The Columbus Municipal School Board held two specially called meetings Wednesday to address the districts’ proposed schedule of 2014-2015 employee salaries.
The board voted 2-2 on the matter Wednesday morning with board president Angela Verdell abstaining. With the split vote, board members thought the motion carried. However, after the meeting, board attorney David Dunn said the vote did not carry and another special meeting was held Wednesday afternoon.
During the second meeting of the day, Dunn explained how the mistake occurred.
“First of all, I want to apologize for not catching the error that was made earlier today in the meeting,” he said. “In a board like yours, you must have a majority of members voting for an action to carry. An abstention in a situation where you have five people present, two voting for, two voting against, an abstention does not count as a ‘yes’ vote. So therefore that matter…taken up at the previous meeting did not pass, it failed. The record will reflect that. So that’s how we got there.”
Board member Greg Lewis then motioned that the board accept the proposed salary scale except for the position of assistant superintendent and special assistant to personnel.
Anthony Brown serves as Federal Programs Director and assistant superintendent. Donna Mann serves as special assistant to personnel.
On the proposed salary scale, Brown could potentially earn $99,600. Mann would earn $49,000. When contacted Thursday morning, McGill declined to reveal what Brown and Mann currently earn working for the public school system.
Board member Currie Fisher seconded the motion.
Board member Glenn Lautzenhiser said he felt that singling out the two positions would be a “slap in the face.”
“Everybody left here this morning thinking that we had passed this in it’s entirety,” he said. “I think to carve out two would really be a slap in the face to these who understood that they got an adjustment. Our superintendent and our management team have recommended this countless times, and I think for us to do anything other than approve the full salary scale would be a mistake and I can’t say too strongly that it would be a slap in the face to those individuals who are taken out of this motion.”
Former board president Jason Spears asked for an explanation on why the raises for the two positions were being challenged.
Noting the responsibilities of the assistant superintendent, Lewis said he felt that Brown should be paid more than recommended. Speaking of the salary recommended for Mann, Lewis said he did not see how the board could “justify that raise.”
During the first specially called meeting of the day, McGill explained to board members that Mann is the only person in the personnel office and does the work of four people.
Spears responded and, noting a conversation from the first meeting where McGill said she had compared salaries with other districts, said he supported both recommended salary scales.
“It is my understanding, working with the management team, that they did not just arbitrarily decide on these numbers,” Spears said. “They did a study, looked at districts that are comparable to our district and based off of that analysis, as well as the understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each of the positions identified, came to the conclusion that this would be an equitable increase or amount of salary for those specific individuals.”
Lautzenhiser asked McGill if she still had confidence in her recommendation.
McGill began to explain her research and offered data to support her recommendations. She was cut off by Fisher who said the data should have been presented with the salary schedule instead of communicated verbally.
“I think to tell us, as opposed to give us, the information to justify the outcome of a vote or whatever, is really not in order,” Fisher said.
Verdell called for a vote and the motion to approve the 2014-2015 salary scale with the exception of the assistant superintendent and the special assistant to personnel carried 3-2. Verdell, Fisher and Lewis voted in favor with Spears and Lautzenhiser opposed.
After the meeting, Spears approached Brown and the two talked briefly about the board’s actions and Brown’s upcoming retirement.
Brown announced his retirement Tuesday morning. He will retire June 30.
When asked if his decision to retire had anything to do with the school board, Brown said, “I am sure that the board in its infinite wisdom has a rationale for whatever it does. I may not agree with it but I’ve put 37 years in and I’ve willingly accepted it. As I have said, the board makes the decision it feels is best for the district. Anthony Brown makes the decision as to what is best for Anthony Brown.”
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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