Chesterton Tribune



DTA leader objects to new Duneland superintendents $16K salary bump

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The $16,094 salary bump provided by the contract which the Duneland School Board has proposed for the new superintendent--Dave Pruis, currently assistant superintendent for operations--is sticking in the craw of at least one Duneland teacher.

At a public hearing on that contract, held Thursday evening, CHS German teacher Michele Bartels--also co-president of the Duneland Teachers Association--objected to the proposed 12.5-percent salary increase on the ground that it’s too much at the wrong time.

The current superintendent’s salary: $128,906. The proposed new salary: $145,000.

“I have a good relationship with Dave (Pruis) and think the world of him,” Bartels said. “But I have a total inability to understand how we can come up with that much money for one person when the teachers haven’t had a raise in years, class sizes are increasing, and student aides are disappearing.”

“I’m concerned about the way it will appear to the public after the referendum,” Bartels added. “How will the community react? We went through that with the artificial turf. I would ask that you think about this and talk about this.”

Bartels suggested that, instead of enacting a single raise in one fell swoop, the board could “work it in over a period of time,” “so it’s not suddenly $20,000 for one position with benefits.”

Member Mike Trout thanked Bartels for her comments but noted that the Duneland superintendent’s salary has historically been low, compared to that in comparable school corporations. “If we hired outside we would have had to pay a competitive salary,” he said. “The board has known for a long time that we’ve been underpaying our superintendent.”

A list provided to the Chesterton Tribune after the meeting shows that, of 17 superintendents in school corporations with similar state support and academic performance, Duneland’s superintendent earned the least in April 2012: $128,906. Southwest Allan’s earned the most: $187,000. The average salary: $155,186. The Valparaiso Community Schools’: $168,000.

“It’s a sticker shock, no doubt about it,” Trout said. “But we thought it was the right thing to do. And we know we’ll get the bang for our buck with Dr. Pruis.”

“We’re aware of the concern and the perception,” Trout added. “But we thought the money is worth it.”

Pruis, for his part, thanked Bartels for her thoughts. “I appreciate your comments,” he said. “I think you know me well and that we can talk about anything. We don’t always agree.”

“That would be kind of weird if we did,” Bartels said.

Bartels did observe in her remonstration that Pruis’ proposed contract was printed as a legal ad in the Chesterton Tribune--in the usual small print--during spring break.

Wellness Center

In one other bit of business, at Pruis’ recommendation, members voted 5-0 to reject the nine bids received for the remodeling of the old Instructional Materials Center on Fifth Street--eyed now as a wellness center--and to release the bid bonds.

Pruis said that the bids came in “much higher than anticipated.”

The specs will be reviewed and “hopefully we’ll have a recommendation about re-advertising” at the board’s next meeting.



Posted 4/5/2013