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Doing Their Part

While some Wall Street fat cats have made news for accepting hefty salary packages even during a sour economy, a growing number of Minnesota superintendents are volunteering for pay freezes and turning down lucrative performance bonuses.

For Stan Mack, the superintendent of the 13,500-student Robbinsdale Area district in the northwestern suburbs of Minneapolis, the decision not to accept a cost-of-living increase and merit-pay bonus was an easy one.

"Leadership means that you need to stand out in front of employees and demonstrate your good faith," Mr. Mack said.

It's not that Mr. Mack is hard up for money. He still makes $153,750 a year. But by forgoing a cost-of-living increase and a merit-pay option in his contract, Mr. Mack gave up about $7,000.

Like many school districts around the country, the Robbinsdale schools do not have much fat to trim. Mr. Mack said his decision to hold back on his pay made sense.

"This is significant, in the fact that any pattern of compensation or bonus pay would have set the wrong tone," he said.

The Minnesota Association of School Administrators has said that at least 20 superintendents in the state have either turned down pay raises or are in the process of doing so.

For Connie Hayes, the superintendent of the 1,700- student LaCrescent-Hokah public schools in southeast Minnesota, the decision to give up a bonus and a cost-of-living increase and to see a reduction in health-care benefits was not hers alone.

Her entire administrative team last year accepted reductions in health-care benefits that saved the district about $11,000. The three principals, a community education director, and a business manager also worked three days without pay and saved the district about $7,000.

This year, the administrative team also froze its members' salaries and saved the district $14,000.

"It's been a team effort," said Ms. Hayes, who makes $95,687 and gave up about $4,200 in salary this year.

"In our district, we do a pretty good job of supporting each other. People are willing to be a part of the solution short term, but people can't take reduction in pay raises forever," she said.

"We are just keeping our fingers crossed that the economy is going to turn around."

—John Gehring

Vol. 23, Issue 5, Page 3

Published in Print: October 1, 2003, as Take Note

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