Limestone County school board members believe they did the right thing Monday.
They remedied an administrative procedure that gave some recently hired assistant principals credit for years of teaching experience while failing to do so for other longtime administrators.
Board members unanimously approved the fix.
Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Craft said the remedy will cost the schools $47,000 the first year and the same amount or less in following years in order to repay administrators who did not receive equal treatment. The fix will require freezing the pay of some administrators but it will be done without cutting anyone’s pay, he said. Despite the cost to the system, board member Earl Glaze told The News Courier after the meeting this remedy would be cheaper than the probable ensuing lawsuit had the board not corrected the problem.
Craft proposed the remedy in a memo to new Superintendent Thomas Sisk, which was distributed to the board.
“After the review of personnel files of the administrators of the district and due to the possibility of litigation concerning the placement of administrators on the salary schedule at their original hire day, we are recommending the following position to correct the inequities,” Craft wrote.
• All administrator salary schedule placement will be adjusted so each person placement is equitable when compared to others of the same employee class. No employee shall be subject to a cut in pay. This will cost the district approximately $47,000 in the first year. This cost will be level or decrease over the years it requires for each employee’s experience to equal the salary schedule placements.
• All employees whose placement on the salary schedule exceeds their actual administrative experience will remain at the 2012-13 placements until their actual administrative experience is equal to the current step on the appropriate salary scheduled. (In other words, their pay will be frozen at its current level until their administrative experience actually equals the administrative pay they are already receiving).
• In the future, all administrators will be placed on the salary schedule based only on their prior administrative experience. No consideration will be given for non-administrative experience.
The issue of pay inequity arose in March when two assistant principals told school board members during a work session they were being paid unfairly compared to at least five new assistant principals hired since 2010.
East Limestone High School Assistant Principal Elaine Lauderdale told board members she accidentally learned of the pay disparity in February while speaking with another assistant principal.
That principal, whom she declined to name, told her the assistant principals hired since 2010 had received a half-year credit toward assistant principal pay for every year of teaching experience they had accumulated. Most of them had no actual assistant principal experience.
Lauderdale doubted the veracity of the claim because although she had been promoted to assistant principal within the school system, she began with zero years of experience on the principal pay scale despite having 15 years of teaching experience at the time.
She and Clements High School Assistant Principal Keith Hairrell asked board members to remedy the inequity because their pay will affect how much retirement pay they receive. The retirement system calculates her pay based on her last three years of salary.
Superintendent Dr. Barry Carroll, who retired in 2011, said in March the determination of pay and credit for experience would have been handled by the school system’s human resources department, which at the time would have been headed by Assistant Superintendent Mike Owens, who has since retired. However, some board members said after Monday’s meeting they never received a clear explanation of how the pay procedure came about.
According to News Courier records, the school board on May 3, 2010, agreed to transfer five existing school employees to assistant principal jobs, one of whom was already an assistant principal.
The school system budgeted $320,000 a year for the five new assistant principals that had received credit for their teaching experience. The salary range for assistant principals was $55,414 to $66,120.
At the time, board members received information about each principal candidate’s proposed placement on the salary range but did not know the proposed pay formula for these administrators was different from that used for other administrators.