Paul Gubba believes salary increases should be based on performance.

"I have confidence in the team, but I think if someone excels, they should be rewarded," he said.

The Grove City school director spoke at Monday's work session about his disapproval of non-union employees receiving the same dollar figure for increases this year, particularly the district's administrators and the business manager/board secretary.

"I struggle with this," Gubba said.

According to information given to the board:

An increase of $2,507 is being recommended for the district's seven principals and technology coordinator. The business manager/board secretary salary is also looking at the same raise. The nine employees' salaries currently range from more than $67,200 to more than $106,300.

The recommended increases -- as well as other employees' raises, such as supervisors, other technology employees, the district psychologist, executive secretaries, secretaries and maintenance -- will be voted on by the board at Monday's business meeting. The recommended increases range from $892 to $1,687. The positions currently pay between nearly $26,500 to more than $61,300.

Also, a $157 increase for a transportation coordinator stipend who earns more than $5,700 is being recommended.

All of the recommended increases are total $31,024, a 2.79 percent from last year's raises. Two positions are still open: for HVAC/AC electrical and carpentry/plumbing. Three new positions for athletic director, director of maintenance and maintenance were approved in June, and an assistant technology position will be up for a vote Monday.

Superintendent Dr. Richard Mextorf explained that administrative raises are evaluated by him. "We discussed it last year. If everyone was doing a satisfactory job, everybody gets the same dollar increase... The board was more comfortable with that."

He noted that former Director William Norris led the way in those discussions Ð and that the 2.75 percent increase for the last teacher contract was used as an average for the majority of the non-union raises.

Having merit-based increases would make Mextorf less of a "coach" and more of a "referee," he added.

A coach means, "We're all trying to get better together. We appreciate there's a salary increase and we're thought of enough that we'll be recognized with an increase," he said. "It's not about, 'How much can I get a bigger piece of the pie, so you can get less of a piece.'"

A referee develops criteria for raises based on merit and performance, Mextorf said. "Is that really what we should be doing in the public sector?"

Gubba was still uncomfortable. "I struggle handing out increases without reasons behind it. Quite frankly, I think it's unfair to administrators and teachers," he added, when some do more work than others.

On the other hand, Gubba acknowledged that the 2.75 percent used as an average for most of the Act 93 increases "is below the cost of living," he said. "Last year, the cost of living had gone up 3 percent."

He wondered if board members could delay Monday's vote to discuss further how the Act 93 increases should be implemented.

A merit-based system must "be really well thought out and really well discussed," Mextorf said, where the administrators would be able to "have a seat at the table." It would be considered a "meet and discuss" rather than a "contract negotiation," the superintendent noted.

"It can't happen for right now, but we can have it ready for next year so everyone can know what the rules are," said Director Roberta Hensel. "I don't think you can willy nilly say, 'Tomorrow we're going to merit-based pay.'"

"Right now, we need to put trust in Dr. Mextorf," board member Vern Saylor added. "If we change, it'll be a lengthy process with enormous dialog."

"I've walked down the merit path before, and it causes a lot more hard feelings than what the few dollars are worth in my past experiences," Mextorf said. The merit route "isn't impossible to do, but it's not as easy as a sales quota. You cut corners and meet sales quotas ... and maybe you meet the short-term goal, but it's not good in long term."

The administrators "are carrying a lot of water and doing a great job," he added. "I think if you'd ask them individually, they'd say they have gotten good coaching and leadership. It makes me nervous to be a referee."

Gubba agreed that assessing the administrator's talents were "Dr. Mextorf's job," he said. However, "I think they do deserve to be evaluated."

Published Aug. 9, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.

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