Knoxville Board approves administrator contracts

Cheri Gerdes (photo by Steve Woodhouse)

Contracts were approved for classified staff, directors and administrators at the Monday, April 28, Knoxville School Board meeting.

Directors Cheri Gerdes and Larissa Van Donselaar represented the board on the negotiation team for these employees. Custodians in the district will receive a 6 percent raise. Gerdes explained that this is due their hard work. The same was said for associates, child nutrition staff, maintenance and transportation employees.

“I’m encouraged we’re going in the right direction,” Board President Marty Duffy said. Directors, which include the activities director, business manager, director of technology, etc., will receive a 2.5 percent raise.

When the time came to approve new administrator contracts, the discussion was much longer. A 2.2 percent raise for these employees, with a two-year contract, was proposed. Terms of the contract would be good through 2022.

Gerdes said she consulted Duffy and fellow Director Larry Scott about the pros and cons of the proposal. She referred to a meeting in January, in which board members seemed to show animosity toward the current administrators.

“That January work session was really tough,” Gerdes said. She did not want administrators to fear for their jobs – she went as far as to ask the other directors if there were any they wanted to release. The answer she reportedly received was no.

“I want to get the best and brightest administrators we can to our district,” Gerdes said. This might not be possible if they feel threatened, she continued.

Scott initially objected to the idea of a two-year contract. One never knows what next year will bring, notwithstanding the current circumstances. Scott believes the district should have the ability to adapt to what may come, and having administrator contracts locked in might hinder that.

“How the board votes is fine with me,” Scott said.

Gerdes believes the administrators have invested in Knoxville, by bringing their families and their lives here. A two-year contract would provide them more stability.

The discussion turned to how much the district values its employees. Scott and Duffy wanted to ensure that teachers and administrators were on an equal footing. At the prior board meeting, a two-year master contract was approved with the teachers’ union.

Director Dave Smith said he was good with the proposed salaries but did not understand why a multi-year contract was needed.

“If we needed to get rid of somebody, we’d just do it,” Smith said.

“But there isn’t anybody you want to get rid of,” Gerdes said.

“If we’re going to support the recommendations for a contract, why not approve a two-year?” Van Donselaar asked. Duffy added that a two-year contract was “alien” to him.

“I’m happy to revisit this,” Gerdes said. She later added, “None of these principals we want to lose.”

In the end, the board voted unanimously to approve the two-year contracts for administrators, as proposed.