Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan's response to district employees

December 14, 2009

To KCSD employees:

For the past several weeks, the Kershaw County School District has been working to provide answers to two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inquiries from WIS reporter Jody Barr in regard to our employees' salaries.  As you may know, the SC FOIA law directs public entities to release their employees' salaries over $50,000 upon request.  In fact, we have provided this data as requested on several occasions, and at least two Midlands media outlets—WLTX and The State newspaper—have had this information listed on their Web sites for over a year.

I do have concerns about the typical amount of air time allotted for a TV news segment being adequate enough to effectively represent our entire message.  Therefore, I feel obligated to provide the text of our responses in their entirety on my blog ( <> ) along with additional background information that I shared with Mr. Barr today in an on-camera interview plus other information in case his story tonight does not include the following points:

·         Mr. Barr requested salary information for employees earning over $50,000 on October 26 of 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.  We were easily able to provide him with that information for the current year; however, salary information from previous years is archived to history in our financial records making it impossible to pull that data for a specific date in the middle of a past year without going in and out of every employee file to verify employment on that date.  We informed Mr. Barr that we could provide the information he requested for a fee as allowed under FOIA law.  With a time estimate of 40 hours to complete this task plus copying costs, we estimated the overall cost to be $2,000.

·         In June of 2008, the school board voted to implement 100 percent of the recommended raises for teachers as outlined in a salary study performed by an outside professional agency.  This was a specific move by the school board to make increasing teacher salaries to the market value a priority, an effort that had been initiated and studied the previous year as we had continued to see many of our employees leaving our district for employment in other Midlands districts.  At the same time, the school board voted to implement only one-third of the recommended increase in salary schedules for all other employees—administrators as well as secretaries, instructional assistants, bus drivers, food service workers, custodians and maintenance workers.  All employees received a 3.85 percent increase in 2008.  On average, teachers received an additional three percent.  Administrators and support staff averaged an additional eight percent—not 30 percent.   Over the past three years, the average total of raises given to teachers has been more than four times the average total given to school and district administrators. ·         Prior to the implementation of this salary study, inequity existed in the rate of pay for our administrators so that there were extreme fluctuations among employees.  In fact, many administrators were getting no credit for their years of experience—often as many as 28 years—in the classroom and other positions.  Along with implementing one-third of the recommended schedules for non-teachers, all of these employees (administrators and support staff listed above) were reviewed for appropriate placement on the schedule in terms of years of experience. ·         There are certain individuals who received promotions—for example, from teacher to assistant principal or from assistant principal to principal—from 2008 to 2009 and, therefore, their salaries would have increased as they were placed on different salary schedules. ·         The salary study not only showed that our salaries were inconsistent among employees in various groups but also showed that they were below market value, particularly at the assistant principal level where some of our assistant principals were earning less per day than they did when they were teaching.  As the school board worked to correct these situations, it was inevitable that individuals would receive increases.  The real story is not how much of an increase it took to start to be competitive with our compensation; but rather how our salary schedules compare now to other area districts.  With that regard, we are more competitive now with teachers, but still well below others in terms of administrators' salaries as shown in attachment two of today's response to Mr. Barr.

·         If anyone had known the information about the economy's future in June of 2008 that we have now, we obviously would not have made the recommendations for salary increases at that time.  In fact, these salary increases were quickly reduced to only aspirations as we had to begin implementing salary reductions.  In January, teachers took a 1.75 percent salary reduction and other employees' salaries were reduced 2.4 percent. At the beginning of this school year, our teachers received a step increase in salary—approximately two percent—as mandated by the state but since have taken a 2.6 percent salary reduction. Salaries of other employees—administrators and support staff—have been reduced approximately five percent since the start of the school year.  Further budget reductions have meant that our working retiree employees—mainly administrators and support staff—have actually taken as much as a 25-percent decrease in the past year.

·         Part of our competitive compensation package is our local supplement for National Board Certified teachers.  Although we had to reduce our local supplement to $3,750 earlier this year, according to the CERRA Web site, our school district has the 6th highest local supplement in the state.  We are proud that 17 percent of our teaching staff is National Board Certified.

·         Finally, we expect our students to compete with not only students from other Midlands districts, but also with others from across our state, country and world.  How can we expect them to be the best if we don't attract and retain the best workforce to prepare them?  I make no apologies for our district's efforts to increase employee compensation to be competitive in the marketplace. The past several months have been extremely disconcerting for all employees in light of the budget situation, but I have received positive feedback on the amount of open communication that we have provided.  I continue to take this responsibility to provide accurate information very seriously and hope to see the same result with Mr. Barr's reporting.

As always, feel free to let me know if you have any questions or concerns.