Home Zalar’s raise not enough to keep him in the district
Zalar’s raise not enough to keep him in the district
Written by Kelly J. Kaczala and Melissa Burden   
Thursday, 17 May 2012 15:36

The Oregon school board, after voting for raises last year for Superintendent Dr. Mike Zalar and a dozen  administrators at a time when busing for Clay High School students was eliminated, had reasoned that the pay hikes were needed to keep high quality individuals in the district.

The board last August had unanimously approved the raises for 12 administrators, with Zalar getting the biggest amount from $116,964 to $130,221 per year.

The raises sparked a firestorm of protest in the community, which had previously voted down school levies while the board made steep budget cuts and layoffs in the financially troubled district. Comments from a community survey of the district reported in The Press last week showed how much the raises had touched a nerve.

This month, The Press broke the news that Zalar had applied for the position of superintendent in the Gahanna-Jefferson schools district, near Columbus. Some on the Oregon school board said the argument for keeping Zalar in the district by giving him a raise last summer was apparently bogus, while others said they did not expect him to stay for very long anyway.

P.J. Kapfhammer and Jeff Ziviski, who were elected to the Oregon school board in November after campaigning against the raises, said that increasing salaries to maintain high quality individuals in the district is never a valid argument, particularly in a financially strapped district.

“The whole thing was, the board paid Zalar and the administrators to keep them in the district,” said Ziviski. “The whole argument just goes to show that it was falsely based. Money won’t keep people. Zalar got his money, he was happy for months, now he’s out there looking for another job. With the area’s high unemployment rate, we should not be overpaying to keep quality employees. Oregon schools offer a reasonable wage to its employees to work in this district and in return we expect them to give 100 percent to the job and making the district better. Zalar has a nice compensation package, and if that’s not enough, I wish him luck in future endeavors. If he stays, he has a job to do and hopefully he’ll work 100 percent to improve this district. Whether he stays or goes, we need someone who is dedicated and willing to make those hard decisions for the betterment of this district.”

School board president Dick Gabel, who voted in favor of the raises, said he is not disappointed Zalar has applied for a superintendent’s position in another district.

“He is trying to make his life better, I suppose. He is a good guy, and if they hire him, they will be lucky,” said Gabel. “I was surprised he went down there, but people move on for whatever reason. If the hire him, they will be getting a good superintendent.”

School board vice-president Diana Gadus, who also voted for the raises, said she was not surprised that Zalar applied for the position in the Gahanna-Jefferson school district.

“It is my understanding that the life expectancy of a superintendent is seven years, so I knew it was coming either now or within the next three years,” she said.

Gadus defended her vote, saying administrators’ salaries were lower than administrators in other school districts.

“We were looking for longevity, but our administrators’ salaries had to be brought up either way. We had to bring the administrators’ pay in line with the salaries of what other administrators were making in other districts and across the state. Our teachers at the time received raises and other benefits, too, and past practice is that administrators should get the same thing,” said Gadus.

Board member Carol Molnar also stood her ground.

“You always do what you think is best,” she said about her vote for the raises. “I think there is a longevity window for superintendents. After five to seven years, they just move on. It is not like it was back in the day.”

Zalar told The Press he had no comment.

Comments (23)Add Comment
posted by From the duck pond, May 22, 2012
Here is proof positive that raises or extending contracts early will not keep people from leaving their positions with the district. I give credit to Zalar for realizing his days here were numbered. I would venture to say some of the Board members realize that too since they are trying to line their pockets with undeserved $$ from the district. You know who you are and SHAME ON YOU!
posted by Sunny Dayz Ahead, May 23, 2012
An 11% + raise in this economy??? All at once?? Wow. How about a pay for performance model for Administrators?
posted by Sunny Daze Ahead, May 23, 2012
I say if he's not committed to the community and schools in Oregon, then why haven't we started the search to bring in new blood? Could be a good thing for the district!
posted by Sunny Daze, May 23, 2012
Superintendent of Perrysburg Schools W. Hosler has a published salary of $125,542 for 2011 in a district operating with an Excellent rating.
posted by Sure Bet, May 23, 2012
Our district rating has dropped over the years to Effective and has not improved as of 2010-2011 yet we pay Zalar $130,221 to "keep good talent" Why? Whats the performance criteria here?
posted by Over the Top, May 23, 2012
I would love to see my employers face if I showed up after a stagnant year demanding an 11% increase when the company is barely in the black....What a joke that would be! Response would probably go something like this, "don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya".
posted by From the duck pond, May 23, 2012
I guess our Board is too busy fighting among themselves to realize the we soon will be without a Superintendent. I guess that's one way to cut expenses.
Obscene wording
posted by Thomas Paine, May 24, 2012
I fail to see where the Press is allowed to take liberties by assuming that this decision would be salary based? He obviously makes plenty of money, and operating under the assumption that money is all that matters is proof that this communities mindset is forever stuck on the almighty dollar. Could a decision be based on other things? Like a bitterly political school board, an angry, relatively uneducated and apathetic community with regards to education, and an absolute lack of tax payer support? Nobody puts two and two together and realizes that being forced to cut over $10 million dollars in funding, thanks to a phase out of corporate taxes and declining property values, is extremely difficult to overcome!! Is it no surprise that the last year BP and Sun Oil paid their higher tax rate, this District was very well ranked, and now that the money is gone (followed by cuts to teachers, cuts to busing, and closing down an entire school) the rating has dropped. Rather than support the district, based on this comment stream, it seems that the solution isn't to circle the wagons and keep good people here (like the board tried to do, and got thrown under the bus) the Occupy Oregon mentality is to fire everyone and just be angry. An attitude that is egged on by yellow journalism and a slanted agenda by Press Publications and their editors.
Sure Bet
posted by Thomas Paine, May 24, 2012
You'll find the performance rankings, and explanation of the criteria here:

The rating is given by a rubric, listed on page 6. If you'll notice, Clay was not proficient in one subject, Science, by only .8%. This would give Clay 11 of 12 state indicators met, or 92%. A rating that places Clay as Effective, even though every other subject is WELL over the necessary score.

Historically, when Clay was rated Excellent, their Performance Index score was at 96.1 (out of 120). This year, it is higher at 98.7 (1.3 points from Excellent). Missing the boat on both of those, even by a little, puts Oregon in the Effective zone, even though they've shown Adequate Yearly Progress, which is to say that they have made progress from this year to last. However, this is a poor indicator, since it would require even already Excellent schools to continue making progress. Seemingly a good idea, but there is a point where AYP is very difficult to do, and schools ratings are taken away because they essentially haven't improved upon already stellar numbers.

Overall, I think it is unfair to place everything solely on one man. The district has lost unprecedented levels of resources($10+ million, cuts to busing, closing a school etc.) and still has put up numbers that aren't very far off from where they were when they were rated Excellent. Clay is a good district, and they have very good teachers and administrators, with room for improvement. But improvement is not running good people out of town. Be careful what you wish for

Sunny Daze
posted by Thomas Paine, May 24, 2012
Check your facts on Perrysburg's Superintendent. His salary is less than Dr Zalars, but he is given a $5,524 car allowance, bringing his total up to $131,067. Higher than Dr Zalar, who does not receive a car from the district.
You need more facts
posted by Jimmy John, May 24, 2012
You need to compare the entire compensation package. And yes, Zalar gets a car allowance and mileage reimbursement. The Perrysburg superintendent does not get a car either, but does get a car allaowance. The difference being the district is not actually paying for a vehicle, but provides a monthly stipend to help the person with a car pymt. This then allows the person to submit business miles drove for reimbursement. If you look at the total compensation package (you can get it from the board office) you can see he get more than most area superintendents, but to know for sure you would have to call each district and get the same info.
posted by Putting Kids First, May 24, 2012
I work at one of the schools and I hear a lot from the teaching faculty about how the classroom resources have been cut and teachers are depending on parent volunteers, etc. or spending money out of their own pockets to puchasing teaching aids to help the kids. Those teachers aren't making $130,000. Many teachers who are not "uneducated" as someone likes to throw around on here, don't trust the current administration.
Everyone needs more facts
posted by Thomas Paine, May 24, 2012
Car allowance and mileage reimbursement are two different things. Total compensation package would also take into consideration health care plans which vary district to district, and retirement matching. All in all, a very difficult thing to compare, yet it is discussed lightly in a mostly negative way. Commonly ignored factors would be years in the profession, degrees held, and professional/academic achievements. All of which Oregon's superintendent has numerous of. That would increase salary, in my opinion. This salary given, while higher than most of the community's and mine by a large margin, is really par for the course. Focusing on this issue has been beaten to death, buried, dug up, beaten to more death, and beaten again later after supper.
posted by Putting Kids First, May 24, 2012
Also - I believe the press article is saying that money won't keep him happy - i.e., don't rush to judgement that paying more is going to retain anybody - its not a valid reason to increase salaries in a financially strapped school district.
posted by From the duck pond, May 24, 2012
Putting Kids hit the nail on the head!!! 'nuf said.
posted by Jimmy John, May 24, 2012
total compensation is the basic measure schools look at. One can take a low salary but have some extra retirement (PERS) pickup attached to make the overall package better. Looking at salary alone is mis-leading.

While car allowance and mileage reimbursement are two different things, they are still aprt of the package. I would guess most superintendets do not turn in mileage reimbursements when traveling within their district, but ours does...just a way to get more out of the system.

In short, he is overpaid for his performance, maybe ot based on his qualifications, but then again what good are they if you can performance and improve. These laws afected all districts and others have been able to maintain or improve, and fair or not, the blame falls in the captain's lap.
what evidence?
posted by Thomas Paine, May 25, 2012
What evidence suggests our superintendent turns in mileage for traveling within the district? That is speculation at best.

If you read my first post, outlining how Clay is ranked, you'll notice that Clay is extremely close to the highest rating it can get. All in the midst of obscene cuts to funding. You say he is overpaid for his performance, I question what scoring system you are using to determine this fact? He is paid the average salary for a superintendent, Clay is currently an average school. How is this a problem? When Clay was an Excellent school, his salary was drastically below average (based on his decision to take a $1 pay raise when he first took the position years ago...), yet no one complained. When talking fairness, it is important to be fair.

Putting Kids

Any teacher who purchases their own school supplies would more than likely be able to put in a purchase order requisition for reimbursement. Or, even more likely, could plan ahead for those supplies to run out and put in a purchase order ahead of time to have the supplies when they need them. Or, guaranteed, understand that any materials bought for teaching, which are not reimbursed,m are 100% tax deductible. It sounds like those teachers you speak of, might not understand that system, and therefore be the definition of uneducated. It's not a negative denotation, just an accurate statement of fact. I have never heard of a district that will not reimburse teachers for materials, however it is very common practice to have an allotment of materials set aside for everyone, as negotiated by a union representative. After that is used up, then yes you probably have to fit the bills. However, as I said, it is tax deductible. If you really want the money back, you can get it.

You should also understand that the teachers at Clay are very well paid. Average salary is around $45,000, starting fresh out of school with no experience at around $35,000 I believe, with the high end teachers making upwards of
posted by From the duck pond, May 25, 2012
Thomas - You certainly know everything there is to know about everything. I'm sure you are an Administrator, Board member, or better yet a spouse of said persons. The mileage can easily be checked...have Zalar post it on the website for all to see. Of course, in your opinion, teachers hired by this system aren't smart enough to fill out a requisition form for supplies but per chance they are and don't get reimbursed, they can just take it out of their own pocket since they can claim it on their taxes. You're out of touch with reality.
posted by Jimmy John, May 25, 2012
You apparently aren't as knowledgable as you think. At the meetings PJ and Ziviski have brought this topic up during the Treasurer's report. Zalar gets over $500 per month in mileage, plus his over $500 month for car allowance. If you would chek your facts before spreading false info and hurting the district and kids, you would all be better off.
You see what you want
posted by Thomas Paine, May 25, 2012
My only stance, this whole time, is that nobody is overpaid. If you want to fine tune small parts of the argument, in an attempt to be the most right, go for it, high five to you.

The only "false info" I said, was that zalar didn't get a car allowance. He does now, ok. Doesn't change the fact that he still isn't overpaid. It is not an extravagant expense, and is par for the course for this job, which requires him to drive around to all the buildings in the district. No kids were harmed, and I don't think this needs to progress to that level. Let's all just calm down
posted by Jimmy John, May 25, 2012
its not about being right or wrong, but about being informed and presently accurate data. How do you know he is not overpaid, what is your basis, do you ahve a comparison of total comp packages of all superintendents in the area. I ahve seen one,but it was about 3 yrs ago, and even then he was in the top 3. And if you beleive no kids were harmed then I feel sorry for everyone, b/c the more money that goes into the higher ups pockets is money taken away from teh kids. $500 per month, for example, could provide new textbooks for 30 kids.
posted by P.J. Kapfhammer, May 25, 2012
Thomas Paine is a past board member so you will never change their mind and unlike everyone else who wants to see change this person needs it to stay they same to prove that everything they did was correct.
Same ol' same ol'...
posted by From the duck pond, May 25, 2012
PJ - I do not have a clue who this person is but it doesn't matter. With an 'The Admin/Board has done no wrong and if only you IGNORANT people would understand' attitude, I see them as tearing the community and school system apart more than trying to bridge the gap and as they say 'circle the wagons'. If anything, the Admin/Board (or should I say some of the Board and past Board) have circled the wagons and are shooting at the community. Just sayin'

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