The All-Island School Committee approved superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss’ proposal to modify his current contract, forgoing a four per cent salary increase next year and extending his contract by two years, at the committee meeting on Sept. 10.
The committee also approved a recommendation from Dr. Weiss that administrative staff members not receive a salary increase this year, and that tech and support staff receive a 2.5 per cent increase.
Administrative staff includes the assistant superintendent, school principals, vice principals, directors and some coordinators. The tech and support staff members are non-union workers who typically fall on the lower end of the school salary spectrum.
Dr. Weiss proposed that he forfeit his contractual salary increase for fiscal year 2010-2011. Instead, he requested that his contract be extended by two years, through fiscal year 2012-2013, with salary increases set for those two years. “It was my recommendation . . . [to] take the four per cent and stretch it out over two years,” said Dr. Weiss. The new agreement would provide a two per cent salary increase for fiscal year 2011-2012, and a three per cent increase the following year.
Dr. Weiss stated several reasons for his proposal. The first was personal. “I like what I do. I like being here, and I want to stay,” he said. He also considered economic factors. “It sends a message that we are acknowledging that right now the economic situation is one that may be troubling.”
The new agreement would benefit both him and the schools, he said. “I think this will provide you with some stability over the long term, and that it might be a good thing for you as well.”
Most committee members seemed to agree. “There are many, many reasons to accept Dr. Weiss’ proposal,” said committee chairman Dan Cabot. “He’s really giving up a raise for next year, but he’s also proposing very small increments over the next years.”
Mr. Cabot said that he did not generally endorse contract renegotiation. “I figure a deal’s a deal,” he said. However, he said that Dr. Weiss should be commended for his offer, adding: “There is no reason why the parties cannot agree 18 months from now or 12 months from now to renegotiate this if things are going better.”
Committee member Les Baynes said, “Zero [increase], it doesn’t sit well with me. But my issue here is the continuity . . . We’ll have stability at the helm.”
“We’re not used to zero,” but that was appropriate in the economic circumstances, said committee member Susan Parker, in a phone interview after the meeting. “Right now everybody just needs to tread water and hold tight for a while. If everyone can be willing to . . . weather the storm, that’s the appropriate thing to do.”
She also noted Mr. Weiss received an exceptional evaluation this year. “It’s a serious evaluation,” she said. “He gets feedback and he definitely responds to the feedback that he’s getting . . . I think he’s doing a good job.”
At the meeting, Bob Tankard praised Dr. Weiss’ willingness to set a standard for other employees: “Good leadership has to lead, and it has to lead by example.”
Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter cast the sole vote against the motion to accept Dr. Weiss’ proposal. “I don’t like zero [per cent],” he said. Instead, he felt that an annual distribution of a one per cent, one per cent, and two per cent raise would be more appropriate over the next three years. Mr. Manter did not voice any objection to the proposal to extend Dr. Weiss’ contract.
The school committee approved Dr. Weiss’ request 12 to 1. Minutes from the meeting will be turned over to Sean Sweeney, legal counsel to the school committee, for review. He will then draft Mr. Weiss’ new contract.
In other news, the committee approved the superintendent’s recommendation to appoint Island pediatrician Dr. Michael Goldfein as school physician for all schools on the Island. According to Dr. Weiss, Dr. Goldfein’s appointment is partially in response to the threat of H1N1, the virus commonly known as swine flu.
The committee also discussed school swine flu vaccination clinics, which will take place in November and December, following seasonal flu clinics in mid-October. “We are as ready as we can be,” said Dr. Weiss. “And we will work [together] with the local health authorities.” Dr. Goldfein currently serves as the chief of primary care at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.