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SJSD Supt. Responds to Stipend Concerns

St. Joseph School District Superintendent Dr. Fred Czerwonka explains the district's stipend policy for staff and responds to criticism it is being mishandled.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A review of the St. Joseph School District's salary book for the 2014-15 school year details the stipend program for staff.

A head football coach receives $5,000-$5,900.

A high school academic bowl coach gets $3,900-$4,500.

A cheerleader sponsor is scheduled to receive $3,200-$3,850.

In total, 465 certified staff members will get some kind of stipend next year. That's 55 percent of the total staff and costs the district nearly $2.5 million.

"You have people who have extra duties, extra responsibilities who work extra days from a counselor that may do enrollment at the end of the year to a football coach or band teacher or speech debate or choir," said Dr. Fred Czerwonka, superintendent of schools.

Czerwonka says the practice of paying stipends is common throughout school districts across Missouri.

However, Board of Education member Chris Danford is upset about some of the stipends for high level administrative staff.

She raised some of her concerns publicly during a board meeting Monday, then talked exclusively to KQ2 afterward.

"Some of the administrators make over $35,000 in stipends on top of their salaries," she said.

Danford is especially concerned that the stipends policy had been hidden from the board for years and it was just coming out now. She says it is the responsibility of the board to set salaries and the implementation of stipends violates board policy.

Dr. Czerwonka says he's already looking for a solution.

"One of the things that we've talked about with the board is doing away with all stipends and just having that as their salary," he said. "This is something I did inherit and this is something that working with the board we can fix."

Dr. Czerwonka says the stipend system has been in place since the late 1990s with a purpose of helping to boost the pay of employees.
He says stipends are needed to keep salaries competitive with other school districts, primarily in the suburban areas of Kansas City, to avoid losing staff.

Danford says that trying to keep competitive is a difficult task.

"We can't compare ourselves to the suburban schools, I'm sorry," she said. "I went to Park Hill. They paid me very nicely. What they have for a levy is very nice too. We don't have that luxury."

Dr. Czerwonka is more optimistic.

"I would challenge that statement just for the fact that our goal is to be a premiere school district in the state and in this country," he said. "We will do that. To say we can't do something is saying, that is an impossible thing, I'd rather say, yes, that it possible."

Since the stipend system has been in place since the 1990s, former superintendent and current board president Dr. Dan Colgan also was familiar with the stipend program.

"I would look at the schedules from other school districts that were comperable in size with comparable positions," Colgan said. "Our administrative staff has always been paid below those figures."

Danford says since her public criticism at the board meeting and her interview with KQ2, she's received supporting calls and emails.

She says she felt it was important to point out the stipend program as she sees it because she is responsible to taxpayers.


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