INDIANAPOLIS -- In spite of statewide cuts to education, the Pike Township School District continues to pay for a school board perk that many districts do not offer.Poore's argument would and does jusify a higher school board salary for Pike than the current $2,000. Everyone on the Pike Township Board serves at-large so the number of constituent issues that arise can not only with parents, but teachers, school employees, etc. Poore's argument though does not justify giving part-time school board members a better benefit that full-time teachers in the district receive.
The district is paying $77,000 a year for health and dental insurance for school board members, employees who work part-time for the district and often have other jobs, 6News' Kara Kenney reported.
Records showed that teachers pay $4,787.76 for the "Employee+One" Anthem plan each year and $6,246.96 for the family plan. School board members pay less than teachers -- $3,588.72 for the Employee+One plan and $4,550.40 for the family plan.
Less than 25 percent of districts statewide pay for insurance for board members, according to figures from 2008.
The Indiana Department of Education checklist for trimming costs lists "reduce all fringe benefit packages of school board members" as a way to cut money without affecting the classroom.
"I'm disappointed and a little bit shocked," said Teresa Meredit, vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. "For them to receive that kind of a benefit even greater than what a teacher gets just seems unfathomable to me when you look at the time a teacher commits to the school system beyond the contract. Teachers pour in hours and hours, plus many of their own dollars."
"I think it's an outrage," said Paul Ogden, a long-time Pike Township resident and former school board candidate. "$75,000 is nothing to sneeze at. You're talking the salary of two full-time teachers ... it is significant. Those kind of things add up."
6News attempted to contact the superintendent, chief financial officer and board members, but none were willing or able to be interviewed. District officials didn't return calls or e-mails on Thursday, but board member Nancy Poore wrote an e-mail to Kenney.
"A typical member spends hundreds of hours on behalf of local education each year. I consider it a great honor to do this work, but it is not an 'honorary' seat. Beyond monthly meetings, most members serve on substantive committees that meet numerous times each year. Board members often have a history of engagement as district boosters and volunteers," Poore said in the e-mail. "My colleagues across Indiana dedicate personal time to be present and show support for education at countless district events, ranging from graduations to annual elementary literacy days. We also read and study educational issues at the state and national level and attend professional conferences to improve our insight and leadership. I subscribe to several education journals, at my own expense."
Pike spends $75,000 for this benefit. Why not double salaries to $4,000 to fairly compensate school board members, then cut out the health care benefit. That would save Pike Taxpayers $61,000. School board members should get exactly the same health care benefits the school district pays to its part-time workers, which is none.
Pike school board member Ricky Hence was supposed to be interviewed for the story but apparently backed out. It's unfortunate because Ricky Hence two years ago was supported by pro-labor groups who wanted him to stand up to the administration, yet he has completely been captured by the administration and his pro-labor views set aside. Don't think that hasn't been noticed by the folks who helped Hence get elected.
At a Pike School Board meeting last night, school board members gushed praise on the administration of Superintendent Nathanial Jones, a protege of Eugene White. All the presentations to and from the School Board that everything is wonderful in the district, they're all doing a terrific job. Meanwhile, in the real world, Pike schools are filled with gangs, classroom learning is interrupted by disruptive students and parents continue to look for other alternatives like charter and private schools.