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Superintendent to sign three year contract

June 30, 2010 - Expressions in the audience and at the board table were perplexed, June 23 during the school board's regular meeting.

Superintendent Ken Gutman's contract was back on the table, proposing to extend his stint in Lake Orion Community Schools until 2013. The board ultimately approved the contract, 4-2, including a 9.3 percent reduction in compensation.

But at the previous board meeting, June 9, Gutman said he wasn't seeking a three-year contract anymore; he wanted to focus on one year.

"What I'd like to do is meet with the (human resources) committee and talk about compensation for next year and get that moving – and not talk three years, but at least talk one," he said at that meeting.

How did a three-year contract come back on the table for a vote, June 23?

According to Boardmember Janet Wolverton, an HR committee member, the three-year contract proposal was never off the table.

When Boardmember Bob Gritzinger asked about Gutman only seeking one year, she said, "I don't recall that discussion."

Boardmember Tiffany Weber-Phillips, also on the committee, indicated that she did remember Gutman taking the three-year proposal off the table when she corrected Gritzinger.

"I guess I was surprised that (the contract) came back again with the extension after we had taken it off," said Gritzinger.

Weber-Phillips clarified by saying, "We had not, Ken had."

Boardmember Mary Jo Burchart, acting president since Bill Walters' retirement, is on the HR committee. She said she did not have three years in mind going into the committee's meeting with Gutman.

"I can only speak for me. I didn't know for sure what was going to happen," she said.

During the board meeting, no one else from the committee spoke up on how or why the three-year proposal made it back to the table.

Later – Sunday, June 27 – Burchart said Wolverton was who brought the extension back up.

"She brought it up as a general question and after discussing the options, the group agreed to go back to the original proposal," Burchart said.

In the end, Burchart, Weber-Phillips, Wolverton and Boardmember Tina Peterson voted for the contract, outweighing Gritzinger and Boardmember Jim Weidman's dissenting votes.

Wolverton said voting now for the superintendent's contract seemed logical even though there's a full year left before it expires.

"The way the timeline works out, this is a discussion we'd probably be having four months from now," she said.

She added that to not lock in the contract's 9.3 percent compensation reduction for the next several years would be a "misstep" by the district.

Weber-Phillips said she wanted to vote for the contract June 23 because to go through the process again in a few months would be a waste of time.

"As a district, we have a lot more important things to do. …I think this is a solid contract and he has given a lot to the district. I strongly feel we should extend the contract two additional years," she said.

Weidman voted against the superintendent's contract. He said the actual compensation decrease is really around four percent, not 9.3, and the length of the contract is just too long.

Gutman's previous contract said he should be making $164,529 in 2010-11, which is what the 9.3 percent reduction is based on. But, since Gutman froze his salary at the 2008-09 level, he's actually making $158,140, so the reduction will be more like four percent.

The difference, Weidman said, is between budgeted dollars versus actual dollars.

Weidman added, "I struggle with the fact that we already have a year remaining on the contract and we're going out another two. In light of the very uncertain times, it's very difficult for us to look out that far. …I think it would be a misstep and a miscalculation by this board to extend this contract in light of all the other employee groups who we're in discussion with and the challenges we've enumerated."

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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