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Raise OK’d for schools leader

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A proposed $30,000 annual raise and contract extension for the leader of Center Grove schools has been approved.

Center Grove’s school board voted unanimously to raise Superintendent Richard Arkanoff’s base salary by 19 percent, from $157,622 to $187,622. Arkanoff’s contract also was extended though 2016.

Arkanoff has had the highest base salary for a Johnson County public school superintendent since taking the job at Center Grove in 2011.

The board proposed the raise and contract extension about a month ago as a way to reward Arkanoff for his leadership during his nearly two-and-a-half years as superintendent. In that time, Arkanoff has reconvened Center Grove’s strategic planning committee, a group of parents, teachers and residents who have been setting goals for the school district, and has overseen the launch of online courses and an iPad initiative at Center Grove High School.

Residents have had mixed feelings about the proposed raise, and the debate continued during the school board meeting Thursday night.

Residents Jennifer Parker and Robert Hoffman both said Arkanoff deserves the raise.

Contract details

Here are the details of Center Grove Superintendent Richard Arkanoff’s new contract:

Previous base salary: $157,622

New base salary: $187,622

When the new contract expires: 2016

How the board voted: Unanimously

Parker has five children in Center Grove schools, and has been concerned about the leadership of the school district’s previous superintendents. But she said Arkanoff has brought a specific vision to Center Grove.

“He is a great leader who has brought groups together as we work on our common goals,” Parker said.

During a public hearing two weeks ago, four residents told board members that while they agreed Arkanoff deserved a raise, they worried that a 19 percent raise was too much after two years on the job. They were also concerned about the amount of the raise and how it compared with teachers’ pay increases. Teachers get 1 to 2 percent increases each year based on time with the district and training, along with two adjustments to base salaries during the last five years.

Resident Dick Huber, who spoke during an earlier meeting, asked Arkanoff and the board this week to consider what message the raise would send to Center Grove’s other employees.

“Just because someone offers you a 19 percent raise doesn’t mean you have to accept it,” Huber said.

Board member Rob Richards said he appreciated residents’ feedback, but that a school district’s superintendent plays the same role as the head of a company or corporation.

“I think that the guy at the top is key to the success of the corporation. And in this case, it’s a school,” Richards said.

Richards was frustrated with comments he and other board members have received, such as someone working in public education isn’t entitled to such a raise, and that the board isn’t concerned with providing adequate compensation to teachers.

“We dearly care about the teachers. And we’re going to be working through negotiations this year to do what we can,” Richards said.

Arkanoff’s raise comes a few months after school officials announced they were hiring about 30 new employees. The school district is receiving more than $1.3 million from the state, because of changes in the funding formula Indiana uses to fund public schools and because of an increase of about 130 students this school year.

Twenty-two of the new positions are in Center Grove’s classrooms, primarily as aides. Eight of the other jobs included adding a third officer to the Center Grove Police Department, hiring two assistant principals for the elementary schools and hiring a communication specialist for the school district.

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