Shamokin Area School District taxpayers seemed OK, though not thrilled, with the original arrangement of having now-former-Superintendent James Zack stay on as “transition administrator” for an extra seven months when his replacement, Chris Venna, began duties back on July 1.
As Zack pointed out, he was saving the district some money by agreeing to retire six months early (June 30 instead of the end of the year) and contracting for a slightly lower rate to provide the transition duties.
The board’s 6-3 vote on Nov. 20, however, to extend Zack’s transition contract for another five months is more than it seems most taxpayers are willing to accept. And we don’t blame them.
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Zack retiring six months early saved the district half of his $143,000 annual salary, $71,500. But most of that was spent on the transition contract, $68,500, though it was for seven months so the district saved $3,000 and got another month’s work out of Zack.
Working at the same rate of the first extension for another five months, however, will cost the district another $48,928. In the end, Zack will have earned $117,428 for July 1 to June 30 — well beyond the $71,500 he would have saved the district by retiring June 30. This, of course, is on top of what the district pays its other eight administrators.
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It seems a consultant role would have been better. Maybe the district wouldn’t get the same bang for its buck in such an arrangement — let’s say Zack could charge $100 an hour for consultant work versus the current rate of about $60 — but occasional consultant work likely wouldn’t have added up to $117,000.
The argument is that Zack is well versed in several key areas of administration, including two ongoing lawsuits, teacher evaluations and contracts. Certainly the district also pays for attorney representation on the legal matters and, while it’s likely Zack’s rate is cheaper than an attorney, it seems like overkill to employ him for those duties even at his rate.
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As to the other administrative skills — will everything be settled in those roles by June 30? Probably not. So does the board extend the contract again?
The point is, there will never be the perfect scenario where everyone is comfortable with breaking with Zack and moving on.
Taxpayers must remember that they elect a school board to make tough decisions such as this one. But we agree with those who believe seven months should have been enough.