Thoughts on the Superintendent’s raise

Well,  the other night the Lunenburg School Committee voted to give Calmes a “MASSIVE” raise.  The reported this yesterday.  At the same time it was reported that we are currently under a budget crunch and shortfall yet again.  The amount of outrage I have heard from the community is palpable and frankly, taken at face value, I would be annoyed too!  But then again, I am more of a long term strategic thinker and am looking beyond the next 2 years and actually beyond the next 5 years….and you should too!

For the supporters this will be met with applause.  For the superintendent haters the will be accused of fiscal negligence.  For those who could care less, this will barely be a blip on the radar.

I am in a different camp. I am a school committee member.  I neither like nor dislike our superintendent.  I am in the camp that needs to think strategically about the well being of the district beyond the next 2 years and the perceived massive raise that will be robbing children of educational opportunities.

As a leader of a large marketing organization for a publicly traded company, I am constantly under budget pressures and pressure from my employees for more money.  Some of my long term employees are paid well under market value.  If any of them were to resign, I would be forced to go to the well for up to a 50% increase in salary. That would go over like a “fart in church” with our CFO.

As I sat there debating what to do about superintendent Calmes, it occurred to me she may have enough of the local politics and throw in the towel.  Then what?  What would that mean for the school committee?  Would we be in a position where we need to approach the town manager saying:  By the way, it is going to cost us 50%  more to replace her?  So, I did a little fact finding.

(Source State Department of education)

The top superintendent salary in the state:  Boston @$283,500, followed by Newton @ $229K, Wellesley @ $218K and Lawrence @ $209K.

But these districts are so much larger than ours.  I looked for comparable size based on # of students.  Here is what I found:  Whittier Regional Tech with 1,145 @ $173K; Hull with 1,240 @ $135K, Norfolk (k-6 only) with 1,109 @$146K. Harvard with 1,300 @$144K.

The net of my findings: some make more and some make less.  In my experience, if an employee leaves I am always looking for an upgrade.  If Superintendent Calmes leaves I am going to look for an upgrade.  Guess what folks…..This is going to cost us!  We are going to need to pay more than we currently do.

So here is why I chose to vote to give Superintdendent Calmes the 2.5% this year and next:

  1. We are trying to get a new school.  I do not want any change in the leadership, if possible, as we go through the planning for a new school
  2. I want to get the salary for the role (NOT THE PERSON) at a level where we can attract the best candidate should we lose Superintendent Calmes and by the way, we eventually will.  So let’s get ready for that day to come now versus begging the town manager and selectmen for money.

Last night the Lunenburg School Committee held a workshop to discuss how to better engage the .  This comes after a discussion about some of the challenges the District has had in consistently communicating with the community.  There is a recognition by the entire committee that the District has done some things well but also, that there is major areas for improvement.

In our discussion last night we identified several areas for improvement:

  • Preference based communications:  If the school were a private company, I would  describe our communication approach as “spray and pray’. The schools send emails, voice mails, paper forms, paper news letters, have a website,  and use verbal communication to try to reach their key target audience.  The District does not currently provide parents a mechanism to select their preferred communication channel.  In today’s era of the empowered consumer, who has access to unprecedented amounts of data to make informed decisions, must embrace a communication approach which addresses an audience of one.
  • :   We are behind the times when it comes to embracing social media.    Districts around us and across are using , , ,  and other social channels to engage communities.   Like the in ’04…why not us?  Well, we will be dipping our toes in the water over the next couple of months…stay tuned.
  • Website:  There was discussion around improving the overall customer experience with the District and school specific websites.  Several community members expressed frustration with the inconsistency across the websites stating that it can be difficult to quickly find information they need.  There are a couple of approaches we can likely recommend here:  design guidelines and policies for lay out, content management processes to ensure information is up to date.
  • Single view of the student:  Currently there are several locations parents can go to see student information and monitor progress:  Power School, school note, sneaker net (aka information sent home in backpacks).  There is a desire have a ““.  This would be one location where parents can view ALL information pertinent to their children’s world at school.  The good news is that Lunenburg owns the software to make this happen!  We need to explore how to increase adoption of the Power School solution to take advantage of all the capabilities the solution offers.

Their are some long hanging fruit here and some longer term items which will need to be addressed over time.  The most important thing Lunenburg residents need to understand: the schools want to engage the entire community.  The and Lunenburg Public Schools need residents’ help and support to make this a reality.