MORRIS – Nettle Creek School District said it would look into allegations claiming the school board violated the Open Meetings Act.
During Monday’s board meeting, former Nettle Creek school board President Karen Meucci said she believes the act was violated at the March meeting because the board’s agenda did not mention the superintendent’s contract would be voted on.
Walt Zukowski, attorney for the school district, said after Monday’s meeting the district would look into the allegations.
The board voted 5-2 last month to give Superintendent Don McKinney a $12,000 pay raise, McKinney confirmed Tuesday. The Morris Daily Herald was not present at the March meeting, and the minutes from the meeting have not yet been approved, therefore have not been released for public record.
“The agenda is put out so taxpayers know what the board will be talking about. It’s to inform the taxpayers,” Meucci said at the meeting. “Last month’s meeting, the superintendent contract was not listed as an action item. You can’t come out of closed session and vote on it.”
Meucci contended she felt the word “superintendent” was purposely omitted.
A copy of the March Board of Education agenda states “Motion to adjourn to Closed Session for the Discussion of Contract Negotiations.” It also states “Possible Action as a result of Closed Session Discussion.”
She said that because McKinney is in the middle of a three-year contract, the public wouldn’t think the action was in regards to him.
McKinney said Tuesday he was making $98,000 a year, and last year he received an additional $2,000 performance bonus totally $100,000.
Meucci said the raise to $112,000 voted on last month is greater than the 5 percent the law allows for an administrator increase.
The board did not respond to Meucci’s concerns or allegations Monday.
But McKinney said Tuesday via email that in regards to the 5 percent law, “While this is technically true, it is all about which funds the administrator salary is pulled from. In my case, my salary is pulled from many different funds because I am the superintendent, principal, transportation director, etc.”
McKinney’s salary is paid from several funds including the Tort Fund, Transportation Fund and two line items in the Education Fund: principal and superintendent.
He goes on to say “Last year, the board gave me more than a 5 percent raise. There was no penalty because it is how those funds are budgeted that is relevant.”
Board secretary Karolyn Entwistle confirmed Tuesday there were two separate votes in March, one on a salary increase for McKinney, and one for a contract extension. But she said she could not release the minutes of the March meeting, because the board did not approve the minutes at the April meeting.
McKinney said the board has agreed to a $12,000 pay increase for the sole purpose of allowing him to purchase a family insurance plan.
He also confirmed they voted on a one-year extension to his contract.
“The law says you can’t increase administration costs above 5 percent, or they can take general state aid away,” Meucci said at the meeting. “A rush to judgment creates problems.”
Regional Superintendent of Schools Chris Mehochko said Tuesday the 5 percent increase must be reported on the budget, and the district will be required to answer a question on their budget report that asks if it does exceed 5 percent.
“The pay increase will never affect our General State Aid,” McKinney said Tuesday.
Meucci shared other concerns with the board as well.
She told the board that the administrative and teacher salaries are no longer online and they need to be returned to the school district website.
“They are indeed on the website. Under the ‘parent’ tab the ‘compensation report’ can be found an all teacher salaries area listed in the teacher contract, which is under the same tab,” McKinney responded in the email.
A check Tuesday of the nettlecreek.org website found the teacher’s salaries are stated under compensation in the teacher’s contract which is posted, and the administrative salary states $98,000 along with a $2,000 performance bonus; it does not reflect the raise stated.
The board had no response to her comments and voted to go into closed session Monday for other public comments that addressed staff and student concerns.