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School PR post may be decided

March 05, 2001

School PR post may be decided



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A recommendation for an applicant to fill the Washington County Board of Education's public relations position is expected to be made this afternoon in executive session, and the School Board could vote on it at the evening business meeting, according to Phil Ray, the board's director of human resources.

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The pay for the public information officer position has prompted some to say the upgraded position is unnecessary and the pay too high. Board President J. Herbert Hardin has said he received 15 to 20 letters and phone calls from people who were concerned about the position.

The public information officer position was upgraded from the vacant community relations specialist position, which paid about $36,000 a year.

The upgraded position originally was to pay $56,046 to $73,128 a year. Last month, the School Board downgraded the salary range to $49,825 to $65,011. The candidate would be hired at the $49,825 level.

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Administrators said the position needed to be upgraded because it would involve more duties than the community relations specialist performed.

The topic is not listed on the board's agenda for the business meeting tonight, but Ray said that's not anything out of the ordinary for staff approvals. He said it's normal procedure for the superintendent to make recommendations and then ask for approval under an agenda item titled "Personnel Action."

Individual names and positions aren't read publicly, but rather, the board approves the list of staff changes as a whole. Personnel action is taken before public comment.

School Board member Paul Bailey said he didn't think it was necessary to make the position a separate agenda item.

"Most personnel positions are not discussed in public," Bailey said Monday night. "I don't think we ought to break from procedure for that."

Bailey said he hadn't received feedback from the public on the issue.

School Board member Mary Wilfong wasn't sure Monday night if Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett would make a recommendation, but said it's an important position.

"We need somebody," she said.

Bartlett could not be reached for comment.

County Commissioner Paul Swartz, who opposed the original salary posting, said he also opposes the downgraded one because the salary starts out higher than what most teachers with master's degrees earn.

The commissioners must fund the School Board's proposed $127.4 million budget. They've said they're expecting one of the toughest budget seasons in years.

"I'm still opposed. The salary is basically more than a teacher with a master's would be paid," Swartz said. "I'm sure many, many teachers - 100 percent - would be opposed to it."

"I'm surprised that the new board members are allowing it to go through," Swartz said.

Board Vice President Bernadette Wagner, who took office in December, said she opposed the original salary posting but supports the downgraded one.

"I think that we sent a clear message that the other salary was out of line," Wagner said. "The downgraded salary is within an acceptable limit to me."

She said a public information officer would help promote happenings throughout the school system.

Sharon Chirgott, president of the Washington County Teachers Association, said a teacher with a master's degree wouldn't earn a salary on a par with the starting salary of the public information officer until step 21, which pays $49,395. There are 25 steps on the master's scale.

Step one pays $31,035 a year, while the top level pays $52,614.

She said she hasn't heard complaints from teachers.

"They're mostly just chuckling up their sleeves over all the confusion," Chirgott said.

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