The secretive ways of Hernando School superintendent Wayne Alexander are problematic and affecting how his bosses do their jobs. Last week, four of five School Board members concurred with Alexander that school administrators deserved a raise.
At a workshop, they backed a 1.8 percent increase that will total $94,000 to be split among 71 administrators. It's a modest amount compared with a $160-million operating budget, but it's also more than the starting salaries of two first-year teachers.
What the board didn't know was that at least 16 principals and senior administrators had signed a petition saying the district could keep the raises as a contribution to try to stave off job reductions. The board members didn't know this because Alexander didn't tell them. It resulted in a board holding budget discussions without all the available facts.
"It could have made a difference," board member Pat Fagan said afterward. "The board should have known that was out there."
Indeed. Holding budget information close to the vest is hardly the way to build public trust in the district's ability to contain spending in the wake of state budget cuts. More to the point, the episode shows Alexander neither listened to his subordinates nor talked to his superiors about an employee-driven, money-saving initiative. A quality leader must be an effective communicator and Alexander failed on both ends.
Regrettably, it's not a new phenomenon. The failure to disclose the petition marks the second time recently that Alexander has withheld imperative information from his bosses. He applied for a job as superintendent in Framingham, Mass., on or before Nov. 6, but neglected to notify board members in writing as his contract required. Newly elected board member James Yant said Alexander told him of the job search the third week in December. Retired board member James Malcolm served until Nov. 17 and said he was not notified at all.
Providing timely notice to the board allows members to debate how or if they want to proceed in a search for a successor to Alexander.
As for the raises, Fagan said at the very least the board could have publicly commended the administrators for their willingness to sacrifice personal income in an attempt to keep others from losing their jobs. The offer is particularly noteworthy considering teachers negotiated a 2.39 percent raise that the district financed by dipping into its reserve account, and Alexander accepted a 5.5 percent increase to $125,545 annually.
Board Chairwoman Dianne Bonfield dissented from Alexander's recommendation and advocated a wage freeze for all administrators making more than $60,000 annually. Her call for austerity, unfortunately, went unheeded. Absent knowledge of the petition, other board members talked of the need to show symbolic appreciation to the hardworking administrators.
Imagine the appreciation if the board decides to overrule the superintendent and respect the wishes of the petitioners. Whatever the eventual decision, the board needs to again address the salaries in a formal vote. They, not the hired superintendent, have the final say on wages. In the meantime, board members should be wondering what else Alexander isn't telling them.