ANGOLA — The Metropolitan School District of Steuben County Board of School Trustees voted not to renew Superintendent Brent Wilson’s contract at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The superintendent’s contract was added to a revised board agenda last week. It is set to expire June 30 after the board voted in August 2016 to end an automatic rollover provision that previously provided Wilson with a never-ending five-year contract.
March 3, Wilson filed suit against the board and the district, claiming breach of contract. That lawsuit is pending in Steuben Superior Court.
Tuesday, the board voted 5-2 not to renew Wilson’s contract. Board members Scott Poor and Kevin Beard voted against the nonrenewal.
That “does not preclude a new contract,” board president Cory Archbold said.
Tuesday, all administrators received a 2% base salary increase. Retroactive to July, instructional assistants, custodians, secretaries and food service employees got a 2% hourly raise plus a 29-cent-per-hour increase in pay. Bus drivers received a $2-per-day raise along with hourly trip rates being increased by 2%.
The administrative and classified staff raises were tabled from last month’s meeting when teacher contracts were ratified, causing concern among administrators and employees.
Archbold said it was always the board’s intention to award raises, but that it needed to look into concerns that raises had been awarded to some employees and not others during 2020. Board member Case Gilbert read state law saying the board must approve pay changes recommended by administrators; he said eight classified staff members were given raises for “performance” over the past year without board approval.
Wilson said raises have been determined by department heads and administrators the past 20 years at MSD.
“We have a lot of tough discussions on what do we pay these people,” said Wilson. As he spoke, handouts were circulated to board members and the unusually large audience assembled in Central Gym, a number of them Hendry Park Elementary School classified staff who stood up while Principal Lisa Bauer described how they are the integral cogs in the wheel that makes the school run properly. The handouts are board policy reviewed Feb. 12, 1985, and again Oct. 17, 2017. Highlighted portions concern the delegation of administrative responsibility to the superintendent.
Board member Brad Gardner said per law, all changes and adjustments to employee pay must be approved by the board, either before the change is made or after it has been deemed appropriate by the superintendent. Gardner stressed a need for better communication and broached a bus fund handled by Wilson that a couple of years ago became subject of board scrutiny.
Gardner quoted the Indiana School Board Association, saying all pay adjustments must be approved by the board.
“I’ll argue all night, Brad,” said Wilson, who said he does not appreciate being accused of wrong doing and feels he has done everything in furtherance of the district’s best interests. He suggested the board present him with policies to follow.
At this time, Wilson’s contract hangs in the balance.
Represented by Indianapolis attorney Linda Pence, Wilson claims the board violated the terms of his contract, which he accepted in 2006 at a rate of $102,000 a year plus benefits. In 2012, a five-year roll-over provision added one additional year each year on June 30, resulting in a continuous five-year contract. Wilson said he expected that contract to be in force until his retirement.
By the end of the year, Steuben Superior Court Judge William Fee will make a ruling on whether to accept the board’s motion for judgment or allow Wilson’s suit to go forward.