at this time and we felt strongly timing has nothing to do with it. The system has been put on a positive track, we’ve made considerable progress. There are two people that deserve a lot of credit for that," said Boyd.
Boyd went on to say there is always some kind of financial concern for the district, but echoed Perkins amazement that Harris has not received a raise in four years, particularly when everyone else in the district gets one every year. Boyd said Kinneer has also been vital to improving district’s financial position and business practices, especially since the district’s finances were not in the best of shape when he arrived in 2005.
"Instead of saying ‘Is it the right time,’ you should say ‘It’s about time,’" said Boyd.
Nicole Kraft, spokesperson for the Kenwood Advocates, an advocacy group made up of parents at the Ecole Kenwood French immersion school, thanked the board for their help in resolving the parents’ need for another French-speaking teacher at the school.
She also expressed the parents’ desire to work with CCS as a team.
Kraft explained the group’s plans to launch a marketing campaign
"We want to work with you on the upcoming negotiation, that is, of course, our big goal here, so we’re not faced with the same situation again and we know that with your help we’ll be able to come to a resolution on that issue, and to make sure that we welcome to our schools teachers fulfilling the language that we speak," said Kraft.
Boyd said the board was delighted in hearing of the gratitude towards the board.
"This is very unusual but very appreciative by each member of this board. Seldom does one come to thank the board for action that has taken place. I don’t ask you to hesitate so I can say to you, ‘Thank you for thanking us,’ but we do perceive you as truly being partners of this district," said Boyd.
According to Kraft, the advocacy group was formed in August as a result of a non-French speaking teacher being placed at Ecole Kenwood. Students at this school are taught entirely in French for grades kindergarten through 8th grade.
Kraft said the Kenwood Advocates are not looking to start district-wide advocacy groups but she did have some advice for other parents possibly thinking about it.
"It’s important to focus your needs and desires and realize you may want 1,000 different things, but the journey beings with one step. Be able to see big picture and get behind the big picture and be reasonable in your approach. Administration can’t do everything for everyone, they may want to but they can’t." said Kraft.