When Johnson quickly "found" money to keep the program without cutting salaries - but also without providing details of how that might happen - folks started grumbling about Johnson's salary and other perks. Teachers asked in a letter published in the Advocate-Messenger,
Why is our superintendent one of the highest paid superintendents in the state? You have made the contention that the 7.5 to 10% salary increase that came to Mercer County teachers two years ago with the merger, is primarily responsible for the current deficit and have intimated that if teachers cared about kindergarten we would be willing to sacrifice a mere 3.5% to save it.
What about the 93.75% salary increase the superintendent has had during his tenure in office? His salary has gone from a base of $80,000 to $155,000 and that doesn’t
include perks such as a provided vehicle to drive, gasoline for said vehicle, an expense account, etc… Where is his financial accountability and, just as important, where is the board’s accountability for continuing to raise his salary while considering cutting educational programs, teachers’ positions and salaries?
Mercer teachers pointed to a bloated central office and said, "The underlying concerns regarding the manner in which our district is managed still remain and it is our intention to make those concerns public so they can be addressed and dealt with... How is it that funding for kindergarten that could not be found after months of “diligent” effort, was suddenly identified in the last 24 hours?"
This from the Danville Advocate-Messenger:
Yesterday's News:HARRODSBURG — Amid a blaze of criticism over the current budget crisis, Mercer County Superintendent Bruce Johnson sent mixed messages Wednesday regarding his future with the school system.
Fifth-Grade Academy Principal Dana Cobb confirmed Wednesday that at a closed meeting of administrators, Johnson revealed his intention to leave as head of Mercer County schools effective in December. Cobb also confirmed that she sent out an e-mail to her school’s faculty and staff informing them of the news.
When The Advocate-Messenger tried to reach Johnson for comment, secretary Jessica Sims said she could not confirm or deny Johnson’s exit. She said only Johnson himself could do that, but repeated attempts by the newspaper to contact him were
At noon Wednesday, Johnson sent a statement through Lisa Gross at the Kentucky Department of Education to The Advocate-Messenger, painting a less than certain picture of what his future holds.
“Since I began serving as superintendent of the Mercer County school district, I have been heartened by the dedication and work of the district’s staff. I’ve had moments of great pride over student accomplishments, and I’ve come to appreciate the intense involvement of our students’ parents and the community,” Johnson wrote in his statement dated Wednesday.
“I want to see the district through this time of difficulty, because I believe that we will come out of this stronger and more efficient. But, I do not want to be perceived as part of the problem.
“I will offer the Mercer County Board of Education the option to release me from my contract, if that is the wish of the board members. My overriding goal in this situation is to make the best possible decisions for the children in the Mercer County school district, and if the best scenario is for me to no longer serve as superintendent, I will accept that.”Financial review requested
Johnson concluded by noting he has asked the Department of Education to conduct a
financial review of the school system, and that he plans to stay on board as superintendent throughout that process.
Gross said the audit is actually a review and that the district requested it.
“I hope that the community will support the Mercer County school system and show patience as we work through this stressful time,” Johnson ended in his remarks...
...This turn of events marks the latest chapter in a tumultuous few weeks for Mercer
County schools that garnered statewide attention for its monetary duress.
Earlier in the month, the Board of Education announced that the 2008-09 tentative budget called for $2 million in cuts, most noticeably being the elimination of 42 jobs — 20 certified and 22 classified — and the reduction of Mercer’s kindergarten program from full-time to half-day. Johnson had suggested that systemwide 3.5 percent salary cuts would free up enough funds to maintain the program, a possibility that drew harsh criticism.
Later, Mercer County announced it would continue to offer full-day kindergarten next year without the salary reductions but didn’t provide specifics about funding.
School board meetings on May 6 and May 13 proved volatile, with irate parents and teachers vocalizing their frustrations over the district’s fiscal dilemma.
Johnson, who at $155,827 a year is the highest paid area superintendent by more than $30,000, has been a focal point of the attacks.
As of now, next year’s budget remains tabled, and the time and date of the meeting to further discuss its contents remains to be announced...
Johnson appears to resign as Mercer school superintendent
Amid fire for a budget crisis, Mercer County Superintendent Bruce Johnson told a closed administrators meeting this Wednesday that he intends to resign in December, according to a confirmed letter from Mercer County Fifth-Grade Academy Principal Dana Cobb to her school’s staff. However, in a statement, Johnson said he’s offered only the board of education the option to release him from his current contract.
This turn of events marks the latest chapter in a tumultuous few weeks for the Mercer County School System. Earlier in the month, the board of education announced that the 2008-09 tentative budget called for $2 million in cuts, most noticeably being the elimination of 42 jobs—20 certified and 22 classified—and the reduction of Mercer’s kindergarten program from full-time to half-day. Johnson suggested that system-wide 3.5 percent salary cuts would free up enough funds to maintain the program, a consideration that drew harsh criticism from both sides of the financial chasm.
The decision regarding kindergarten, however, has since been overturned, and Mercer County announced it would continue to offer full-day kindergarten for the
2008-09 school year without the salary reductions but declined to formally
announce where the funds to do so from. The tentative budget has remained table
until a special Mercer BOE meeting, the time of which is still to be announced.
The regularly scheduled May 6 and specially-called May 13 meetings of the Mercer County BOE proved fiery, with irate parents and teachers vocalizing their frustrations with the school system’s current fiscal dilemma.
Johnson, himself, and his current salary of $155,827 a year—a figure that makes him the highest paid area superintendent by more than $30,000—has been a focal point of the attacks. In 2000 as Mercer Superintendent, Johnson made $83,886, representing an 85 percent salary increase in eight years.
Mercer County Fifth-Grade Academy Principal Dana Cobb confirmed she sent out an e-mail to school faculty and staff saying that she had participated in an administrators meeting with Johnson Wednesday morning and that he said he would
be resigning in December.
HARRODSBURG — For the first forty minutes of Tuesday night’s specially called Mercer County Board Meeting, Superintendent Bruce Johnson intently studied the Comprehensive School/District Improvement Plans and their accompanying documents. In fact, for the better part of the evening before the public forum, he appeared not to look up.
Had he done so, Johnson would’ve seen a mass of parents and teachers that far eclipsed the massive tally at last week’s regularly scheduled meeting.
It was at that meeting Finance Officer Joy Campbell presented the board with a tentative budget for the 2008-2009 school year, which included $2.2 million in budget reductions from 2007-08. The budget resulted in a number of thought-to-be taboo decisions, the elimination of 42 employees and the scaling back of kindergarten from full-day to half-day being the most controversial of the lot.
The meeting saw several parents speak out their unhappiness with the reductions.
Johnson suggested a 3.5 percent system-wide salary decrease would potentially save enough funds to maintain full-day kindergarten. The board elected to table the issues and conduct a poll of Mercer faculty and staff regarding the potential salary cuts. A special board meeting was scheduled for tonight to discuss the tabled budget and salary schedule.
In the end, however, those items were left off the official agenda, and because of vocal displeasure from those who would’ve been affected, the poll was never conducted.
Informed of kindergarten status by e-mail Monday evening, Mercer County faculty and staff received an e-mail from Johnson informing that full-day kindergarten will be maintained through the 2008-2009 school year without cuts to salaries.
As the board trudged through the decidedly place holder agenda, a nervous twitter could be heard around the room. The board and the crowd alike anticipated an eventful public forum.
Board chairperson Glynda Short began the public comments in a matter-of-fact fashion.
“Well, I know everyone is here for a reason,” she said, inviting Campbell forward to deliver an official statement on the status of the budget and salary schedule. Campbell read verbatim from Johnson’s Monday night e-mail.
“The finance committee has worked diligently to scrutinize the financial status of the Mercer County School District,” read Campbell. “With careful review and thoughtful input from program representatives, the finance committee has determined that full-day kindergarten will be implemented for the 2008-2009 school year, without a district-wide decrease to the salary schedule.”
Short then informed the crowd that, despite what had been previously reported, there would be no board discussion of the budget at the meeting. She then turned the microphone over to the public, beginning a series of blistering tirades on not only the superintendent but the board as well. During the public comments, Johnson and the board remained silent.
The speeches hit a variety of topics, not all exclusive to the kindergarten situation or salary reduction.
Upset by elimination of school nurseThe elimination of a school nurse position hit home for several parents. Mary Dale Coleman, the mother of a child facing disabilities, attacked the board’s decision to cut a one of the school’s nursing positions.
“What you’re doing is discriminating against children with disabilities and kids who have special needs,” Coleman pleaded, saying that having four nurses for five buildings is completely unacceptable.
Next, an elementary school student whose teacher had been let go due to the budget cuts presented the board with a student-signed petition asking for her renewal.
Nekita Johnson took the microphone to speak on two fronts:
She’s both a fifth-grade teacher in the Mercer County School System and the parent of a student who’s allergic to peanuts. Johnson addressed the board, tears streaming down her face, regarding the importance of a nurse at Harlow Elementary and the quality of that school’s faculty.
“I was told by a pediatrician that I should homeschool my son. I was told that he’d never be able to go to public school,” Johnson said, her voice quivering. “But it was made possible due to the diligence of the teachers and staff at Harlow.” Johnson said that although her son is no longer at Harlow, the principle still stands.
“Nothing compares to the peace of mind provided by having a nurse there. Please don’t cut that nurse.”
Steve Goggin, a member of the high school’s site-based council, read an open letter collectively written by some — but not all — of Mercer’s remaining teachers. Before he began to read, Goggin offered that he “knows some feelings may get hurt, and for that I do apologize upfront, as I do not want to diminish the dedicated service of certain individuals, but for addressing the need for change, I offer no apologies.”
The letter, as read by Goggin, alleged a number of items, including that the board had publicly spun the $2.2 million shortfall on the expenses incurred by merging districts in 2006 and attempting to pit parents against teachers in a battle for kindergarten funding. What drew the most reaction from the crowd, however, was the letter’s alleged dissection of Johnson’s apparently rapid salary increases throughout recent years.
“Why is our superintendent one of the highest paid superintendents in the state?” Goggin read. “You have made the contention that the 7.5 to 10 percent salary increase that came to Mercer County teachers two years ago with the merger is primarily responsible for the deficit and have intimated that if teaches cared about kindergarten we would be willing to sacrifice a mere 3.5 percent to save it. What about the 93.75 percent salary increase the superintendent has had during his tenure in office.”
Goggin alleged that Johnson’s salary has gone from a base of $80,000 to $155,000.
An open records request filed by The Advocate-Messenger to obtain Johnson’s salary over the years has as of yet been unfulfilled.
The letter also designated that Johnson received perks such as a vehicle to drive, gas for said vehicle and an expense account.
Goggin’s reading was concluded with a plea for honest answers and explanations, and reminding the board that “the education of the student needs to always be the primary focus of any decision, be it fiscal or otherwise.”
Upon completion, Goggin received a standing ovation from those in attendance and no reaction from the board or Johnson.
Several other parents took to the microphone next, several questioning political motives and ripping at Johnson’s salary.
Teacher alleges to have evidence worthy of board members' removalThings got even more personal when Laura Freeman, a fifth-grade teacher in Mercer, took to the podium, alleging to hold evidence of several grounds for dismissal for board members. She revealed that she’d been in contact with the Attorney General about the current situation.
“Just in case you’ve forgotten, the Attorney General can have you removed if there is just case, and there certainly is. This is the only way we can get to the bottom of this. The only way.”
Freeman also said that it was a shame but “some teachers are afraid for their jobs if they speak up.”
If things were heated before, they exploded when Dallas Waterfill took the floor, ignoring the podium, favoring to get within inches of Johnson’s face on several occasions. Waterfill alleged that Johnson had fabricated a meeting between the two regarding electricity invoices.
“I never, never, never had that meeting with Johnson. It took 65 years of my life to build a good reputation, and I can’t stand for someone like him to try tearing it up.”
At times, Waterfill’s rant became so intense, the crowd let out moans of alarm and worry. Waterfill called for immediate action that didn’t occur.
“Something needs to be done right now!” he screamed. “What if he (Johnson) did as a private citizen what he’s done to Mercer County?”
After Waterfill returned to the audience, an uncomfortable air continued to engulf the auditorium.
Before adjournment, Short was asked that with all of the contradicting information being provided by the board, when an official announcement regarding the budget would be made.
“The details are sill being straightened out. You’ll be notified in advance.”