Eagle Point OKs school staff raises

Eagle Point School District Superintendent Cynda Rickert, her administrative staff and two other groups of nonunion district employees received raises Wednesday night.

The majority of the school board voted to raise Rickert's annual salary from $121,987 to $129,000. Rickert will now also receive a $500 monthly travel allowance and a tax-deferred annuity account in the amount of $600 per month. Additionally, the district will now pay 6 percent of Rickert's salary into her retirement, covering both the employer's and employee's contributions into that account.

Rickert's salary increase and benefits package puts her on par with local superintendents who are working in districts of similar size, said Scott Grissom, board president.

"We are all grateful to have a superintendent of Mrs. Rickert's caliber," Grissom said. "And we are grateful she rode out the lean years."

The administrative, confidential and supervisory staff members received a .5 percent cost of living adjustment and a step increase for qualified employees. The district also voted to add a $20 monthly contribution to these employees' dental and medical plans, Rickert said.

Rickert's compensation increase came over the objections of two outgoing members, Jim Mannenbach and Mark Bateman.

Mannenbach said Rickert's job performance has not earned the raises and benefits increases, which he estimated will bring her total compensation to about $170,000 annually.

The district, which went through a divisive strike last year, has scored poorly in state testing, has lost approximately 50 teachers, closed one of its schools and increased class sizes in the rest.

"If I were in those (administrative) positions, I'd feel guilty if I hadn't taken care of everyone below me — the students, teachers and community," said Mannenbach, who has been at odds with Rickert's administration for several years.

Hiking salaries and benefits to administrators, he said, is "an insult" to teachers, and is setting the district up for another strike.

"Their contract ends in July 1, 2014," Mannenbach said. "I don't see how this is benefitting the students."

Rickert said the district now has a balanced budget and is committed to providing competitive compensation so that it can keep good staff. Rickert expressed gratitude for the new contract on behalf of herself and her staff members, none of whom have had a salary or benefit increase over the past 31/2 years.

Rickert said the raises given to her and her staff members are covered by the reduction of an administrative position. The salary from that unfilled position will cover her $7,000 raise and the increases for the rest of her staff, she said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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