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Kanawha superintendent gets raise, extension

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Kanawha superintendent gets raise, extension
By Ryan Quinn, Staff writer, Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County school board members approved Monday a one-year contract extension and raise for their superintendent, after amending the contract to reduce the proposed pay increase.

Ron Duerring will get a $3,150 raise for the 2015-16 school year, a 2 percent increase above his current $157,500 annual salary. His proposed new contract in Monday’s agenda had suggested a $4,700, or 3 percent, pay increase — a raise that two board members, Ryan White and Pete Thaw, had said a majority of the board had seemed comfortable with in a March 23 closed session on Duerring’s evaluation.

But Monday, board President Robin Rector moved to amend the contract to reduce the raise to 2 percent — the same increase proposed for professional educators like teachers and principals in the upcoming school year budget. Her amendment passed 4-1, with fellow board member Jim Crawford voting against.

The board then passed the contract with the 2 percent raise 4-1, but this time with Thaw voting no. Thaw said he opposes all raises due to financial concerns, but voted for the 2 percent amendment because he wanted a lower raise if one did pass.

“Nobody offered zero, did they?” Thaw said.

Duerring said he is fine with the 2 percent increase.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve the kids another year,” said Duerring, who’s been with the district 17 years. He said he intends to continue serving beyond next year but doesn’t know for sure.

Rector said she supports Duerring, whom the board gave a unanimous positive review. But she said she feels the 3 percent raise placed in the agenda was merely a “discussion point.”

“I just made an amendment to the motion to 2 percent because I felt that was in line with what we were giving other professional staff,” Rector said. “I value what the superintendent is doing, absolutely.”

After granting the contract extension and pay raise, the board voted to go into closed session to discuss unspecified personnel issues. Thaw voted against holding the closed session.

Members emerged from the closed session about 10 minutes later to fire two employees, with little explanation. But Thaw said after the meeting adjourned that Rector, during the closed session, commented that board members should not speak publicly about what happens in closed session. Rector’s alleged comments followed a story in Friday’s Gazette about Duerring’s proposed 3 percent salary increase — a story that quoted Thaw and White discussing what happened in the March 23 closed session.

Though he said she didn’t mention him by name, Thaw said he believes Rector was “chastising” him. Rector, according to Thaw, said she was “chagrined to read in the paper events that had transpired in the executive session.”

“I’m chagrined we have so many executive sessions,” said Thaw, a former board president. “… I think the public’s entitled to know what goes on here, period.”
Rector wouldn’t confirm nor deny that she made a comment along those lines, saying she wouldn’t speak about what happened in closed session.

“It was in executive session,” Rector said. “Anything that happens in executive session, stays in executive session.”

Thaw said 10 or 15 years ago, he used to leave every closed session when other members went into them, and suggested he may start doing it again.

Duerring is the fourth-highest-paid superintendent in the state, according to data from the West Virginia Department of Education. Chuck Hatfield — superintendent of neighboring Putnam County, which has roughly a third of Kanawha’s 28,000-student enrollment — makes $165,000 and is to get a raise to $170,000 in the upcoming fiscal year.

In Monongalia County, which has about 11,000 students, Superintendent Frank Devono makes $172,000 and will see his pay jump to $183,000 in the next two years. In the Eastern Panhandle’s Berkeley County, with 19,000 students, Superintendent Manny Arvon makes about $174,200, and will see his pay grow to $187,600 in the next three years.

Berkeley and Monongalia counties are among the fastest growing in the state, according to recently released U.S. census data.

The median annual household income in the Mountain State is about $41,000, according to 2009-13 data from the census, and the median annual salary for individual working residents is $30,000, according to 2011-13 data from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

Also Monday, board members adopted new K-12 English/language arts textbooks for the first time in about six years, and had the first reading for adopting new health textbooks. Duerring said the final vote on the health textbooks will likely be next month, and all the new materials will go into effect next school year.

Duerring said the combined cost of the English/language arts and health textbooks is projected at $4.5 million.