“I was just trying to get us to all work together, which we never do.”
— Treasurer Dana Browning
By BROOKE STEVENSON
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE — After a lengthy argument between Board of Education members about an administrator’s contract, it ultimately was extended.
Members had a heated discussion during their meeting March 17 about the extension of Personnel and Policy Director Jane Allman’s contract, and whether the position should be cut. When the motion came up on the agenda, President Robert Kirby asked Treasurer Dana Browning, who was making the motions, if she wanted to address it. He told her she could either make the motion or skip it and move on to the other 17 administrators whose contracts were also up for extension.
Browning said she personally didn’t want to address Allman’s extension, so she skipped over the motion without giving any explanation.
When Trustee Kathy Bedikian asked why the item was skipped, Kirby said Browning had asked him to pull the item from the agenda because she has some concerns with the personnel and policy director position and wanted to meet with Supt. Patricia Cole.
He also had concerns with the position, but Cole told him that other board members felt it should be on the agenda, he added.
Bedikian said the work of the board should be done at the board table during meetings.
“It is the third Tuesday of the month, my children are home and being taken care of by others, my sleeves are rolled up, so let’s get some work done,” she said.
Bedikian made the motion that Browning originally skipped to extend Allman’s administrative contract for the next school year.
Browning said her decision to skip Allman’s extension was sparked by a phone call she received from Cole asking what Browning’s feelings were on the position, because others on the board were against it.
“I do not like to use Jane’s name,” Browning said. “To me it is not personal, and she doesn’t deserve this.”
She added that she wanted to look into the position and find some common ground with the other members in order to determine what would happen if they abolished the position.
“I was just trying to get us to all work together, which we never do,” she said.
Bedikian told Browning she appreciated her not using Allman’s name, but was not sure it was wise to eliminate the position of personnel director in a district that employees over 1,100 people.
Browning said it was a cost savings issue, in light of the proposed closure of McKinley Elementary School and the sixth grade move to Wilson Middle School.
“I guess my intentions were good, but they’re not coming across that way,” she said.
Cole said she did not know how a district of Wyandotte’s size (about 4,800 students) could move forward without a personnel and policy director.
“I can’t imagine ever doing away with the position,”she said. “I can’t even imagine a scenario without a personnel director, a human resource person, someone that takes care of all that work.
“Of all the positions, to pull that position, it feels horrible to me.”
Trustee Michael Swiecki said the issue of eliminating the position should have been discussed long before Allman’s extension appeared on the agenda, and that it wasn’t the board’s responsibility to decide to abolish a position.
“We are not prepared for this, we have not planned for this, and in regard to the motion, I would support Jane Allman,” he said. “If we’re having thoughts of abolishing positions and restructuring in that manner, I think we need to send that to administration and let them come back to us with a plan.”
Bedikian believes more money could be saved in other areas rather than cutting the position, saying only 60 percent of Allman’s salary comes from the district’s general fund.
Kirby said the argument to abolish the position was not on the agenda, and he would like to move on.
Bedikian took exception and said that nothing had been resolved.
Cole clarified that the motion on the agenda was not about the position, but about Allman personally. She added that Allman recently had received an “excellent” evaluation.
Vice President Kevin Van Boxell said that if he had to vote on the motion, he was going to vote on the position, not on the individual, adding that he would like to see administrators cut before teachers or counselors.
“I still think we’re heavy on administrators,” he said. “I’ve been for eliminating (Allman’s) position for years, but I think we should have talked about it first.
“If it’s going to be forced for the vote tonight, I’m going to eliminate the position.”
Bedikian asked Van Boxell to vote on the motion as it was written — on the individual — not on the position.
“The motion is made not as (Van Boxell) interprets it,” she said.“We can look at other options. Everything is under scrutiny. We’re closing a school. There is no sacred cow here.
“We’re going to look at everything across the board here, but tonight we are talking about the people that hold these positions that are currently held in Wyandotte Public Schools.”
Kirby again said he was not ready to vote on the motion pertaining to Allman, and that he felt as if he was being forced to vote on something.
“You know what, then that is what we have to do,” Bedikian told Kirby. “I can’t continue to be held hostage. The business of the board is conducted at this table.”
Swiecki then clarified for Browning that the vote is not about the position, but about the individual based on their performance evaluation.
“The vote is about our intent to keep (Allman) as an employee,” he said. “The secondary issue is whether or not we’re going to keep that position.”
Swiecki added that position cuts would have to be dealt with after the individual was approved and having all of the administrative contract extensions separated was “ludicrous.”
“(The administrative extensions) should all be one motion,” he said. “If we approve all these contracts and the position gets cut, we will have to rectify that situation and make good on that contract.” When the motion came to a vote, it was passed 5-1, with Kirby voting no.
However, when the board moved on to the next item, Van Boxell said he had made a mistake by voting yes for Allman’s extension because he thought he was voting on the next motion.
Kirby changed the vote to 4-2, but the motion still carried.