Raises split AASD board

The Altoona Area School Board voted 5-4 to give administrative employees of the district an automatic 3 percent salary increase for the 2014-15 school year beginning July 1.

The raises approved Monday also include a 2.5 percent raise for Superintendent Thomas Otto and 2 percent raise for Assistant Superintendent Mary Lou Ray. For Otto, the raise is $3,525. His salary will be $144,525. Ray’s increase is $2,602. Her salary will be $132,722 next year.

All other administrative employees, about 70 people from assistant superintendents and their secretaries to environmental services supervisors, will receive raises of 3 percent of their salary.

For most of the administrative employees, including principals earning six-figure salaries, they will earn home a couple of thousand dollars more next year.

The wide range of school administrative employees have no collective bargaining power. Each year, spokespeople from each administrative department meet with the board to discuss raises they would like. The board has complete control over administrative employees’ annual salary adjustments.

The district’s teachers recently ended an arduous negotiation process with the board. Teachers’ average salary is $55,503 next year. And unlike administrators who are receiving a 3 percent increase of their individual salary, teachers are receiving a 3 percent increase based on an average salary of all district teachers.

“The board has been talking a lot about cutting back to save money. For them to to turn around and quickly push through substantial raises to people already earning a lot of money sends a contradictory message, and it’s upsetting to teachers,” said a teacher who wished to be anonymous.

Director of Human Resources Margaret McMinn said administrative salaries appear greater than teacher salaries because salaries are based on days worked. Administrative salaries reflect a 260-day schedule and teacher salaries reflect a 180-day schedule. In addition, she said administrative employees do not receive stipends for extra work as teachers do.

President Maryann Joyce Bistline, Vice President Tim Lucas, John Klingeman, Ron Johnston and John Donley voted in favor of the raises.

“I think we have some valued employees at this district, and we need to make sure we appreciate their hard work,” Bistline said.

Judy Berryman, Sharon Bream, Dick Lockard and Cheryl Rupp voted against the increases.

Those members broached the need for an evaluation system for administrative employees so that raises are earned, not automatic.

Donley, though he voted for the raises, agreed.

“There’s no such thing as a cost of living increase anymore,” he said. “People go years without raises.”

Bream said she is concerned about how the raises might appear to the average taxpayer in the district.

“That is a great concern for me. I always said salary increases should be based on the community you live in. Three percent is too much.”

With the approval, the district is set to spend an additional $140,108 for administrative salaries in 2014-15.