The Politics of Money: AAPS Superintendent Candidate Signs With Larger Virginia School District For $70K Less Than Ann Arbor Job Pays
The former Superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, Dr. Todd Roberts, left in October 2010. Since then, the District has been headed by an interim Superintendent. In November, when the Board of Education trustees were trying to figure out how to hire a new Superintendent (had to have a “consultant,” dontcha know) said consultant, Bill Newman of Ray & Associates, pitched the idea that the AAPS had to pay more to get quality candidates. Newman is a member of the Dave Brandon Society (named for U of M Athletic Director Dave Brandon) whose members only spend other people’s money, and believe that paying more leads to getting more “value.” Society members are never allowed to spend under $10 for a cup of coffee, or $100 for a hamburger. All Dave Brandon Society members are proud owners of $435 hammers, $640 toilet seats, and $7,600 coffee makers—supplied by the same company used by the United States Pentagon in the mid-80s.
Brandon Society member Bill Newman, in support of his hair brained theory about how money is the key to attracting the best candidates to Superintendent jobs, prepared a table which listed the 2010-11 salaries and 2011-12 estimated salaries for nine districts near other large universities – Iowa City, Iowa; Knox County, Tenn.; Lincoln, Neb.; Milwaukee, Wisc.; Seattle, Wash.; Cambridge, Mass.; Socorro ISD, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Sacramento, Calif. The average estimated salary of these districts for 2011-12 was $246,001, with a range of $189,520 to $272,950. All of the districts listed had enrollment at least double that of the 16,536 students in Ann Arbor Public Schools, except for Iowa City (12,500 students), and Cambridge (6,500 students).
The President of the AAPS Board of Education bought Newman’s pitch hook, line and $500 sinker. Deb Mexicotte (pictured left), who works, yes, for the University of Michigan spending other people’s money in her day job, couldn’t find anything the matter with spending more of other people’s money as pitched to her by Bill Newman. So, she proposed raising the pay for the next Superintendent of the AAPS District $70,000, from $175,000 to $245,000. Trustee Simone Lightfoot was quoted in the press as suggesting that a $70,000 hike was “in excess.” Lightfoot suggested a modest $50,000 hike would be better. (Her membership in the Dave Brandon Society was pending prior to her comments, but was immediately approved shortly afterwards.)
Trustee Susan Baskett suggested that a $70,000 hike might not be well received by the community and could impact the success of any future request for millage which the BOE might have planned. You think? She told her colleagues on the Board, “I think this is crazy, and this is going to be a hard sell to our community as we go to them to ask for more money. The $70,000 difference between Roberts’ former salary and the proposed new salary could be put toward other services for students instead.”
Board President Deb Mexicotte, who was somehow under the impression that $170,000 was “at the bottom” of the pay scale for school superintendents, and that $7,500 was at the “bottom of the scale” for the cost of a new coffee maker, managed to get her motion passed 4-3. Mexicotte, Nelson, Patalan, and Stead voted for the motion, and Baskett, Lightfoot, and Thomas voted against it.
So, it is with a certain amount of irony that, today, it was revealed Dr. Shelley Redinger (pictured right), one of the three finalists chosen by the AAPS BOE for the Superintendent job, turned up her nose at the chance to earn $75,000 more and took a job in Virginia, with the Spotsylvania School District. That District of 24,000 students is significantly larger than the AAPS District which serves 16,000 students. The Free Lance-Star in Fredricksburg published this piece that reported Redinger had agreed to a four-year contract with a base salary of $170,000.
Yes, that’s $170,000. Less than the AAPS District paid Dr. Todd Roberts.
Read slowly: A candidate applied to the AAPS job, was selected as a finalist, then agreed to work for $170,000 somewhere else. I can only wonder what happened in Dr. Redinger’s interviews with our Board of Education members that drove her to thumb her nose at the AAPS and that $70,000 pay bump that “consultant” Bill Newman assured the BOE would help attract and land top candidates. Dr. Redinger’s withdrawl of her name from consideration, coupled with her acceptance of a job leading a larger District in exchange for $70,000 less in pay can only mean one thing: Dr. Shelley Redinger is certifiably insane. There can be no other explanation. Honestly.
BOE President Deb Mexicotte, when asked by AnnArbor.com for her reaction to Redinger’s withdrawl of her candidacy said simply, “That crazy bit…Shelley did what?!? Doesn’t she realize that we’re offering more money? Doesn’t she realize that more money is more? We’re offering $70,000 more than the Spotsylvania District for pity’s sake. (Deep sigh.) Oh, we didn’t want her anyway. Who spells Shelley with an “E” these days?”
In fact, the three other BOE members who voted in support of Mexicotte’s motion to raise the Superintendent’s starting pay by $70,000 because Ann Arbor’s compensation was “at the bottom” of the scale, immediately contacted the Dave Brandon Society to make sure that Shelley Redinger’s temporary membership card had been shredded.
Trustee Susan Baskett actually did say, “She was very sweet, [but] she was not in my top two when we all had to do our little rankings. She was well credentialed, but I didn’t think she would be the best fit for it.” Translation: “We didn’t want you and your four old graduate degrees, and many years of relevant experience any way. Harumph.”
One thing is certain: Dr. Redinger’s actions confirmed what most of us who don’t spend other people’s money for a living (and/or as a member of the AAPS Board of Education) already knew: The AAPS BOE members who supported the Board President’s crazy idea that more money would attract a better quality of Superintendent candidate to the job were absolutely wrong, and completely misguided. The one candidate who was not in the show for the money, is gone, Baby, gone. Gone to a job that pays a $70K less than what Ann Arbor is offering.
Here’s one certainty: Consultant Bill Newman will get his fee, and Ann Arbor taxpayers will needlessly spend $70,000 too much for our next Superintendent of schools. Here’s another, when that millage “enhancement” next comes up, Mexicotte’s Folly could potentially be used to sink it.
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