Chelsea school board approves superintendent contract

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The Chelsea School District Board of Education, by a 5 to 2 vote, put its support behind a revised contract for the superintendent.

The contract term is dated retroactively from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2024, and includes a pay raise.

At its Sept. 27 meeting, the school board officially approved the changes to the superintendent's compensation package.

This comes after the contract was put forth at a meeting earlier in September and after CSD Superintendent Julie Helber was evaluated and given a rating of effective by the school board this past spring.

Under the compensation section of the agreement, the contract now reads:

“For the 2021-2022 year, the District will pay the Superintendent an annual base salary of one hundred fifty-four thousand five hundred seventy-one dollars ($154,571.00). The Superintendent's base salary shall increase annually in an amount equal to two percent (2%) of her base salary in the immediately preceding year on condition that her annual performance rating is effective or highly effective, unless otherwise agreed by the parties in writing.”

“A. Merit Pay: Superintendent shall receive $2,500 in Merit Pay for an overall performance appraisal of “effective or highly effective” per year.”

“B. Extra Duty: Bond work- As further compensation, the district shall pay the Superintendent for this additional assignment dependent on the Board of Education evaluation of the following essential duties:

1. Management of projects associated with the bond that was recently passed. Pending an effective or highly effective evaluation for this position, the District shall pay a lump sum in the amount of $5,000 per year.”

Before the vote was taken, each school board member was given a chance to speak and give their take.

One point made by school board trustee Jason Eyster noted the management of projects. He said he appreciates having Helber helping to lead the oversight of the bond work. He said when she first came on in the district they were dealing with a bond of $6-7 million, but now the district is overseeing the implementation of an $81 million bond.

He said he appreciates that she’s competent with staff assistance to do this without the district having to hire outside help.

As far as looking to make individual improvements, Eyster said he believes Helber is receptive and able to.

Board trustee Keri Poulter said they have heard a lot from the community, including concerns over test scores. Citing that there is an upcoming board work session on test score data, Poulter said she was disappointed they couldn’t have seen a closer look at the data and its evaluation in lead up to this contract decision, which may have been more helpful.

At the previous meeting, Poulter said the timing of this was off as they did the evaluation months ago and that it might be better to wait till the next review.

Poulter and board trustee Tammy Lehman were the no votes on this contract change.

In giving her take on a few sides of this discussion, board president Kristin van Reesema said the test scores and data does matter and it did play a part in Helber receiving an effective rating, but not one exceeding that.

In an overall look, van Reesema said Helber’s expertise is in curriculum and the district has seen some excellent changes because of her leadership.

Citing Helber’s six- years so far with the district, board vice president Shawn Quilter said the district now has a long history of evaluating Helber and her work, and he personally feels they are very lucky to have her.

In going back to the timing issue, board trustee Eric Wilkinson said this all began back in April and even in February when the evaluation process started, which he said was when a decision like this would normally take place. However, it wasn’t a normal time and he said they had a lot on their plate at that time with addressing changes/issues with COVID as well as the uncertainty then with future funding from the state. In addition, they were working on two bargaining agreements with different staffing/employee groups.

Wilkinson said they addressed the most pressing issues first, such as getting back to in-person learning, and moved forward on a budget after some better clarification from the state, and then finally ratifying agreements with support staff and the teachers.

Now they were addressing the contract, which he said isn’t out of left field because they’ve been taking a measured approach going through these critical pieces and priorities that they need to do as a school board in running the district.

Earlier in the meeting, van Reesema said discussions and a decision on the contract were delayed because of the other pressing issues.

In follow up to the decision, The Sun Times News (STN) reached out to Helber to get her response.

“I thank the Board of Education for their confidence in me as Superintendent of the Chelsea School District and am very appreciative to them for their support of my contract revisions,” Helber said.

STN also asked about the test scores.

Helber said, “We will be reviewing test scores at the work session. We look at very detailed reports from multiple assessments that are individualized by grade level and content area. I encourage those interested to attend the work session to get a complete picture of the successes and areas of improvement we have identified.”

The work session is scheduled for 6: 30 p.m. on October 11.

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