A candidate for the Oregon school board blasted the Oregon City Schools superintendent and school board members last Wednesday for increasing the salaries of administrators at a previous meeting.
P.J. Kapfhammer, who is running for a seat on the school board, asked Dr. Mike Zalar, superintendent of the district, about the increase at a board meeting last Wednesday.
“I heard a rumor going around that the administrators are getting a raise this year,” said Kapfhammer.
“Adjustments have been made in the administrative salary schedule that are in compliance with the teachers’ salary schedule,” said Zalar. In other words, any type of increase has been comparable across the board. What that resulted in was a slight increase in administrative salaries. Administrators do not have step increases in their schedule to the same extent as other employees in the district.”
Zalar said there were cost savings when the board restructured the central office of the administrative staff this year.
“We reduced six central office positions to three. We saved the district about $300,000 in that particular restructuring. Indexes were adjusted slightly - and this is kind of complicated, I’m not trying to be deceptive here because we have different administrators at different stages in their current contracts. We’ve had administrators move from elementary principals to middle school principals, middle school to elementary, middle school to high school. We’ve had a lot of movement within the administrative ranks during the last two years trying to make adjustments for that. The net result is that some salaries were increased slightly.”
The administrators, he noted, also increased their personal contributions to health insurance by 50 percent, as did teachers earlier this year.
“We saved the district over $150,000 for the next two years with administrative salaries, even though some of our administrators have received a slight increase,” said Zalar.
Kapfhammer said he didn’t think administrators should get raises since the teachers union, the Oregon City Federation of Teachers, approved a three year agreement with the district in July that included concessions in wages and benefits.
In addition, he called the raise “an insult” after the board made cuts in the budget, including the elimination of several teachers as well as busing for high school students.
“We lost jobs, we lost bus drivers, we lost maintenance. Yet you turn right around and give our leaders a pay raise. This is an insult to the community. The reason I’m so concerned about this is I think this directly sets us back at least five years with our community. We’ve awarded the upper echelon, or like some people like to say, the `ole boy network.’ I would love for every administrator to go to Clay High School’s parking lot and interview parents who have to get out of work, juggle rides, to get their kids home from school. Or talk to a kid walking down Stadium and say, `We’re sorry we cut busing. But we gave administrators raises.’ It doesn’t look good,” he said.
After the meeting, Kapfhammer said the administration has been telling the community “we’re in this together, we have to sacrifice, we have to do the best for the district.”
“They took major concessions from teachers, they cut jobs, they cut busing, closed a school, increased athletic fees. Then they turn around and slap you in the face by giving a raise to administrators,” he said.
He questioned Zalar’s comment that the increase was a small adjustment in the administrative salary schedule. “It’s still a raise,” said Kapfhammer. “Understand how the real world thinks. If you’re making a dollar more next year, it’s a raise.”
He also disputed Zalar’s comment that the increase is in compliance with the teachers’ salary schedule.
“That’s not accurate,” said Kapfhammer. “They have a pension pickup that teachers don’t have. Their pay scale is much larger than the teachers’ pay scale.”
Zalar told The Press after the meeting that the increase was the result of a three year movement within the administration “and to fairly compensate everyone for the current positions they’re in.”
“Since being superintendent in the last few years, I’ve reduced administrative positions 30 percent. When I started, we had 32 administrators. We are down to approximately 22. We’ve taken the exact same freezes that teachers have taken and we have made the exact same increases in contributions to our health care. We’ve reduced our staff more than any teachers, certified or classified.”
Kapfhammer said he was also unhappy that the audio of the meeting, which is posted on the district’s website, broke down when Kapfhammer got into a heated exchange with one of the board members.
“Every time something doesn’t go in the board’s favor, they blur the recording,” he alleged.
Zalar confirmed there was a problem with the audio, but that it was not intentional.
“I’m going to try and meet with Mr. Kapfhammer individually and explain to him in more detail exactly what the board approved. I’m sure he doesn’t have a complete understanding of the facts. It’s very complicated to explain to someone in a very short amount of time.”