Lawrence school board members on Wednesday decided to delay the vote on Superintendent Kyle Hayden’s proposed transfer to another position within the district, but did share a few details about Hayden’s new salary and job duties.
In his new role, Hayden would earn a proposed annual salary of $150,000. As superintendent, he makes $205,000.
Hayden, who announced his decision to step down from his superintendent role last week, plans to serve as the district’s chief operations officer starting this summer, pending board approval. The board’s vote to approve Hayden’s new salary and contract as COO, which was originally set for Wednesday, will now take place during the board’s next scheduled meeting, on Monday.
“I believe the timing and transparency around the creation of the new COO position could have been better,” longtime board member Vanessa Sanburn said in her remarks to the board and the community members gathered at the district offices Wednesday night.
“Overall, I agree that this plan seems well thought-out and beneficial for our district,” she continued. “However, I would like some more time to review the plans and understand how this position fits into those plans before voting on it. I’d also like to give the community the opportunity to provide feedback.”
The school board has drawn criticism since Hayden’s announcement last Friday for failing to release Hayden’s proposed salary as COO, a move school board president Marcel Harmon defended once again Wednesday night. Harmon said that up until Wednesday’s meeting, salary discussion had been limited to executive session, which is a closed meeting. Revealing information discussed during executive session, he said, would violate Kansas open-meetings laws.
But on Wednesday, school board members said they were sharing Hayden’s proposed salary because he, as an employee, had given them permission to do so.
A chart shared by Kathy Johnson, the district’s director of finance, provided some new details about the budgetary impact of the new COO position, which school board vice president Shannon Kimball also defended Wednesday night as basically “reinstating” a position created during implementation of the district’s last bond issue.
In 2013, after the passage of the district’s $92.5 million bond issue for elementary school improvements, the district hired a bond construction manager to oversee those projects. Hayden, who was then the assistant superintendent of business and operations, assisted that bond manager, Dean Younger, for about two years before taking on oversight responsibilities of the remaining bond projects, only a handful of which are still under construction.
As COO, Hayden would take on the role of construction manager, with a few additional responsibilities, the school board said Wednesday. One of those responsibilities would be supervising the district’s department of facilities and operations.
That department is currently headed by Tony Barron, the district’s executive director of facilities and operations. Barron said Wednesday that overseeing the district’s upcoming $87 million bond issue, which passed earlier this month with more than 74 percent of the vote, would be difficult without the new COO position.
After Hayden moved into his superintendent role last summer, Barron took on extra duties in overseeing the remaining 2013 bond projects, he said. And along the way, communication with building staff suffered, he said.
Barron said restoring a position similar to Hayden’s former role in the district would help to re-establish relationships with schools.
“We learned a lot from our bond manager at that time,” Barron said of the 2013 bond projects. “Another thing, too, is just having another person to communicate with the architects and the engineers, and having those daily and weekly meetings is very important.”
When school board member Jill Fincher asked Barron if he would be unable to execute the upcoming bond projects without the additional position, Barron said things would ultimately get done — but at the expense of something else.
The district has frequently said that the addition of the COO position would be “cost-neutral,” having little to no impact on the district’s budget. Without factoring in the new superintendent’s salary, which will tentatively be decided by February of next year, the district now stands with a reduction of $43,000 in potential staff changes for the upcoming school year.
By reorganizing several vacant district-level administrative positions, Kimball said, the addition of the COO position is projected to be fairly cost-neutral. The chart presented Wednesday night did factor in the salary of the yet-to-be-hired interim superintendent, allocating about $228,400 toward his or her potential salary.
That figure is Hayden’s current salary of $205,000, plus employer costs such as matches to FICA and Medicare, along with unemployment and worker's compensation insurance. His new role would see Hayden taking a pay cut of $55,000.
Hayden, it should be noted, did not attend Wednesday night’s meeting. He has not taken questions from reporters since the district announced his transfer Friday.
The salary and budgetary information shared Wednesday, Johnson noted, is a “snapshot in time” of how the district’s budget looks now, while there are still several moving parts in play. Salaries are not set for the 2017-2018 school year due to unknown state funding, Johnson said, and an official approval of the district’s organizational chart likely won’t occur until July, as is typical with the district.
Not all vacancies within the district are filled for the upcoming school year, Johnson added, and contracts for school principals are still yet to be finalized.
David Cunningham, the district’s executive director of human resources and legal services, also said that the school board would be able to allow Hayden to take on a new position despite the two-year contract he signed last spring as superintendent. Hayden has only served one year of that two-year contract, but if both parties involved agree to release Hayden from that contract, Cunningham said, Hayden should have no difficulty in taking on his proposed new role.
Along with Vanessa Sanburn, a handful of school board members Wednesday night said they recognized the public’s concerns about the timing of Hayden’s announcement and the community’s desire for transparency in the potential transfer.
Harmon, the board’s president, said that while administration reorganizations are commonplace in school districts, the present situation in Lawrence is somewhat unique, he acknowledged.
So, he said, the decision to slow down, to offer the public time to reflect on the information before the school board votes to approve Hayden’s contract, made sense to him in retrospect, he said.
“Sometimes I forget this is something I see and do every day, and so it seems really natural to me,” said Harmon, who is an engineer in the construction industry.
“And so, I apologize,” he added. “I apologize to the community.”