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GLENWOOD CITY — The superintendent’s salary and benefit increases in recent years has become the latest hot-button issue to flare up between some concerned district residents and the Glenwood City Board of Education and administration.
The issue came to the forefront recently when the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) showed Glenwood City superintendent Tim Johnson had received a significant increase in total compensation, which includes base salary and benefits, from the 2019-20 academic year to this past year of 2020-21.
That prompted some district residents to question such a large jump in pay and benefits which led Cindi Krafve to pen her concerns in a letter to the editor that was published in the August 4th issue of the Tribune Press Reporter. In said letter she stated that a $40,000 or over 20 percent increase in compensation for the superintendent in a single year “is NOT acceptable”.
School board president Dr. Lisa Kaiser was made aware of the superintendent’s salary figures listed on the DPI’s website via an email message that was sent to at least two fellow board members and high school/middle school principal Patrick Gretzlock and shared with her. Kaiser immediately requested that district account manager, Ron Johnson, provide her with all staff salaries and benefits so she could determine if the figures stated on the DPI’s website were correct or not.
As it turned out, Kaiser and the administration said the numbers on the state DPI website were incorrect.
That issue and the need to act on several personnel matters resulted in a special meeting of the Glenwood City Board of Education being called for this past Monday evening, August 9.
Nearly a dozen district residents packed into the board room for the meeting, many there about the superintendent’s compensation.
An overview and discussion on that very matter was one of the board’s first items of business when it convened at 6:30 p.m.
Dr. Kaiser began by informing the audience and board members alike that she had asked district account manager Ron Johnson to attend the meeting and give a synopsis of what the salary has been for the superintendent over the last five years, including his fringe benefits.
“The information that is out there (on the DPI website) is not correct,” stated Dr. Kaiser.
“And we are making sure that it is noted and corrected accordingly so that we can kind of move on to things that are more important,” she added before turning the discussion over to Ron Johnson.
The account manager then proceeded to go through a five-year snapshot of Superintendent Tim Johnson’s salary and benefits from 2017-18 to his projected compensation for 2021-22. Ron Johnson stated that the superintendent received a base salary of $135,780 in 2017-18, which was a 2.9 percent increase over the previous year, with a benefits package of $40,080 for a total compensation of $175,860. Along the way, Tim Johnson has received increases in salary of 2.1 percent (2018-19), 4 percent (2019-20), 2 percent (2020-21), and is projected to receive a 2.5 percent increase in salary for the 2021-22 year. That would put the superintendent’s pay at $150,796 with an additional $56,357 in benefits for the coming year.
Ron Johnson also noted that the percentage in salary increases given to the superintendent were in line with what the teaching staff and other administrators received in those same periods.
The Department of Public Instruction website erroneously showed Tim Johnson’s salary went from $138,686 with $50,694 in benefits in 2019-20 to $173,118 with an additional $55,817 in benefits in the 2020-21 school year. In the numbers that Ron Johnson presented, the $138,686 salary was for the 2018-19 year and the superintendent was actually paid $146,998 this past school year plus an additional $53,963 in benefits for a total of $200,961 which is nearly $29,000 less than what the DPI website lists.
“Again, these figures all match the contracts that were signed and the skyward payroll system,” Ron Johnson said.
It was noted that the DPI pulls the figures directly from the Skyward software so the school board and administration was unaware of the discrepancy on the state’s website.
Ron Johnson was not certain if the DPI had made the correction to the data on its system and website as of the meeting.
Dr. Kaiser also stated that Principal Gretzlock told her that his salary figures on the website also appeared to be incorrect based on his signed contract.
Before opening up the meeting for community comments, Dr. Kaiser reiterated the district’s policy in regards to public participation and commentary at board meetings emphasizing that those wishing to speak must sign in, limit their comments to three minutes and not make statements that are specific to individual staff or employment decision which need to be voiced through the district’s complaint or grievance procedures.
Krafve, who was accompanied to the meeting by her husband Al Krafve, asked to speak and after being recognized, began by saying, “I am here because I have a concern for what’s happening to our community. There’s a lot going on and I think we need to get some things straight now, I think we need some truth.”
Reading from portions of a statement she had prepared for the meeting, Krafve noted that she was addressing positions and not so much people as positions “because this community is falling apart”.
“There needs to be some really good communication and some honesty, it’s got to get resolved Madam President,” said Krafve to Kaiser.
“I’ve heard long enough that the numbers on the website are incorrect. So if our school district knows those numbers are incorrect someone should be making them correct. After all, this is a state of Wisconsin website.”
She continued saying, “No matter what the accountant report says, as a member of this community and a taxpayer, I now have very little trust in our (school) administration in Glenwood City.”
Krafve went on to explain that because of her feeling she has contacted State Senator Rob Stafsholt and house representatives to express her concerns. She added that those legislators have been in touch with her and have said that they are going to follow through and see what they can find out with the DPI and get some accurate and true information here for people.
Krafve also mentioned that she had asked Senator Stafsholt about an audit and was pleased to hear during Ron Johnson’s report that the school district undergoes a yearly audit and wondered if it could be given out to the public so they could actually see the figures.
Superintendent Tim Johnson did interject saying that this year’s audit was not complete but that the district does have audits from previous years that are available for the public’s inspection. He said this year’s audit should be completed by the end of this current month and that the district does an audit each and every year as required by law.
“So, we should be able to look at any audit report and get it in black and white?” Kravfe queried which the superintendent affirmed.
“That’s good to know,” she added.
Krafve said that prior to her letter to the editor, her and others had worked to prepare a worksheet comparing the salary and benefits of superintendents in surrounding school districts and, according to what is on the DPI website, Glenwood City’s figures are outrageous and that has people in the community upset saying the DPI numbers should be accurate.
“I feel the numbers should be accurate, why they’re not accurate, I guess I think the community has a right to know,” said Krafve.
Dr. Kaiser did reiterate that once she was made aware of the discrepancies on the DPI website she was in immediate contact with the district’s account manager to get the accurate salary and benefit numbers, calling the figures on the state website “grossly exaggerated”.
Krafve continued to speak saying that she wanted to express the great concern that there is in the community and if the board is aware of just how upset people are and have been voicing their concerns for a several months.
“That’s why I say I’m tired of hearing this,” Krafve stated. “If DPI does not have the right numbers then the DPI should have the correct numbers, and that’s where I think this needs to be started.”
“It’s already in progress as we stated,” replied Superintendent Johnson. “The DPI has been contacted with the corrections.”
“Cindi, if you’d given me a call, I’d of told you that it would have been looked into,” added the superintendent. “I don’t know that the process needs to be a letter to the editor for you to get information. Give me a call and I’ll tell you what it is!”
Krafve countered saying that is why she called the state senator’s office and was told they would follow through and check it out and give me the correct information because “people aren’t believing you people.”
“Well, that’s because there’s letters to the editor that gives them false information,” replied Tim Johnson.
“I don’t believe mine was false information,” Krafve stated. “I took my information off the DPI (site).”
Superintendent Johnson told Krafve that he was not suggesting that she created a lie but that it was not accurate information and now that they are aware of it, they have corrected it.
“We’re trying to let you know what it is,” said Superintendent Johnson in reference to his salary and benefits. “We are not trying to hide the numbers. My salary gets approved every year by the board.”
The superintendent added that back in May he had presented the board with an average salary for the athletic conference (Dunn-St. Croix) for every position that the district has from top to bottom.
“This isn’t just a random shot in the dark that we’re not using consistent data,” he said to Krafve.
The superintendent added that the district was unaware that the DPI had inaccurate information on its website saying, “I’m not going to check to see if what we’ve given them is accurate but, maybe I need to. But, that is what they are reporting and it’s not what is actual.”
Krafve concluded by saying, “I think this dialogue in itself is very necessary for our community to hear, because there’s a lot of people that are not trusting you. And we have to trust our school board, and you have to trust us, so it takes dialogue.”
Prior to the community discussion of the superintendent’s compensation, Nicole Brite, stood before the board and delivered an impassioned thank you and farewell.
Brite resigned her position as the Glenwood City School District’s Director of Pupil Services and Special Education on July 19 to accept a position as PK-12th grade principal in the Clayton School District. The board officially accepted Brite’s resignation at Monday night’s meeting.
“I just wanted to come in before my resignation is official and just say a huge thank you to all of you,” began Brite.
“27 years as a Hilltopper, I never thought I wouldn’t be one so thank you to the board. Tim, everybody,” Brite continued. “But, the biggest thank you is to the students because they were why I was here.”
“I hope the negative stops,” added Brite through tears. “Not only for my own children who will continue to be students here, but for all of you, so you can give 100 percent of you, to them every day, and not the negativity, and not the disrespect that none of you deserve.”
“So thank you for 27 great years as a student, a staff member, and an administrator,” concluded Brite. “I thank you all so much.”
The board also had the opportunity to meet and hear from Brite’s replacement. Dr. Robert Vanderloop, who was being recommended for the position of Director of Pupil Services and Special Education.
Vanderloop, who recently completed his PhD from the University of Southern California, is currently serving as the 4K through 8th grade principal as well as the director of special education in the Independence School District. He graduated from UW-Eau Claire with comprehensive English and theatre degrees and taught high school Theatre and English in Kenosha, WI at Bradford High School. While in Kenosha he earned his administrative degree through UW-Milwaukee in principalship and curriculum, and curriculum instruction and then added on the pupil services and special education licenses.
Vanderloop, was approved for the positions following the executive session.
Hirings also approved: Sharon Bergsholm as the school nurse and Nicole Langman as the district’s assessment coordinator. Langman was the Title One teacher.
Under the consent agenda, the board also approved the resignations of Elizabeth Schwartz as school nurse, Jessica O’Neel as social studies teacher and assistant softball coach, and Nicole Miller as the head volleyball coach and assistant track coach. The board also gave its approval for Angela Williams to become the high school yearbook advisor and middle school track coach, Nichole Webert as new head volleyball coach, Beth Davis as junior varsity volleyball coach, Samantha Schreiber as the C-team volleyball coach, Dean Fayerweather to coach middle school football, Nichelle Baier as Prom advisor and Lythagaye Lyons as a substitute teacher.
The board will hold the annual meeting and budget hearing next Monday, August 16 at 5:30 p.m.