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Burlington, IA school board stands up to Superintendent

This news story was published on June 23, 2012.
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Jermaine Pigee, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa –

The newest members on the Burlington School Board recently made their presence known.

At a meeting earlier this week, three of the board members came together and voted against giving Superintendent Jane Evans a 5 percent pay raise, which would have increased her salary to $151,116, an increase of $7,196.

The vote ended in a 3-3 tie with Board Vice President Linda Garwood, Board President Darven Kendell and board member Dean Vickstrom voting for the raise and the newest board members – Tammy Darnall, Marlis Robberts and Michael Warner – voting against it.

Board member Mike Shinn, also one of the newest board members, was absent.

“I never figured we would split like that,” Warner said. “This vote was not planned. I thought I would be the only one to vote against the pay raise.”

After that vote, a 4.5 percent increase was suggested, which would have meant another $6,476 for Evans, which would have increased her salary to $150,396.

That vote, however, also failed on another 3-3 tie.

Darnall, Robberts and Warner approved the pay raise while Garwood, Kendell and Vickstrom voted against it.

“I don’t talk to (Darnall) and (Robberts). I only see them at board meetings,” Warner said. “The only board member who calls me is (Kendell) because he is the board president.”

Until the school board can come up with a new rate, Evans will continue to be paid her current salary of $143,920.

“To me, 5 percent was too excessive, and a 4.5 percent pay raise was a nice compromise,” Darnall said. “No one wants this to be vindictive.”

Darnall declined to give any reasoning for her vote.

Warner offered the 4.5 percent pay raise because he thought that would be a “happy medium”. He also said he doesn’t feel comfortable in giving Evans a 5 percent pay raise.

“I want to see her work on her communication skills,” Warner said. “She has to show me she is working on improving.”

Warner said he would like to see Evans improve her relationship with teachers and administration in the school district.

“Her presence in the schools means a whole lot,” Warner said. “She needs to learn how to communicate more with the staff members and follow up on any concerns that they have.”

Vickstrom also said Evans can improve her communication by having more of a focus.

“If there is a problem in the school district, you have to go to the principal, who is accountable for the building,” Vickstrom said. “If there is an issue in the classroom, the superintendent is supposed to follow the chain of command and go to the building principal. That’s just an example of something that should be done.”

Vickstrom said the school board still is working with Evans on ways she can improve her communication.

“She doesn’t have to speak with the whole faculty,” Vickstrom said. “She just has to communicate with the administration better.”

Darnall, Robberts and Warner also voted against giving Evans a three-year contract. Garwood, Kendell and Vickstrom voted to give her a three-year contract.

That vote also failed, 3-3.

The school board eventually agreed on a new two-year contract, with Kendell voting with the new board members.

“In her two years as superintendent, you have to look at what has and has not been accomplished,” Darnall said. “If in two years, you have not strengthened the direction of the school district and improved communication, why go to a three-year contract? It was just a hard meeting overall.”

There has been no date set for the school board to discuss a new pay rate for Evans.

Robberts and Shinn were unavailable for comment.

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