SMSD board president cites district efficiency in statement responding to 2015 administrator raises

Shawnee Mission School Board Chair Sara Goodburn.
Shawnee Mission School Board Chair Sara Goodburn.

Shawnee Mission School Board President Sara Goodburn on Thursday issued a statement three days after news broke of the salary increases for top administrators approved by the board last summer and a day after the district and teachers came to an impasse of contract negotiations for the coming school year.

Superintendent Jim Hinson received a pay raise of $22,000 to $254,280, an increase of approximately 9.5 percent. His top deputy, Kenny Southwick, received a raise of $30,000 to $195,000, an increase of more than 15 percent.

In the statement, Goodburn notes that under Hinson’s leadership the district had been able to cut around $1.8 million in overall administrative costs, and that he had worked to “identify strategic initiatives with the input of stakeholders, to reorganize the administrative footprint to reduce overall administrative costs, and to allocate resources in a way that best supports the goal of providing the best education to the students of the Shawnee Mission School District.”

Goodburn pointed out that Shawnee Mission is ranked by the Kansas Department of Education as the second most efficient district in the state in terms of administrator-to-pupil ratio, and that the district has “demonstrated an ongoing commitment to supporting salaries and benefits for all staff members even during challenging fiscal times.”

“Through the strategic planning process, our community has clearly indicated its support for quality education,” Goodburn wrote. “To achieve this strategic goal of providing the best education for all students, it is essential to be able to employ talented, highly-qualified staff members in all positions and for the district to remain competitive in this effort.”

Shawnee Mission teachers received a 3.25 percent boost to the district salary schedule back in 2014, but were told by district negotiators that they had no latitude to grant the 1.5 percent across-the-board pay increase the teachers requested last year. Teachers in 2015 did get a new $50 per month stipend to cover health insurance costs. The district and union came to final terms on the 2015-2016 teachers contract in early August 2015, more than a month after the board approved the administrators’ raises.

The pay increases Goodburn references in her statement were passed as part of the board’s consent agenda in June 2015 and were never acknowledged in public or discussed publicly by members of the board. They were made available to the Shawnee Mission Post after a Kansas Open Records Request.

Goodburn’s statement is copied in full below:

There have been recent media reports highlighting salary issues and negotiations in the Shawnee Mission School District. As board of education president, I want to offer accurate information on these issues to our Shawnee Mission community.

Salary increases for the superintendent and other top administrators referenced in reports reflect contracts that were approved more than a year ago at a June 22, 2015, board meeting with an effective date of July 1, 2015. In December 2015, the board approved the extension of contracts for Dr. Jim Hinson and Dr. Kenny Southwick. That December 2015 action extended the time of the contract for an additional year (through 2018-2019), and salary and compensation terms remained unchanged. No increases in salary have been awarded to any administrators for the 2016-2017 school year.

We typically do not consider salary increases for administrators or other employee groups until the negotiations process with our teachers has reached a tentative contractual agreement. The negotiating teams met and while discussion has been productive and yielded some tentative agreements on specific issues, overall agreement on a contract was not reached. The NEA-SM team and team representing the board agreed they were at impasse in negotiations and will proceed through this process. The district has a longstanding positive relationship with our teachers, and we remain optimistic that a contract will be reached through this process.

Since Dr. Hinson’s arrival in the district, he has been working, with the full support of the board, to identify strategic initiatives with the input of stakeholders, to reorganize the administrative footprint to reduce overall administrative costs, and to allocate resources in a way that best supports the goal of providing the best education to the students of the Shawnee Mission School District.

In 2015, an administrative reorganization was implemented, job descriptions were rewritten, and duties formerly assigned to several administrators were consolidated and reassigned under a smaller administrative footprint. With an increase in scope of administrative responsibilities and oversight, compensation increases are appropriate. Through this reorganization, overall administrative costs for the 2015-2016 school year were reduced by approximately $1.8 million. These cost savings were intentionally reallocated to support students in the classroom through efforts to hire additional staff to support lower class sizes and eliminate all-day kindergarten fees and elementary fees for families.

The board of education delegates operational responsibility of the school district to the superintendent. The board evaluates and assesses the performance of the superintendent. The board conducts two evaluations of the superintendent each year during which they review the progress and/or completion of goals outlined as part of the district’s 10-year strategic plan and evaluate leadership skills. Board members conducted a comparative review of salaries of other superintendents in the area’s leading districts of similar size in order to ensure the district remains competitive in its ability to attract and retain high-quality, experienced leaders.

According to data from the Kansas State Department of Education, the Shawnee Mission School District ranks second most efficient in the state in terms of administrator-to-pupil ratio. The superintendent and board have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to supporting salaries and benefits for all staff members even during challenging fiscal times.

Through the strategic planning process, our community has clearly indicated its support for quality education. To achieve this strategic goal of providing the best education for all students, it is essential to be able to employ talented, highly-qualified staff members in all positions and for the district to remain competitive in this effort.