Letter to the Board about the Superintendent’s Salary
CSD Board Meeting Notes 6.19.2014

iconThe following letter was attempted to be read at the 6.19.2014 board meeting on behalf of the “Corbett Save Our Schools” group. However the reading was not allowed to continue and was cut short midway in the “Two failed bond attempts in less than a year” section.

I was chosen to be the reader of this letter by our group perhaps because I have done multiple personal public comments. However I wish I hadn’t been, as it makes reporting on the issue that occurred a little more awkward. Let me state for the record I take no joy in these things and I was merely chosen to read this on behalf of many community members. I was simply defending what I feel is the right of everyone to be heard. I hope that you will find my reporting remains unbiased despite my personal frustration.

Time after time it appears that those who offer public praise are granted unlimited time & respect but if you voice criticism your views are quickly shut down and not allowed in public. Personally I find this appalling but so be it. I’m just reporting the facts.

 

At approximately 3 minutes in:

Charlie- you need to wrap it up, your 3 minutes is up.

Karina- I emailed you and specifically asked for an extension because I would be speaking on behalf of the SOS group, and you have stated yourself that in order to get more time you must speak for an organization.

Charlie- I must what now?

Karina- you’ve stated that you can have an extension of time if your speaking on behalf of an organization, and that is what I am doing. This is not from me personally. I emailed you on Monday.

Charlie- I didn’t get an email from you.

Karina- I sent it through the school site and I got a response saying thank you for your message. Anyway it’s about 10 minutes.

Charlie- No, your time is up.

(Audience members “just let her speak” “let her finish”)

Karina- you have said before publicly if your speaking on behalf of an organization you may have an extension of the time.

Charlie- No. Not this time.

Karina- what about when Tom Layton was here and read a letter from parents? So how many people would like to give me their 3 minutes so I can finish? (Multiple audience members raised their hands) ok there ya go then.

Charlie- will you people please fill out a card to let her speak for you. If anyone else wants to give their time please fill out the form.

(Audience members come forward to fill cards)

Mark- Charlie I’m a little concerned about what’s happening right now with, I mean the superintendent is a staff member and I don’t think we should tolerate public complaints and accusations. If somebody wants to file an official complaint that’s the proper protocol but I don’t think the board should allow to criticize a staff member in public.

Karina- we’re not trying to criticize, we’re trying to explain valid reasons….

Charlie- your out of line

Mark- I just don’t think accusing him of falsehoods and lies that, that is ok.

Charlie – I think your right. I think your making accusations.

Karina- everything I am stating are facts. You mention complaints, we are trying to say reasons why we feel a raise is not warranted and I’m giving reasons. One of those is that there are 7 outstanding complaints with TSCC that are still pending investigation, there are multiple reasons and I wish I would be given a chance to finish those things.

Charlie- well the fact remains you are making accusations and stating opinion and we’re not going to allow that. There are complaint forms you can fill out. (Papers passed to Charlie from Randy) & as far as extra time, in our policy it says issues needing more time should be placed in writing and given to the superintendent for the correspondence section of the agenda, one week in advance. Tom Layton did do that. It went to the superintendent and me.

(Obviously I did not give one week notice so that is my bad, but I wonder if it would have mattered.)

Karina- I did it through the school website so it should have gone to you, and Randy, and Robin.

Charlie- well I didn’t get it.
(Looks at Randy & Robin who both shake heads implying they didn’t get it either.)

Karina- I can grab my phone and show you the auto response I received from Corbett school district.

Charlie- the fact remains that your awfully close to being out of order with your comments about the superintendent and I think it’s better served through a complaint.

Karina- I get that (complaint process) but we’re not here to file complaints, we’re here to address the board regarding his salary and raise.

Charlie- your getting into personal attacks and we can’t allow that.

Karina- ok, I don’t see them as personal attacks, I see them as facts but I guess that’s a difference of opinion.

Charlie- and your 3 minutes are up.

The board voted 5 to 2 to approve a raise in salary to $144,394.00 As well as an increase in vacation days to 35, and free tuition for his children to attend CSD upon no longer living in district. He also has healthcare & PERS retirement benefits. The district also pays him $550 a month for all in district travel (to and from work) and $100 a month for personal cell & internet.

Victoria Purvine has asked for the last 3 years that a “no cause” clause and a “morality/ethics” clause be added to his contract and it still has not.

I will post full meeting notes in the next couple of days but have already received several requests for the SOS letter and the details of what unfolded surrounding it’s reading, so wanted to post that now. The letter follows below. Thanks.

 

Dear Corbett school board members,

We are sending this letter on behalf of a group of your constituents who strongly feel that our school board should not award our superintendent an increase in salary or benefits this year based on many reasons listed below. The first being that the ratio of salary to the size of our district is too high. Based on other Oregon School Districts the pay is excessive. The pay should be brought into line at this time therefore a freeze on advancing salary, or even an actual reduction, would benefit the Corbett School System. Below you can see the stark contrast in student population and the number of schools in each district, between Corbett and Gresham Barlow, yet the superintendent salaries are almost identical.

Salary comparison to larger neighboring district

Corbett has 1,400 students, 4 schools and the Superintendents salary is $142,000. Gresham-Barlow has 12,100 students, 19 schools and the superintendents salary is $143,000.

Disregard of laws, policy, and procedures

The Superintendent uses loopholes to side step laws and receive undue financial benefits. One example of this is by continuing to create multiple schools in one building in order to keep receiving small school funding from the State of Oregon. Previously the Corbett Charter and now to be the STEM school, both within our current high school building.This is not sound management. This sets our school district up for a possible large budget shortfall of $550,000.+ annually, when the state catches on to this practice and closes the loophole through legislation. See here: http://corbettpost.com/csd/small-school-funding/

The Superintendent falsely reports information. One example of this is how our 9th grade students are being reported as attending the middle school. These students do not attend the middle school, they attend the high school. Aside from the financial benefit that the district receives by artificially making the number of students attending our high school less than the number that actually are attending, it also creates confusion for parents when their students receive two different report cards. They are given one from the middle school and one from the high school, in order to claim they attend the middle school. The Superintendent picks and chooses which laws he follows and this is very poor business practice.

Why do we still not have a citizens advisory board? The superintendent, and you, as the school board, have continued to disregard this law and ignore requests by the community to take action on this over the years. One result of this failure, is that now citizens are organizing on their own and becoming watchdogs and working to bring accountability to our district, since it seems the board can not, or will not, do it themselves.

Two failed bond attempts in less than one year

The Superintendent employed scare tactics and untrue safety claims with no evidence to back them up. In public meetings, he has stated things that manufactured fear in the community and with voters. Many of these claims were also publicly debunked by Multnomah County Health Department. ( See the letter here: http://corbettoregon.com/forum/index.php?topic=842.0 ) . Expansion of the school district is his goal and that is contradictory to the needs, space availability, and desire of the community of District 39. False and misleading information is not a good leadership trait and therefore it should be considered a major impediment for a salary increase.

The superintendent has not made building maintenance a priority for the middle school. Perhaps not all, but many of the current listed issues at the middle school could have been addressed gradually over the years. While the photo essay for the bond may not have been as dramatic, allowing a building to deteriorate in hopes of getting a brand new building does not sit well with the community.

The superintendent has created the perception that there is now a dangerous facility issue on campus. However, there is no bond money to address these issues. The district is yet again in a financial crisis. This raises the question again as to how the school board justifies finding money to give the superintendent a raise every year, especially when he is already paid far more than other superintendents with similar sized districts.

Financial impact of the Superintendent’s ongoing sexual affair on campus

Having a superintendent who is involved with an ongoing extramarital affair with a subordinate employee on school campus has opened our district up to possible additional financial burdens. If the relationship sours and the other employee turns bitter, she could sue the district for sexual harassment in the workplace. Also by using the school attorney for review, public money has been spent defending personal behavior. He has violated the Creed of a Superintendent and ORS 342.55, and the board has done nothing, but now seems to want to continue rewarding this employee.

This superintendent has cost our district a lot of money in attorney fees. There are fees from not only protecting the superintendent’s job, because of his affair, but also because of his other choices that require constant legal council. This is all money we would have otherwise had for our children in the classroom.

The Superintendent now has 7 outstanding complaints filed with the Teachers Standards and Practices Commission. These complaints are still being investigated and pending a formal hearing. Again how is a raise being justified with these matters not resolved?

The Charter and the erosion of trust with this Superintendent

The superintendent disregarded negotiation laws and policies and removed board members from the charter negotiation process and made himself the key negotiator along with only the board chair. The Superintendent did not disclose to all board members the negotiation details that were part of a process cloaked in secrecy.

The tone set by our superintendent is one of a financially destitute district, year after year. When given the opportunity to bring in extra money to our district and end things amicably with the Charter school for one last year, he chose to turn down the option and take his chances with a legal battle. How much money did that cost our district? How much are we still paying attorneys to help us navigate this? How much more money, on top of the $500,000+ that we would have had, has the district now lost that could have been applied to our children’s education or building maintenance?

Misleading statements about district size and no intention of growing

The superintendent has claimed he has no intention of growing the district, yet year after year he seeks approval to add more students. He had you the board, vote to make 1200 kids our maximum population and then turned around the next year and had you vote to make 1200 kids the minimum.

The survey and flyers for the last bond said that the new building would not be for the Charter school. For many residents, this was interpreted to mean the district would be going back to pre-charter numbers. This was, of course, not the case and appeared to be intentionally misleading.

Just after open enrolling about 500 students into our district for next year (most from the Charter), the superintendent at the May 2014 board meeting tried to add language to our inter-district transfer policy to allow “unlimited” numbers into the district in spite of the fact he continues to say he doesn’t intend to grow the district.

We are now at over 1400 students, compared to 718 students in the district, in 2009, prior to Randy Trani becoming our superintendent. From this we can clearly see where his true intentions lay as well as his continual practice of misleading this community over the years.

In Closing

Many of your constituents would like to know why, you the board, time after time, so eagerly pass off the reigns of our district to this man who continually makes very poor management decisions? Why does our superintendent have a supposed “3 year” contract if it is renewed every single year with an additional salary raise and increase in benefits annually? Why is he being paid as much as districts with over 8x the number of students and almost 5x the number of schools? A district that struggles financially should not be so frivilous with it’s funds.

There is a lack of trust in our superintendent by the community at large. When you look objectively at all of the above, add in other historical financial discrepancies and poor management examples, it is not hard to see why. We hope that you will think long and hard about these issues stated. We would also ask that the board consider meeting to objectively discuss all of these points in reflection of their responsibilities to our community’s school children and the future of our school district in Corbett.

Please, honestly ask yourselves, in any other business, would an employee with all of these performance issues even still have a job, let alone be given a raise and additional benefits year after year?

Thank You,
Corbett SOS, Save Our Schools
Political Action Committee & Community Watchdogs.