School board says no to 28 percent raise for facility director

The Oshkosh school board declined to give a 28 percent pay raise to the district’s buildings and grounds director, who is being recruited for another job.

Superintendent Stan Mack II had recommended the $23,300 raise in effort to keep Randy Johnston, who manages maintenance and capital projects for the district, from leaving.

But several board members on Wednesday said the increase was not appropriate at a time when teachers and other staff have been on a pay freeze for two consecutive years and the board is cutting millions of dollars in other costs to close a budget deficit.

“It sends the message that those at the top always get taken care of and those at the bottom don’t. I can’t get past that,” board member Kelli Saginak said. “It’s not Randy (Johnston). It’s the message it sends. So I can’t do it. At some point somebody needs to say no.”

The salary proposal would have given Johnston a $5,256 permanent salary bump and an additional $18,000 stipend each of the next three years.

The measure failed on a 3-2 vote. John Lemberger and Steve Eliasen joined Saginak in voting against the raise. Board president Matt Wiedenhoeft and Steve Dedow voted for it. Two board members, Allison Garner and Karl Loewenstein were absent.

The Oshkosh school district has struggled to hold onto its administrators in recent years. Since the 2009-10 school year, 16 principals and 10 central office administrators have resigned or retired.

As a result of the turnover, only five of the district’s 21 schools have had the same principal for more than three years, and only two of the district’s top nine administrators have remained longer than three years, according to district staffing records.

Dedow said he believes the cost of the raise would not have exceeded the cost of replacing Johnston.

The average salary for facility directors in 15 similarly-sized districts is $90,487, according to a district report. Johnston currently makes $82,462.

If the board approved the pay raise, Johnston would have made $105,720 each of the next three years followed by $87,720 once the stipend ended.

The $18,000 stipend was meant to compensate Johnston for overseeing and commissioning more than $40 million in special projects, including the new $13 million Oaklawn Elementary School, $21.5 million in energy saving projects and other work.

Mack said Johnston has been working around 60 hours per week to keep up with these projects along with his normal duties.

“Quite frankly, in my opinion, if we end up hiring a new maintenance official to handle this, we’d have to hire a second person out just to manage these projects,” said Dedow. “To me, $18,000 in salary to oversee $41 million in work seems an awful small amount.”

About Adam Rodewald

Adam Rodewald is the senior reporter for The Oshkosh Northwestern and a member of the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team. He has been a professional journalist since 2006. He specializes in open records, data analysis, and issues surrounding education, children and families.
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