Akron school board rejects, at least for now, superintendent's proposal for admin help

The Akron Public Schools Sylvester Small Administration Building.
The Akron Public Schools Sylvester Small Administration Building.

The Akron Public Schools board on Monday rejected, at least for now, a proposal from Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack to add four administrative positions to the district's central office staff.

The vote was 4-3, with the board's leadership, President N.J. Akbar and Vice President Derrick Hall, voting against the resolution, along with Valerie McKitrick and new member Carla Jackson.

'Not sustainable': Akron schools superintendent asks board for more administrative help

The four said they weren't necessarily against adding the positions, but they had additional questions they didn't feel were adequately answered before the vote.

Fowler Mack said after the meeting she would work with the board to "get clarity as to what information needs the board has."

"I will work with the board and press forward because I think it's something that's needed," she said.

Fowler Mack presented her proposal for the positions at the board's last meeting, but as Hall noted Monday, that meeting was held on Valentine's Day, when they elected for a shorter meeting and delayed asking questions.

At that Feb. 14 meeting, Fowler Mack said the positions were needed to build capacity at the district level to support the work being done by teachers and other school-based staff.

"It's not sustainable to operate as lean as we are with as ambitious as a strategy as we've adopted," she said in an interview with the Beacon.

Fowler Mack reiterated the need Monday night.

"Right now we are challenged with capacity because we are both in the place of responding in the immediate post-pandemic sense and needing to also plan and serve forward," she said.

The new positions include a supervisor of secondary school principals, a director of student and family services and a director of safety services.

All three were presented at the previous board meeting, but a fourth — a coordinator of expanded learning — was added Monday.

"Some of these jobs... I would love not to need," Fowler Mack said, calling out the safety and security job in particular.

Each position had its own salary range, with the highest-paid job being the principal supervisor position, with a range of $114,753.97 to $138,853.33.

In total, the positions could cost more than $500,000.

McKitrick said she was concerned that the board would be approving an increase in spending at the administrative level without first addressing lower-wage workers, including paraprofessionals, who have come before the board in recent weeks asking for increases in pay.

The other three expressed similar concerns.

"We do want to make sure we are prioritizing those at the lower end (of the salary scale) first," Akbar said.

Fowler Mack said the district is in the midst of a wage audit and that addressing the needs of those workers is not mutually exclusive with ensuring the district has enough administrative support to execute on its vision.

The board held discussion before the vote, with board member Bruce Alexander making a motion to approve the recommendation of the superintendent. New member Job Perry seconded the motion. Hall and McKitrick said they didn't feel at at that time like they had their questions answered, but the vote went ahead.

Following the vote, the board continued to discuss the issue, with Fowler Mack and Treasurer Ryan Pendleton answering questions.

The matter can be brought up at a future board meeting. Akbar at one point suggested it could wait for a vote until the summer.

Alexander said that would be "shooting ourselves in the foot" with recruitment for the jobs. Administrators have until July 10 to give notice to a current job if they are leaving.

Last summer, the board approved a new chief of leadership and learning on Fowler Mack's first day as superintendent, in early July.

The board just approved the candidate for that job Monday night.

Contact education reporter Jennifer Pignolet at jpignolet@thebeaconjournal.com, at 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: APS board votes down superintendent proposal for more admin support