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School board to vote on super's contract, May 26

May 19, 2010 - Five of seven school boardmembers say they're ready to vote on Superintendent Ken Gutman's revamped contract proposal at their May, 26 meeting. The contract will be an action item on the agenda.

After their April 28 regular meeting, the board's human resources committee was sent back to drawing board for more discussion on the proposed two-year extension and a two percent contribution to healthcare. Other items on the contract included an eight percent reduction in salary.

Currently, Gutman is in year two of a three year contract.

The new proposal, presented at the board's May 12 meeting, was essentially the same as before, but with the superintendent contributing five percent to healthcare.

Boardmembers Jim Weidman and Bob Gritzinger asked that a vote on the contract proposal be postponed at least until final insurance costs came in.

As part of the proposed contract, Gutman said he is willing to get rid of the current insurance provider for something less expensive. Tentative cost estimates will be available by the end of this week, according to Margaret Hazlett, executive director of human resources, who said hard numbers won't arrive for several weeks.

According to Weidman, the proposed eight percent salary cut will appear as only a four percent cut. Gutman's current contract says he should be making $164,529 in 2010-11, which is what the eight percent ($13,162) is based on. But, since he froze his salary at the 2008-09 level, $158,140, he'll really be making around a four percent cut ($6,325).

In either light, the superintendent's proposed base salary will be around $151,500, not including other pieces of his compensation package, like transportation and tax-deferred compensation.

Janet Wolverton, boardmember and HR committee member, said she was in "full support of the contract," and noted she only hears positive things about Gutman, who she believes to be "leading by example in the district and in the county."

Boardmembers Tiffany Weber-Phillips, who serves on the HR committee, and Tina Peterson, both said they wanted to see Gutman stay through strategic planning to provide consistent leadership. Peterson did say she would prefer firm insurance numbers, but was ok with a vote next meeting with tentative numbers.

Mary Jo Burchart, board vice president and third HR committee member, said she had previous concerns about the superintendent only contributing two percent to healthcare, but was comfortable with the new proposal.

Weidman and Gritzinger, however, still wanted to wait on a vote.

"The beauty of it is, it's not like a contract is expiring. We have over a year left on a contract. There is no urgency to get this, and even if there were, we could carry over the current (contract) until the new plan was in place," said Weidman.

"If you're committed to this district, do you need a contract to hold you in place?" Gritzinger asked of Gutman. "I don't think you need a three-year contract to do what's right for the kids in the district."

Gutman said "my commitment to this district will never change."

Weidman and Gritzinger also disagreed with Hazlett when she said the sooner the superintendent's contract is finalized, the sooner she can use it as a bargaining tool with union groups in hopes that they'll make similar concessions.

"What I'm saying is what Bob (Gritzinger's) saying – it's that we have an comprehensive picture, not just a approximation of what it might be when you go to those employee groups," said Weidman.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 26.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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