By Greg Bird
It was a bitter sweet December meeting for the McCreary County Board of Education as two members presided over their last meeting: Brandon Kidd and Rhonda Armijo.
Kidd, who served as Chair of the Board, was defeated in the last election by Braxton King. Armijo elected not to run for the seat for a second term and will be replaced by Lori Foster. King and Foster will assume the seat this month.
Before conducting official business Kidd thanked his fellow Board members, and expressed a hope that the work the Board had accomplished would continue.
“Thank you for the support you have given me over the last eight years,” he said. “I hope you continue the hard work we set forth eight years ago.”
Armijo also expressed her thanks to the Board, and offered encouragement to the staff of the district.
“It has been an honor to serve with all of you,” she said.
“You all did it; we didn’t,” she directed to the staff. “I hope our decisions were helpful.”
Board member Debbie Gibson offered an emotional farewell to the outgoing members, expressing sincere gratitude for Kidd. “We joined forces, we fought hard,” she said. “I am going to miss him so much. We had a Board that worked together. Nobody is going to be able to fill his shoes.”
One of Kidd’s final acts as Board Chair was to make a motion to give Superintendent Mike Cash a 1.7 percent raise on the heels of a good audit review, a positive evaluation and the news that the McCreary County School District is ranked first in the state for kindergarten readiness.
Kidd proposed a 1.7 percent increase in salary for Cash, noting: “We are the most striving district with the lowest paid Superintendent.” (State data shows Cash isn’t the lowest paid Superintendent in Kentucky, but his annual salary is in the bottom 10 of all public school districts.)
The motion to approve the raise passed 4-0, with Board member Nelda Gilreath leaving the meeting during the executive session and not being present for the vote.
According to data from the Kentucky Department of Education, which publishes the salaries for all school superintendents, Cash made $107,534 for the last full school year. With the 2-percent raise awarded to all staff this past year (which, by his contract Cash would have received as well), the additional 1.7-percent would
raise that total to approximately $111,549 in base salary. By comparison in 2015-16 school year, the final of Donnie Wright’s term as Superintendent, the salary was $128,498. Cash has also refused to take the insurance benefit package available through the district, which could potentially add an additional $30,000 or more to the salary expense.
KDE records show the McCreary County School District had 205 certified employees as of 2017.
According to the KDE the average superintendent salary across the state stood at $126,972 for the 2017-18 school year. Other superintendent salaries in the region include (and number of certified employees): Whitley County – $130,719 –(344), Pulaski County – $154,530- (600), Wayne County – $120,746 –(230), Laurel County – $142,481 –(642) and Russell County – $110,000 –(230). (The number of certified employees does not include classified and other staff.)
Prior to awarding the raise the Board conducted their annual evaluation of the Superintendent during an hour-long executive session.
Superintendents are evaluated using four performance levels for each standard: exemplary, accomplished, developing, and growth required. There are seven leadership standards where Boards can choose to evaluate the superintendent: strategic, instructional, cultural, human resource, managerial, collaborative and influential.
This year the Board chose to review Cash on standard #2, Instructional Leadership. The description for the standard states: “the superintendent supports and builds a system committed to shared values and beliefs focused on teaching and learning where performance gaps are systematically eliminated over time and every student graduates from high school college – and career – ready.”
The Board voted Cash as “exemplary” for the standard, indicating they believe he exceeded the standard for the category.
Next year the Board will review the superintendent on standard #6 – collaborative leadership.
In other business: the Board approved the calendar for the 2019-20 school year. Next year the first day for students will be on August 14, and the last day will be on May 13. Fall break will be from October 7-11, and spring break: April 6-10.
Discussion was held about whether to hold school on Veterans Day, with the final consensus to hold school as normal that day. Brandon Kidd, who wanted students to have the day off, voted against the calendar.
The Board also opted to offer a 50-cent per hour raise to bus drivers in hopes of retaining staff and attracting new drivers. Cash noted the District was short approximately eight drivers, causing issues when getting kids to and from school.
It was noted that the raise would bring the pay level on par with neighboring Pulaski County and cost the District about $35,000 per year extra. The Board discussed the possibility of raising the rate a full dollar, but opted to wait until the finance department could look at the impact that would have on payroll.
Artie White of White & Associates, PSC presented the annual financial audit report, noting it was a “very good audit,” and no corrective actions need to be taken.
The next scheduled meeting of the McCreary County Board of Education will be on Thursday, January 24 at 6:30 p.m.