Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is It Time for AAPS to Raise Top Administrative Salaries?

Tonight, the Ann Arbor school board is being asked to raise the salaries of three of the district's top administrators.

The salaries that are up for a vote relate to the following four administrators, two of whom are new to the district (so the ratification is for contracts that Patricia Greene, Superintendent, and Deb Mexicotte, School Board President, have already signed):

Deputy Superintendent of Instructional Services Alesia Flye, hired in at a salary of $140,000. The former Deputy Superintendent of Instructional Services, Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelly, had a salary in 2010-2011 of $132,000.
Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Dawn Linden, hired in at a salary of $117,900.
The former Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education was also Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelly (prior to taking on the interim appointment of Deputy Superintendent of Instructional Services), and in that capacity her salary was $122,399 in 2010-2011.  It should be noted that Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelly also had 38 years in the Ann Arbor district. (This is not an increase in salary.)

The other two are current staff people:
Deputy Superintendent of Operations, Robert Allen
Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources and Legal Services, David Comsa

In 2010-2011, Robert Allen's salary was $130,556 (before he was interim superintendent, where he earned the same salary as our former superintendent, Todd Roberts).

In 2010-2011, David Comsa's salary was $124,524.

The proposed salary modifications for Robert Allen and David Comsa bring their salaries to the equivalent of the new deputy superintendent Alesia Flye, on the grounds that they should all be equal.

The percentage  increases, relative to 2010-2011 salaries, for the three deputy superintendent salaries are 7.2% (Allen); 12.4% (Comsa); and 6% (Dickinson-Kelly/Flye). Overall, this is an additional expense to the district of nearly $33,000. (If you include the fact that Dawn Linden is getting less pay than Dickinson-Kelly was, the cost is just over $28,400.)

I know what the superintendent is's a big's not a lot of money. 

Wrong! That is the wrong way to think about it! It's hugely symbolic.
The school district has to cut $14 million dollars,
and says to parents, "You need to pay more for x and y."
They say to teachers, "You are going to have to give concessions of x and y." 
They say regarding using local and/or unionized companies, "We are going to go with low-ball bids." (Tonight there is also a discussion/resolution about contracting with a non-unionized, west side of the state company called DM Burr for heating and cooling.)

And then they say, "Oh, but let's raise our salaries."


Please join me in asking the Board of Education to oppose this resolution. Email: or go to tonight's meeting, December 14, 2011, 7 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Read the details about the salaries and the DM Burr contract in the board packet, here:

Read the last board meeting's discussions about salaries, and about the DM Burr contract, in this Ann Arbor Chronicle article.

Update Thursday 12/15/2011: Early this morning, at about 1:30 a.m., the salary resolution was brought back onto the agenda (at 10 p.m. my friend was told it would be voted on at the next board meeting, and had been taken off the agenda for this meeting) and it was approved 4-3, with trustees Baskett, Lightfoot, and Thomas voting against the raises. That is very disappointing to me. And what is even more disappointing is that I wonder now, if I had realized a little bit earlier that it would be on the agenda tonight, could we have changed the outcome of that vote? It only would have taken one more school board member to vote against the resolution. I'll say this: It will get ever more difficult for the administration to convince teachers to take cuts, and to get parents to vote for the tech millage, when they are raising their own salaries.


  1. It isn't a lot of money,although it's not surprising it's the lawyer that got the biggest increase, who'd a thunk it?
    It's the symbolism, I suppose that would tick of a teacher, a teacher that is going to be asked concessions. That $28000 isn't making or breaking anything, but it doesn't come across very well. It's kind of like the DM Burr contract issue, there are board members that would like to pay more for local help, never mind the $65000 in potential savings, but they'll get upset about this pay raise.
    It's all about what that money gets the district, not that actual payout. Is Comsa worth it? I know not, is it worth to level out the pay at that level as to not to have petty jealousies go on? Probably.
    Sometimes people don't realize how much they want things both ways. Those top cabinet people work a lot of hours and take a lot of heat..

  2. Thanks very much for your blog; I really appreciate the information and clear-sighted opinions you provide.

    I am a AAPS parent and I'm really upset about this decision. Since we are in a fiscal emergency and have to deal with larger class sizes and reduced bus services, it seems to me that the sacrifice should be shared. This decision makes the BOE look out-of-touch.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Well said. It's shocking that the Superindentent would promote these increases when just weeks ago she was asking parents where to cut. What's further shocking is that this was removed from the agenda and magically brought back in when most stakeholders were in bed. What manager wouldn't want to have all of their direct reports earning the same as their top paid employee? Keeps things nice and neat. But as any private sector manager knows, salaries are based on many variables including time spent on the job, the skills required and the supply of candidates. Still anxiously waiting to see Patricia Green earn that salary...


  4. -common_cents,

    I moved your comment to this post because I think that is where you meant it to go. . . I hope that is okay!

  5. Ruth,
    I've seen your post and
    and you're motivated to scold the board, who I suspect, may have been somewhat delerious in the wee hour when they cast those votes, I think you're reaction isn't entirely fair.
    I can't say what Pat Green did was great, nor is it so wrong. What happened was the process got out in the open, and they, the boe and Pat Green have caught hell for it.
    But teachers negotiate, it's behind closed doors, and when they are done, then it's done and goes public, and I don't have any say in it either, and those negotiations results are the ones where a teacher gets let go, and my kid gets more kids in a classroom, and I am much more bitter about that outcome.
    Pat Green was roundtabling her staff,so no one was sitting in a better position than the other.
    She may be quite demanding in private, and we don't know that yet, though what I know of her, I suspect she is.
    The anger you have as I think about it some more, is a defense about the cuts that are coming, and the position the teachers are going to take, and how they are going to justify their lack of concessions?
    Just sayin'.

  6. Anon4--just to be very clear about this:
    It's obviously not a lot of money, and I like Robert Allen and David Comsa, but symbolically it's important, because--yes--the board and top administrators are going around saying we have to cut, cut, cut--but they are not showing a willingness to lead in cutting themselves.

    It's symbolic, but symbolism is really important for setting the tone when you are asking everyone else to give something up!

    What's much more upsetting, however, is the process that was used. The item was originally identified as a "special briefing" item, which would be proposed and voted on in the same meeting. Simone Lightfoot moved that the agenda item should go from "special briefing" to "first briefing" (which means it would be voted on that night as a first briefing and at the next meeting in a "second briefing"). Deb Mexicotte voted yes on that motion. If she hadn't, the motion would have failed on a 3-4 vote and stayed as a special briefing. As a special briefing at that point, it would have been voted on earlier in the meeting (and passed).
    I would have disagreed, but that's the board's choice.

    Instead, Mexicotte voted yes in order to give herself the option of bringing the item back (switching it back to special briefing) after 1 a.m. in the morning. And that is not illegal, but in my opinion, it is an egregious misuse of process.

    Would it have been so terrible if this had been voted on as a second briefing in two weeks? Or if Deb Mexicotte had voted no on switching from special briefing to first briefing? She probably would have won anyway, but the process would have been open.

    As for Pat Green, I'm willing to wait and see, but so far. . . meh. She could have negotiated the salary of the first deputy superintendent at a lower rate (comparable to Robert Allen) and thus achieved equity without requiring raises. But she chose not to do that.

    Readers of this blog: If you take away anything from this, it should be that process does matter. Openness matters. Transparency matters.

    This discussion is NOT really about 20 or 30,000 dollars. This discussion is about the ideas and processes that our erstwhile leaders--Mexicotte and Green--bring forth. And right now, it's not looking much like leadership to me.

  7. Hmm. I lost my comment from the other day. All that righteous indignation, poof! Oh, well.

    Yeah. Process. It's all about process. This school board just shot itself in the foot by pulling this dirty trick (and I can't bring myself to think of it as anything but that). They need to be building trust, not destroying it. Good luck with that now.

    I've been to many a school board meeting over the years. Quite a few of them were pretty lengthy, but none were as long as this one was. I have observed that, after 10 p.m., trustees begin saying and doing stupid things and making bad decisions. They're tired, they're overloaded. They should not allow action items (voteable things) after 10:00. No good can come of it.

    - YpsiAnon

  8. I still think the anger is more about impending concessions than if anything was so wrong here. And I do think discussing appproving someone salary with cameras rolling and the press there is wrong somehow, and certainly not allowed when the teachers negotiate.
    Pat Green should get out more in the community.

  9. I just watched that portion of the school board meeting. The discussion was really interesting, watch it if you get a chance.

  10. What is frustrating to me is that Patricia Green, knowing full well that the district has significant budget problems, apparently hired and set a high salary for Alesia Flye without full discussion with the board regarding precedent and equity for comparable staff. At my work, such a discussion is routine -- but would receive particular scrutiny during a budget crunch.

    During the superintendent search, Deb Mexicotte was the one who pushed for the higher salary. It was stated during the 12/14 board meeting that Mexicotte signed the Flye contract, but other board members had no knowledge. And her statement to the effect that 'public input is nice but I know what's needed' is particularly frustrating because not a single person at the budget forums advocated for raising administrative costs as a strategy to deal with our budget problems.

    The experience of our family (2 high school students) is that it's become much harder to do community fundraising. People make comments that the school district wastes money on adminstration so why should they contribute. It's only going to get worse after this.