Entries Tagged 'SF School District' ↓

Is the Sioux Falls School District really that tight on money? Several administrators get massive raises

So I started reading this Argus story about across the board raises, this is what the district said;

The wage gap between teachers and administrators in the Sioux Falls School District is widening.

School board candidates in May criticized the district for its spending on administrative salaries, but later in the month the board approved a three-year contract stating that when Sioux Falls teachers get raises, so do their bosses.

This school year, all employees will see a 2.75% salary increase, but when administrators make an average of $76,000 more annually than teachers, that raise goes further for them.

But when you look at the salary increases from last year (they are approved by the school board in July) in the graphic below I created from the district’s salary data, you will see another story. Many administrators are getting massive wage increases right after they approved a $300 million dollar school bond. Here are the entire PDF docs of salaries; 2018-19, 2019-2020

“The city of Sioux Falls, the county, Sanford Health, Avera Health, it’s just kind of the way it works,” said former board member and current administrator Doug Morrison said of the district’s salary schedule. “So everyone can aspire to have a pathway to what they want to be in life.”

The problem(s) with Morrison’s statement (there are several) is that the SFSD is NOT a private corporation or private non-profit, it is a taxpayer funded entity, and our taxes are going through the f’ing roof!

Mickelson would not explain the issue further, but suggested administrator pay be set year-to-year based on performance and the financial condition of the school district instead.

However, district officials say the blanket percentage increase and not seeing the contract’s details beforehand is common practice, something that’s been ongoing for about 20 years. 

Whoa! Cynthia and I agree on something. At least Todd Vik (the business manager) admits to the secrecy and backroom deals. Someone told me recently that they overheard Alberty (who just left the board) say in reference to the Sioux Falls City Council’s very public airing of grievances that the school board makes decisions behind closed doors before the public meeting so the public can’t see the sausage being made, so to speak. Well isn’t that nice?!

Vik acknowledged the percentage allocated for increases to teacher salaries has consistently also been tied to administrative salary increases, except for four occasions. 

District officials also said the average increase isn’t as large as it seems on paper, and includes those moving up the steps of a set salary schedule.


“A wage gap is accurate, but disparity, if I were to look up the definition, that would say to me our teacher salaries are growing by a less percentage than our administrators,” Alberty said about his May vote Wednesday. “But it’s tied to the teachers increases get and that’s not a disparity in my mind at all.”

Really? The data below tells a different tale Mr. Vik and Mr. Alberty. Administrators are getting rich while the taxpayers are getting screwed.

In the graphic, the RED DOTS denote who got a raise over 2.75%. In fact out of 68 employees listed, 42 got more than that. I also listed the percentages they received. You will also notice that job titles are NOT listed, it is that way in the data the SFSD has listed.

Sioux Falls School District continues to do things A**Backwards

First they decided to push a $300 million dollar bond issue, have the finance department hand count the votes, then don’t allow the public access to the ballots.

They pushed this public funding without having a location picked for the new HS, middle school or when and if Whittier would be replaced. They also had NO plans on how to fund staffing these facilities (and still don’t) they also didn’t bother telling the public they planned a new 10 year opt-out (we all know this was in the works all along).

Now they want to draw new boundaries for the school district. While I don’t disagree this needs to be done, it should have been done way before we voted on a bond issue. The SFSD likes to do things A**backwards because they know they wouldn’t get support for the bonding if they would have drawn lines, picked new school locations and proposed a 10 year opt-out before the vote.

The SFSD has to be the sneakiest, most scheming, money grubbin’ local government agency in the state where administrators are only concerned about their own benefits and wages while local restaurants have to have bake sales to buy cheese sandwiches for the poor kids.

It’s going to be entertaining watching the new lines being drawn. Do you think the SFSD will finally become fully integrated or will the trailer park and minority students still have to go to their schools while the Lilly White still will have there’s? Will open enrollment be finally eliminated?

Just like NOT having voting precincts in the Northern half of the city in the past three school elections, I expect the segregation to continue. People who do things a**backwards often have no backbones. Now go eat your cheese sandwich and shut up!

Sioux Falls City Council does not need to raise property taxes

Besides the fact that the county and school district are going opt-out crazy (even though the SFSD has a $11 Billion in valuations and we are looking at another record year in building permits) the city council gets to vote on property tax increases at the end of September (historically).  The state allows between 2%-3%. Last year the council voted 7-1 to increase it by 2.1% (Stehly was the lone NO vote).

Yesterday during the city council meeting, councilor Pat Starr pointed out that while the city only needs a 25% reserve fund they have around 38%.

There really is NO viable reason the city needs to vote for this increase. It will be interesting to see how the city council votes on this increase since I can’t remember the last time it has ever been voted down. I think it has passed every single year for at least the last decade.

We all know that the RS5 rarely votes for the citizens, so it will be fun to listen to their reasons why they need to vote for this unneeded increase. I have often argued with record growth in our city (and valuations) we shouldn’t have to increase the percentage the city taxes.

UPDATE: Jefferson HS Groundbreaking

Not sure what the goofy symphony music was all about in the background during the dirt shoveling, but surprised they didn’t play some kind of English concerto to celebrate the ‘Cavaliers’.

I had to chuckle a bit when TenHaken bragged about getting involved with the bond vote. I would agree, if there is one thing our local politicians love more than anything is handing out property tax increases to the minions and small businesses while giving welfare to the big guys. So, no, it didn’t surprise me you got involved Paul.

HALF-PENNY SALES TAX INCREASE FOR TEACHER PAY IS ALMOST A COMPLETE FAILURE

As I warned when the legislature went down that path it was the wrong thing to do because sales taxes will never be repealed once implemented;

“When can schools start to trust what the legislature passes?” Holbeck said. “We had our formula, and within two years they don’t live up to their word. That’s a big issue. When can we trust something that’s being told to us?”

They are also going back on the promise to step back the increase with internet sales tax collection. I suggested they use state education investment funds interest to fund teacher pay, but apparently that money (around 1 Billion) is better off continuing to stay moldy in an account. We could also implement a corporate education income tax. But instead they raise taxes on food to people who can’t afford to buy the food to begin with.

“When are people going to quit electing people to the legislature who don’t keep their word,” he said. “All you need to do is see how they vote.”

Hardy, Har, Har. I have been asking that question for well over a decade. With a dysfunctional opposition party and an electorate more concerned about guns instead of books, you will continue to get reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies during our legislative session.

Legislating Policy and Open Government make things a lot easier

One of my biggest arguments for open government is that if you apply it consistently it not only saves taxpayers money, but it prevents a lot of headaches and butt hurt. So the SFSD has spent $181K on a consultant, kept the findings secret and wonder why teachers and parents are upset?

“It’s like we’re shown a product, we give feedback, and then they go behind a curtain and do stuff,” Tony Martinet, president of the Sioux Falls Education Association said. “You don’t get to see the mess. …If from the start, they would have simply said, ‘We are cutting minutes to music, P.E. and art because we’re trying to equalize across the board,’ and just owned it from the start, then I mean, the frustration and the arguments would have not have been there.”

First off, I have never been a fan of consultants in the public sector. They usually charge to much to tell you what you want to hear. The administration usually has an expectation and if you pay someone for that expectation, guess what, you get it.

But what is even more frustrating is the lack of leadership by our School Board;

Martinet and others also urged the Sioux Falls school board multiple times to consider weighing in, but administrators have continuously said the board would not make a decision because the process is an administrative function.

While I partially agree that the School Board, as a part-time elected body doesn’t get involved with sitting in curriculum meetings, they do have the ultimate authority to tell the administration they can or cannot move forward with something without their blessing, that’s kind of their job. And when parents and teachers are telling the school board they feel the process is screwed up, the School Board needs to sit their employee (Super Maher) down and explain to him that they are the legislative body that determines how money is spent and what programs move forward. Simply telling them it is not their ‘function’ is unacceptable. When governing the school district, whether that is budgets, new schools, elections or tax op-outs, that is their job, and thye best do it. We elect them to represent us, the people and parents who fund the district. Public Schools are NOT some fascist regime that can do whatever they want to.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls School Board continues to be more worthless by the day

UPDATE: If you watch the above video you will hear Mr. Vik talk about the district’s low levees while waiting later to say that the district valuation is very high ($11 Billion) but said that is because they have a lot of students. I can tell you that our valuations are very high. I had some friends build a brand new home in Brookings a couple of years ago. They told me that if they would have built the same home in Sioux Falls it would have cost them $100K more. Also, I can tell my mom’s home in a small SD town would probably be worth 3x more if it were in Sioux Falls. Vik can boast all he wants about our ‘low’ levees but our valuations are thru the roof.

Don’t we elect these people to effectively monitor the administration when it comes to policy and budgeting? The citizens of Sioux Falls are tired of the continued tax hikes that get closer and closer together each year.

The Sioux Falls School District’s fund balance is at its lowest point in 25 years, and it can’t be relied on as a savings account to balance the budget in the future.

That’s one of several reasons the school board is eyeing a long-term opt-out financial strategy for possibly the next 10 years, school officials said during a school board work session Wednesday afternoon.

In the past year we have seen another water increase (and more to come) multiple opt-outs from Minnehaha County, the city increased property taxes, the school district suckered us into a $300 million dollar bond to build schools they have no money to staff. We all knew this was coming. Instead of constantly raising our taxes how about some cutting and I am not talking about student’s education. I think it is time the SFSD laid off administrative staff we don’t need and no raises for them until they equal out with teacher pay, you know, 49th not 26th. It’s so easy to spend other people’s money and who is protecting the taxpayers? Certainly not our school board who do virtually nothing except slobber on themselves during the meetings.

UPDATE: Why doesn’t the Sioux Falls School Board set policy?

UPDATE: Funny how the SFSD backtracks after they get busted. Me has a feeling some very angry board members probably made a few calls last night telling the administration to release the information. Now if we could just take a gander at the bond election ballots.

We heard it during the Dem Forum debate from incumbent board member Reiter when it came to elections, as a school board they don’t set policy on elections.

We hear it again in this article when it comes to cuts in arts curriculum;

The school board heard an informational report about the schedules earlier this year, and members had a chance to weigh in on the report at that time.

And the chances of school board member taking action on the issue are zero, district spokesperson Carly Uthe said Tuesday. That’s because the issue of creating new elementary schedules is an administrative function and not one of the elected governing body.

But isn’t the School Board supposed to be checking what the administration is doing? They cannot simply act alone when it comes to budgeting. They can offer solutions or suggestions, but the power of the purse is within the prevue of the board NOT the administration.

And from Facebook;

As an elected board, like the city council, isn’t it the job of the School Board to set or at the very least APPROVE polices like cuts to curriculum or setting up precincts in an election? What’s the point of having a school board as a check against the administration if they aren’t checking? Our democratic policies in Sioux Falls are going straight to Hell in a Hand Basket. The whole point of having ‘elected’ officials is to check the administrators work and step in when things are not going in the direction the public wants. You are representatives of US not of THEM.

Sioux Falls School Board Elect Baker has serious conflicts

Of course I pointed this out when she was co-chair of the New School Bond Task Force and people told me she had nothing to do with it. Well if you read her conflict form, it tells a different story (DOC: Baker-Conflict)

Bob Baker (Husband), First National Bank of SF, Employee, Shareholder, Director & officer

SFSD deposits and new school bonds.

As I mentioned during the task force meetings the bonds would have to go through First National and I wonder what kind of commission was gleamed on a $190 million dollar bond. But hey, no conflicts there. I also wondered what kind of contracts the school has with SDN, the employer of the Task Force Chair, Mr. Tea Time Vernon Brown.

Baker also lists she is a ‘Community Director’. I did a little digging around, and apparently she heads up a youth group called ‘Youth Roots’ since April 1st. Whatever that is.

I still think the results are a little skewed. While I had no doubt that Nan and Carly would win, I had Nan in 1st place with a sliding vote count going to Carly, Lora and Sarah. It’s a little odd that Nan and Carly got the EXACT same percentage and Sarah and Lora got almost identical to. I also find it a little odd that there was over 700 undervotes but in the bond election there was ONLY 2 (I think, can’t find supporting docs anymore), in 2018 school board election there was 0, in 2017 there was 25 and in 2016 there was 0, in 2015 there was 0.

If you think the SFSD is running their elections above board, I beg to differ.

UPDATE II: Sioux Falls School District vote count complicated

UPDATE II: The AL has a great story this morning about ‘top heavy’ administrative pay (the story should have been done before the election, but better late then never). You can take it the way you want to, but I love the goobly-guck the SFSD uses to justify the enormous pay gap between administrators and teachers. They say SF should pay administrators more because we are a bigger city. LOL. You also have MORE administrators. Over $9 million of this year’s budget goes toward administrative pay which hovers at around $100K average per administrator.

Click to enlarge

CORRECTION: I had originally posted that the votes were counted twice, that is not the case. I jumped to conclusions. A commenter pointed out that you have a possibility of TWO votes per ballot. I feel like a dumbass. But I still stand by what I wrote below. The undervotes are NOT being shown correctly. I also wonder what the odds are of the top two vote getters TYING?

Just look for yourself, according to the SFSD results page, 4,239 votes were counted and 4,247 were cast.

UPDATE: OKAY, this isn’t as bad as it looks, but it’s still questionable, once you figure out that each ballot ‘can’ contain TWO votes. But it also can contain just one or none.

But if you add up the vote count of the four candidates and undervotes you come to a grand total of; 8,478 votes. If if you divide it by 2 you get 4,239 ballots (actual number of ballots counted).

By these numbers they are saying that everyone voted for two candidates. While you certainly could vote for two, some people only vote for one. Where it gets even more complicated, if they seem to have counted the undervotes TWICE. In other words, they consider one blank ballot as TWO undervotes.

I’m even more confused now.

MORE TO COME.

Major FAIL on Political Mailer

As a person who has worked on political mailers for over a decade, certain things have to be right. The most important things are dates, typos and ‘PAID FOR’ designation.

I don’t even know where to start with Baker’s postcard. First off, I received this card TODAY, the day of the election. Not good. It appears she probably mailed this on Friday or Saturday, but with Presort STD, there are NO guarantees when something will show up in your mailbox. The PO guarantees 10-11 days for Presort STD. In SF, it’s between 2-3 days. She should have mailed this NO later than Wednesday or Thursday or went with 1st Class.

But here is the worst part, She only has 10 precincts listed and only 4 of them are correct, the other six in yellow don’t exist. Bad, very bad. How is it that someone running for the School Board doesn’t have enough sense to check the SFSD’s website for polling places?