North Platte resident Greg Renner criticized the proposed raises for school administrators Tuesday night in comments to the North Platte school board.
Renner said the district pays administrators too much and teachers too little. And, he added that the district is not doing well overall, academically.
Renner said the district ranks near the bottom 25th percentile of the 240 districts in Nebraska, based on state comparisons of academic achievement. That doesn't call for a raise, he said.
He also noted that 41 percent of North Platte residents are considered to be at or below poverty level, whch means the superintendent makes more in one month than many North Platte residents make in a year, he said.
Renner said comparing North Platte salaries to top salaries in other districts sets up a self-perpetuating cycle, as districts follow each other, and salaries spiral ever higher. He said tt is foreseeable that superintendents will make a $500,000 a year in salaries and related costs within 10 years, if they continue to go up.
He said he didn’t have anything at all against Superintendent Marty Bassett, but academics haven’t improved or are stagnant, and that doesn’t merit a raise.
“I can tell you the name of every teacher who taught me something, but I can’t tell you any administrator’s name,” Renner said. “The administrators did not educate me, teachers did. Teachers are not paid enough and administrators are overpaid.”
School board president Kathy Phares thanked Renner for his comments.
Board member Julie Nielsen encouraged everyone to read the book Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization, which will be the topic of a talk March 18 at the Lied Center in Lincoln.
In other business, the board:
• Heard a report on the district’s early childhood education program from a team of nine teachers. The program reaches out to anyone from birth to five years old who is recommended, and whose parents agree to accept special iinstruction in motor skills, language skills, social and emotional skills, cognitive skills and self-help skills.
The trained instructors meet children in comfortable settings, including their home, their extended family home, the park, and so forth. Nebraska was the first state to mandate that schools reach out to children from birth to age 21.
• Considered the need for another fifth grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary. There will be 51 students in fifth grade at Jefferson next year. Another teacher will make the student teacher ratio about 17 to 1, Bassett said. The addtional teacher will make Jefferson a completely three-track school, meaning there will be three classes in each grade there.
Bassett also told the board he needs another pre-school teacher at Washington Elementary. The teacher’s lounge at the school will be converted to a computer classroom to make room for the pre-school. Nearly two-dozen pre-schoolers are signed up for the program, with more expected, Bassett said.
Next year, he wants to start a preschool at Cody as well, giving the district five preschools.
• Considered a new policy adding e-cigarettes to the list of tobacco products that are prohibited on school property, including parking lots.
Products that look like chewing tobacco would also be prohibited.
The draft proposal states, “Tobacco product look-alikes, and products intended to replicate tobacco products either by appearance or effect” are prohibited. The board took no action yet on the proposal and will vote next meeting.
• Accepted the resignation of Sandy Pospisil, effective May 16.