By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - Setting a salary schedule for the director was the subject of debate among members of the consortium making up the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Community Schools.
A five-year salary schedule for Community Schools Director Julie Wonders has been approved by the Breitung Township School Board, and Iron Mountain School Board.
The Breitung Township Board vote was unanimous, while the Iron Mountain vote passed 4-2.
Representatives of both school boards as well as the superintendents of both districts make up the Community Schools Advisory Committee. Committee recommendations are then forwarded to the school boards for action.
Iron Mountain School Board President Marv Harry noted that at the meeting of the advisory board, they received clarification on the issues of what can and can't be done with the consortium.
Breitung Township Schools Supt. Craig Allen explained that they had a legal review of the agreement through attorney Barb Ruga of Grand Rapids. She said that the fiscal agent for Community Schools, which is Iron Mountain Schools, cannot make a unilateral decision on what is done. The fiscal agent carries out the decisions of both school boards.
"The salary schedule was decided on, because it was low for what she does. We wanted to revisit the salary and make it a fair wage for what it requires her to do. The percent increase is based on how effective she is doing her job as director of Community Schools," Allen said.
The schedule calls for a salary of $83,640 to $93,862 and covers the years 2012-13 through years 2016-17.
Yearly raises are contingent on an affective evaluation by both Iron Mountain and Breitung Township superintendents, and mutually agreed upon salary raise within the range described.
Iron Mountain Board member Mark Pontti questioned the decision to follow a salary schedule, and asked where it had come from.
"The superintendents of both districts recommended it and developed it," Harry said.
Harry added that the language in the consortium agreement was ambiguous and they needed a legal review of it.
"As the fiscal agent for the Community Schools program, we do not determine the salaries of the director. It is an agreement through the consortium and has to go before both school boards. The day-to-day operations are supervised by the director with the two school superintendents. It only makes sense that the superintendents, who evaluate her, come up with a schedule. That is why it was handled this way," Harry said.
Iron Mountain Board Member Rob Langsford said there wasn't a lot of clarity in the consortium agreement, noting that in the past a lot of things were done with just a handshake.
"It needs to be written down and clearly defined what the responsibilities and expectations are to do this correctly," Langsford said.
Harry said that the job of the director of Community schools is different from anything else in either district. The director is not a superintendent, but is more than a principal.
Jayne said that the consortium agreement dates back to 1964 and that is why there is ambiguous language. It hasn't been changed since it was drafted, he said.
Board member Mark Pontti said a salary schedule for this position may set a precedent at Iron Mountain.
"It's different than what we are doing in our district, and something we felt uncomfortable with in the Personnel Committee," Pontti said.
Harry said he felt that this was the proper way to handle this position since it is different than anything else that the school district has in jobs.
"No matter what the salary schedule is, the superintendents of both districts do an evaluation with her and that determines whether or not an increase happens," Harry said. "Any decisions go to the consortium board first before the school boards approve it."
Pontti said the consortium agreement needed more work to clean up those unclear areas. He also said some type of mechanism should be in the agreement in case of a tie - where one school board approves something and the other board doesn't.
Langsford agreed that the reason for the different schedule for this position was that it didn't fall in the same spot as the principals or superintendents.
Board member Steve Brooks was also not comfortable with the schedule in place.
"It locks us into a five- year schedule," Brooks said. "And laying it out on a grid like that doesn't make sense."
"She's on an annual contract like the superintendent," Harris said. "If the two superintendents evaluate her and approve of what she's done, then the schedule comes into play. She gets that increase based on the job she did."
Brooks asked why they would remove the discretion from the board in setting a salary.
"I don't know why you would do that. Removing the discretion from this process is what I'm against," Brooks said.
Jayne said that the decision was made after "batting around different ideas."
"We wanted to remove any uncertainty on how this employee would move forward. That's why we went with a scale," Jayne said.
Board member Ed Mattson reported that the personnel committee had a problem with the schedule because this wasn't how all administrative salaries are set.
Iron Mountain board members Brooks and Pontti voted against the salary schedule with Harry, Mattson, Langsford, and Lisa Basanese voting in favor .
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.