Amid concerns from the community over a proposed $20 million budget cut, Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton said Wednesday he would recommend that his salary be cut by 5 percent.
Superintendent Tom Shelton and Board member Amanda Ferguson
Shelton, who was paid $254,610 in 2013, according to figures released by school officials last fall, has been responding to criticism after announcements that the 2014-2015 budget would need to be trimmed by $20 million and that positions would be cut.
Fayette School Board Chairman John Price said late Wednesday afternoon that Shelton discussed with him the decision to cut his own pay before proposing it. The pay cut requires the board's approval.
"I support him in that," Price said. "For him to volunteer to take a cut in pay without reducing the number of days worked is good leadership on his part."
Shelton's proposal would reduce his annual salary to $241, 879.50 — a difference of $12,730.50, school district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said.
Deffendall said Shelton would not comment on the matter.
"Dr. Shelton said he didn't do this to seek any publicity," she told the Herald-Leader. "Tom said this was a personal decision and that he just felt like it was the right thing to do."
Shelton's contract with Fayette County Public Schools started in Sept. 1. 2011 and continues to June 30, 2015. Shelton was paid $240,000 when he was hired in 2011. Stu Silberman, Shelton's predecessor, made about $244,000 before he left the district in 2011.
Wednesday's email from Shelton follows a flurry of interest and public outcry about the budget.
In the last week, Shelton has made attempts to respond to parents, teachers and others, including board member Amanda Ferguson, who have been vocal about concerns over impending cuts and what they perceived as a lack of information provided by Shelton.
On Monday, Shelton, citing "distrust and paranoia" of a proposed staffing formula for schools crafted by district officials, pulled a discussion of that policy from the board's agenda that night. He pledged to get public input at a March 6 forum before taking further action.
Parents and teachers have been up in arms over rumors that music, band, orchestra, arts and gifted and talented programs could take the biggest hits. Shelton has said those reports were unfounded, and has said those programs would not be eliminated.
During Monday's school board meeting, Shelton said that public response over the proposed cuts has showed him that people were passionate about what happens in Fayette County Public Schools.
Shelton said that he received more than 1,000 emails over the weekend. Some emails were about the budget. Others were staffing related. Still others were words of encouragement.
"Many were supportive of the direction and focus of the district," he said. "I receive over 400 daily during an average work week. Normally this slows substantially over the weekend but did not last weekend."
Shelton, in an email message to staff provided to the Herald-Leader on Wednesday, said, "We know that we must attempt to absorb as much as possible of the reductions in areas that do not directly affect our schools."
"To that end, we will attempt to share the responsibility for any cuts so that as few employees as possible would lose employment," he said.
Shelton reiterated that he thought the majority of any staffing changes would be handled through attrition. He told reporters on Monday that 300 to 400 employees leave the district voluntarily every year.
Shelton's email Wednesday to the staff said the district will work to reduce "hours and/or days worked for any affected employees before we would eliminate positions."
"To that end, I will personally recommend to our board that my contract salary be lowered by 5 percent effective July 1," Shelton said. "We will still have 95 percent of the resources we have had in the past but will be more efficient and effective in the use of these resources as we work toward equity for all students."
Shelton repeated in the email that he would develop a budget proposal for the school board in May that would minimize any possible negative impact on student services and achievement.
School board member Daryl Love was among those who praised Shelton's voluntary decision to reduce his salary.
"For him, it's leading by example," said Love. "Everybody's going to have to kind of share in the cuts."