School & District Management

Private Donations to Superintendent’s Salary an Issue in Indiana

By Dakarai I. Aarons — October 19, 2009 1 min read
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Private donations are covering $18,000 of the $225,000 annual salary being paid to Stephen Daeschner, the superintendent of the Greater Clark County, Ind., schools. But the school district and the foundations involved refuse to say who contributed those donations, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal reported.

Jon Fleischaker, the newspaper’s lawyer, said keeping the names of contributors is wrong.

“I think that when a public official is paid in this manner, the public certainly has a right to know who’s paying his salary in order to be able to judge his performance,” he told the Courier-Journal.

But Mike Waiz, the president and CEO of the foundation raising the salary money for the school district, told the paper that donor identities are “not public information.”

Having local philanthropists contribute to a superintendent’s salary or a superintendent search is not a new idea, but it is one some experts caution school boards to avoid.

While advising the Memphis, Tenn., school board on its search, Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools, said the practice often leaves superintendents with divided loyalties. School boards, he said, should want the superintendent to view the board as his or her sole boss, not others who may have competing agendas.

In the meantime, the Courier-Journal’s editorial board says the paper plans to fight to make sure the public knows if those who do business with the district are also paying the superintendent’s salary.

Should district’s create these public-private relationships? If so, should the identity of donors be disclosed? Where’s the best place for districts to use private dollars?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.