CR board to vote on pay hike for schools’ chief

CAMDEN — Citing “the interest of full transparency to the taxpayers of the Caesar Rodney School District,” a school board member disclosed a possible modification to a new contract agreement with Superintendent Dr. Kevin R. Fitzgerald late last year.

According to board member P. Scott Wilson a proposed $5,000 annual increase in compensation each year from 2020 to 2023 has not yet been approved and is scheduled for a vote at a special public meeting Tuesday.

Dr. Fitzgerald was paid an annual salary of $169,936.01, according to a state employee payroll list released in 2017.

At a regular meeting on Dec. 18, 2018, the school board unanimously approved a two-year extension for a contract set to expire next year, according to School Board President Jessica Marelli.

Also voting “yes” were Mr. Wilson, Vice President Mike Marasco and David Falling. The superintendent said it was done “with the understanding that they would address updating the other terms of the contract at a later date.”

The special meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Paul L. Dunbar Administrative Building at 7 Front Street in Wyoming. Public comments will be accepted after a call to order, roll call, adoption of agenda and approval of minutes from the Jan. 15 regular meeting.

Dr. Kevin R. Fitzgerald

An action item listed on Tuesday’s agenda indicated a recommendation to modify the superintendent’s contract. The current proposal can still be altered, Mr. Wilson said.

Ms. Marelli noted that Dr. Fitzgerald was named 2018 Superintendent of the Year by the National Association of School Superintendents and 2018-19 Administrator of the Year by the Delaware Association of Educational Office Professionals.

He’s held the position since 2007 and is currently the state’s longest serving superintendent, according to the president.

“Our goal is to insure that Dr. Fitzgerald remains superintendent at least through the completion of our district-wide construction projects,” Ms. Marelli said.

According to the board president, while the superintendent “has received some salary adjustments, the contract language has not been updated since his initial contract.

In reviewing the contract language of school districts around the state, the board feels that it is important to bring it up to date.

“The superintendent’s salary, like teachers’ salaries, is made up of a combination of state and local funds. The majority of the salary comes from the state.

“The state funds are impacted by the number of years, advanced degrees, along with a responsibility factor, which takes into consideration the size of the district — the number of students and number of units in the district.

“The school board only negotiates the local salary component with their superintendent.”

Ms. Marelli said any modified contract details will be available publicly after next week’s vote. The standard protocol to receive that information is through filing a Freedom of Information Act request, she said.

Delaware State News filed a FOIA request late Friday morning for modified contract details when available and Dr. Fitzgerald’s previous contract information.

The CR School District is composed of 8,000 students and 12 schools, including a Dover Air Force Base campus for middle and elementary schools, plus a school for students with autism.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board is also scheduled to appoint a new member to fill a vacancy created by a previous member’s departure. Interviews will first be conducted in a closed executive session.

Who’s paid what

In 2017, according to a state employee payroll list, Dr. Fitzgerald received a total salary of $169,936.01 ($3,268 weekly) and also $6,347.46 in other earnings.

Details on the “other earnings” were not described in the list and an attempt to receive that information from CR this week was unsuccessful.

The CR superintendent’s pay ranked No. 118 out of 56,179 state employees listed. Ten other public school administrators earned more.

In Kent County, Capital School District Supt. Daniel C. Shelton made $181,212.84 in 2017, followed by Providence Creek Academy’s Charles E. Taylor ($169,999.96), Dr. Fitzgerald, Polytech’s Deborah Hannah Zych ($163,581.41), Lake Forest’s Brenda Gale Wynder ($153,309.88) and Smyrna’s Patrik D. Williams ($154,759.14). Brandywine’s Mark A. Holodick topped the state’s superintendent’s pay with $239,851.27.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr. was paid $204,148.10. Other state administrators included:

• Col. Nathaniel McQueen Jr., Delaware State Police, $173,081.92

• Director of Public Health, Dr. Karyl Thomas Rattay, $173,039.98

• Gov. John C. Carney Jr., $153,899.93

• Attorney General Matthew P. Denn, $147,892.94

• DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Lynn Cohan, $140,571.98

• Department of Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps, $136,153

• Secretary of State Jeffrey W. Bullock, $130,010.92

• Division of Safety and Homeland Security Director Robert M. Coupe, $118,595.11

• DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin, $96,008.06 (approximately 10 months)

Dr. Fitzgerald was previously a principal and assistant principal at CR High from 1998-2007. He also taught English and social studies in Maryland for 13 years, beginning in 1978.

Following his national award announcement last year, Dr. Fitzgerald reflected on his career goals in education.

“I am humbled by this honor,” he said at the time in a CR news release. “When you enter the field of education it’s not about winning awards or seeking individual recognition. This is about students and making sure they are provided with the tools necessary to succeed in an ever-changing world.

“Whether as a teacher, administrator or superintendent, I’m proud to say that this has always been my focus.”

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