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Raise, extension given to Chapman by board

January 17, 2018 GMT

Superintendent Gillian Chapman has her work cut out for her.

In the next four years she’ll need to shepherd Teton County School District No. 1 through increasingly overcrowded secondary schools, the opening of the dual immersion Munger Mountain Elementary and state funding cuts.

The school district’s board of trustees unanimously voted to extend Chapman’s contract from July 1 to June 30, 2022, at its Jan. 10 meeting. Having previously made $170,958 in base salary with a variety of benefits, Chapman’s new contract is for $183,000 and includes the ability to live in housing owned by the school district or a housing allowance of $36,000 annually if she chooses to live elsewhere.

New in the contract is a “longevity incentive benefit.” The clause’s language reads “to provide stability and continuity in the instructional and operational programs,” the district will pay no less than 10 percent of the superintendent’s annual salary into an account every year. At the end of the contract’s term the money from the longevity incentive account will be deposited into the superintendent’s account as an “employer-provided nonelective contribution.”

If the district sticks with 10 percent of $183,000 for 4 years, an additional $73,200 will be added to Chapman’s salary at the end of her tenure.

Chapman said she was “honored and humbled” to continue her role as superintendent.

“I wish my mom was here,” Chapman said. “She sent me a text that said, ‘I see the agenda and your contract is on it. I really wish you streamed meetings so I could follow this.’”

School board sings her praises

Trustee Janine Teske said Chapman has helped her communicate the importance of school funding to state legislators.

“Having Gillian by my side has been invaluable,” she said. “Gillian is one of the most respected superintendents from around the state.”

Longtime board member Keith Gingery said he appreciates how Chapman has “cleaned up” a lot of things in the district’s administration.

“We want her to stick around,” he said. “Why the four years? We set a pretty lofty goal, and it’s 2022, so we want our superintendent to be here until 2022 before she gets stolen away from us to some big school district.”

Gingery is referring to Success 2022, an initiative that seeks to make every third-grader a proficient reader and mathematician, every eighth-grader a proficient writer and every graduate “life ready” by 2022.

Chairwoman Kate Mead said that “having every child read by third grade has been my goal ever since I got elected, and I couldn’t really get anybody to listen.

“Now that we are all going in the same direction, I think it’s really critical that someone stay on,” she said. “Gillian is a great leader and has a great sense of humor. She’s very serious about what she does but manages to get along with staff really well and communicates really well with them now and really has been moving the ball forward quickly and expertly.”

Mead said that superintendent turnover is fairly common in the United States and is something that tangibly affects student learning.

“It’s no wonder in the United States that we aren’t doing as well as we could be when leadership changes so often,” she said. “Losing a superintendent can set you back so far.”

Trustee Betsy Carlin said the long contract makes sense.

“When a leader proposes a lofty goal like Success 2022, it’s very, very important that they be here the entire time to see that goal reached,” Carlin said.

Well-paid administrators

Chapman makes the sixth-highest salary of any superintendent in the state’s 48 school districts.

The salaries of all employees of Teton County schools include what’s called a “regional cost of living adjustment.” It bumps up all salaries, from teachers to administrators, in the Teton County district. The adjustment is 138 percent, enough if it were 38 percent more expensive to live here than in other areas of the state. However, it’s costlier.

Data from the Wyoming Department of Education for fiscal year 2016-17 shows that all but four school districts in the state pay their superintendents more than the funding model average salary. Some increases were low, like 0.7 or 1.2 percent, but all others were 5 percent or more, and the highest was 51.1 percent more in Sheridan County School District No. 1.

On a weighted average, districts pay their superintendents $24,859 more than the funding model. That’s a 21.7 percent difference.

“Since the model provides resources in the form of a block grant, districts decide how to deploy those resources based on local needs and priorities,” said Kari Eakins, communications director for the Wyoming Department of Education. “For example, some districts will hire fewer staff than the model provides but pay them more than the model allocates.”

There are 15 districts in the state with an assistant superintendent, including Teton County. All pay their assistant superintendent more than the funding model average salary. On a weighted average they make $21,786, or 19.9 percent, more than the funding model.

Business managers on a weighted average make $18,727, or 24 percent, more than the funding model. Principals across the state also tend to make more than the funding model, a weighted average of $9,337, or 10.8 percent, more. Assistant principals on a weighted average make $15,721, or 20.5 percent, more.

Looking at superintendent salaries alone, the state could save $1,999,718 or move it to other areas of school funding if all superintendent salaries were taken back to the funding model average salary.

Cutting administrator salaries was one recommendation in a recent report by consultants studied to hire recalibration for the Wyoming Legislature School Finance Recalibration Committee.