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Eagle County superintendent accepts bonus, raise

Sarah Mausolf
smausolf@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS superintendent 2 KA 07-02-08
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – At a time when some superintendents in Colorado are forgoing raises and bonuses, the superintendent of Eagle County public schools has not refused her annual bonus.

Sandra Smyser will receive a performance pay bonus worth 7.25 percent of her salary, the district announced Friday. The total amount of the bonus, which is for the 2009-10 school year, is about $13,144.

Additionally, Smyser’s contract calls for 20 percent of the bonus to be added to her base salary for next school year, a press release said. Her salary for 2010-11 will increase by about $2,629. That will bring her total salary from $181,300 to $183,928.



“The Board of Education and the superintendent are in agreement that the variable and ongoing portions of her compensation will be paid,” the release said.

Smyser could not be reached for comment. She declined further comment through district spokeswoman Brooke Skjonsby.



Under her employment contract, Smyser had been eligible for an annual performance pay bonus of up to 10 percent, Skjonsby said. The amount of Smyser’s annual bonus hinges on how well she meets “specific and measurable” goals, the release said. The school board sets those goals each August. Smyser’s three-year contract spans July 2008 to June 2011, the release said.

Several teachers say they’re incensed by the bonus, which comes as teachers brace for a wage freeze next school year and a drop in the bonus teachers can receive for performance pay. Next school year, teachers will be eligible for a bonus of up to 4 percent of their salaries for high performance, down from 8 percent this school year. Faced with an expected $3 million drop in state funding for next school year, the district also cut 50 staff positions for next school year.

Todd Huck, former president of the local teachers’ union, expressed disappointment over Smyser’s decision to accept the bonus at a time when teachers are making sacrifices.



“We’re blessed as a district to have her as our superintendent and she is no doubt deserving of a salary increase and a bonus but, then again, so are all of the 400-some teachers and so are all the other employees,” he said.

With lawmakers expecting more cuts to the state budget, Huck said it is fiscally irresponsible for superintendents to take bonuses and raises.

Another Eagle County teacher echoed those concerns. The teacher wants to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation by the district administration.

“The Eagle County Education Association negotiated for months with the administration over our next year’s contract,” the teacher said. “The administration’s theme throughout those negotiations is that we all need to share the pain of the budget crisis that is upon us.”

Although teachers accepted a pay freeze and cuts to various bonuses, Smyser did not follow suit.

“She begged us to take pay freezes and pay cuts, and then receives a bonus and a pay raise … ” the teacher said. “The first rule of leadership is: never to ask your people to do something you are unwilling to do yourself.”

None of the school board members could be reached for comment except Kate Cocchiarella. She referred questions to the district’s human resources department and school board president Connie Kincaid-Strahan.

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.


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