Archive for Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Editorial: Salary shouldn’t be a secret

The school board won’t say before its vote how much it plans to pay the new COO — the latest in a string of failures to communicate.

May 17, 2017

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Leaders of the Lawrence school district are slow learners when it comes to communicating with the public.

The school board’s refusal to say how much it expects to pay soon-to-be ex-Superintendent Kyle Hayden in his new role as chief operations officer is the latest example of a communications failure.

The stonewalling by the board is at least the third time in five months that the district has sought to keep basic information from the public. The first involved a controversy over allegations that a South Middle School teacher made racist comments to his class. The board attempted to accept the teacher’s resignation without publicly naming him, then sought to hide the fact that it had signed a settlement agreement with the teacher.

Then, during the board’s process to appoint someone to fill a vacancy on the board, the board initially refused to release the names of applicants beforehand. That changed after the Journal-World objected to the process, but the board still wrongly withheld the applications for the position. You also may remember the board originally wasn’t going to interview the applicants in person, until the Journal-World reported that fact and a public outcry ensued.

The latest incident with Hayden and the COO position is particularly galling to anyone who supports good government.

Hayden, after less than a year on the job, no longer wants to be superintendent. So at its meeting tonight, the school board is poised to give him the new title and position of chief operating officer.

Such a move creates questions, not the least of which is “how much will Hayden earn in this new position?” When asked, school board president Marcel Harmon said there were no plans to release the contract — which includes the salary information — prior to the board’s vote at its 5:30 p.m. meeting today.

In other words, the salary information can become public after it is already decided.

Harmon’s rationale for not releasing the information is concerning. He said releasing such information before a vote could create a precedent that would result in “bogging things down.”

“If the community needed to have systemic input on every hire, including overviews of contracts/salaries, even just administrative hires, that would bog the system down,” Harmon said via email.

Unfortunately, such a comment speaks volumes about the school district’s commitment to transparency. Public comment doesn’t bog the process down. It is the point of the process.

State law requires that boards of education approve employee contracts in an open meeting for a reason. In the vast majority of cases, the public will have no desire to see the details of a contract. But in those instances that a member of a public does want to see such details, that information should be readily available.

School district leaders need to learn from their past mistakes. Provide the salary information, release the contract, and make a commitment to the principles of open government.

Comments

David Holroyd 1 week ago

Brandon Devlin,,I'm back...crazy like a fox! And for the Editorial...maybe the step down of the Superintendent has something to do with employment of someone close to him...maybe?

Just thinking....an employee in question would not be under supervision of the Superintendent anymore and certainly not under the position of the COO....

makes sense to this "crazy like a fox"...whatcha think Mr. Devlin....

so is Mr. Gerik going to delete this thought? After all, crazy folks enjoy 15 minutes of fame.

Thanks Mr. Gerik..

lets get this paper going and exciting....and why can't these editorials be signed and someone take ownership of their written thoughts from the Editorial staff. kinda not fair when others have to use their real name...well some do not..but this "crazy" is for real..

Brandon Devlin 5 days, 19 hours ago

Crazy is as crazy does.

You could be giving foxes a bad name. . .but inquiring minds want to know, what is your beef with the current Super and his family? You sure do like talking about them.

David Holroyd 1 week ago

Here is a question for some....if the Superintendent were to be relived of his position, how much would the district have to pay out? OR is it cheaper to keep someone on the ship and put them to work and use the payout money for a "salary"...just askin"!

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 1 week ago

Information such as this should be public information. When I was working my salary was published in the newspaper. This is especially important for any government agency. They are spending our money, we have a right to see what it is being spent on, and how much.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 6 days, 21 hours ago

This man is staying a public employee. His salary can NOT be secret. The school board needs to answer these questions and whether or not the job was advertised properly. Even if they decide to make him a private contractor, that is still public domain, and they would need to open it up for bids. He, the school board and all public employee do NOT work for anyone, but the tax payers. I thought school boards would understand that. Is this trickle down from arrogant politicians at the state and federal levels? It's time to remind them who they work for. As a part owner of the Lawrence school district, I demand to know anyone's salary. It's time to require anyone who runs for office to take a civics class.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 6 days, 21 hours ago

The next school board meeting is next Monday, May 22. It says it's from 7-8, but if they don't reveal this guy's salary before then, I guess they better extend that time. Whose with me?

Oops, just went back to read the original article. They are voting on this today at 5:30. I thought we had voted in some good people who wanted to represent us openly. I guess not. Don't bother running again.

Tracy Rogers 6 days, 19 hours ago

Lots of know it all on this site. You've got until June 1st to get signed up to run for school board. I expect to see many of these names on the ballot.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 6 days, 18 hours ago

I do know there is no reason they can give to not tell us what they are going to pay him. Why do you not care?

Tracy Rogers 6 days, 17 hours ago

If you care so much, go to the district office and ask.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 5 days, 17 hours ago

Until yesterday, they wouldn't tell anyone. Did you read this and the article with the interview?

Richard Heckler 6 days, 15 hours ago

What if the details are not yet agreed upon?

What if Hayden has not agreed to anything as yet?

I say it is okay to work out contract details in private. When details are known and a salary has been reached go public.

How about city hall pay packages? What did we know and when did we know it? What do we know?

Chad Lawhorn 5 days, 23 hours ago

Richard: Good question about how the city handles such matters. The City Commission is responsible for approving fewer employment contracts than the school board, but they do approve some. The City Manager is a good example of one approved by the City Commission. When Tom Markus was hired as the City Manager, the city commission announced him as its selection on a Thursday, said his hiring was contingent upon the approval of an employment contract, released that employment contract that included all details of his proposed salary and benefits, and then voted on that employment contract on the following Tuesday. It was a good, clean process, in my opinion. Thanks, Chad http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2016/jan...

Richard Heckler 5 days, 18 hours ago

Thanks Chad for responding. We should do this more often.

Richard Heckler 5 days, 18 hours ago

A City Manager is anything but new thus lots of guidelines to follow.

On the other hand this is a new position which should allow more time before presenting the final document to the public. Then again I'm not a big fan of outsourcing so keeping this duty in house might well be a plus for the school district.

Why Mr Hayden stepped down does not concern me but might if there were circumstances that encouraged him to leave USD 497 abruptly.

The fact that he chose to accept a sizable pay cut is none of my business.

Does Mr Hayden know what he is doing? Apparently he learned much from the previous bond projects. And Mr Harmon seems to have credentials regarding construction as well = there is harmony.

Do I trust that the board has learned from this experience? Absolutely.

As for public education. It's a best bang for the buck in Lawrence,Kansas.

Privatization profiteers have their eyes on those millions of tax dollars flowing into their bank accounts. Private industry is among the most experienced in committing fraud against taxpayers.

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