By DAVID GREEN
Fayette school superintendent Russ Griggs figures he’s saving taxpayers a little more than a mill worth of taxes by serving on a part-time basis.
He wants to bump the savings up to 1.8 mills in the next school year by working even fewer days.
“Contrary to the current business model used by major corporations,” Griggs said, “my reductions start at the top of the organization.”
Griggs was hired in 2007 to replace David Hankins who was retiring. Griggs, himself, was a retired school administrator with more than 25 years of experience. When Griggs was interviewed for the job, he spoke with board of education members about working less than full time.
When his contract was renewed for the 2008-09 school year, the new pact called for a reduction of 30 working days. For the current school year, another 20 days was cut out of the contract.
The standard contract for a superintendent in Ohio calls for 260 days on the job, Griggs said. He’s down to 210 days this year and proposes dropping to 150 days for the next school year.
“Due to the size of the school district and having two building administrators already in the district made discussing the concept possible,” Griggs wrote in a letter to the board. “Past experience at Stryker Local Schools showed the concept was effective in a transition period. Stryker Schools passed a bond issue and an operating levy while reducing growth in operational spending with a part-time superintendent.”
Shrinking revenue and growing costs require boards to be creative, Griggs said. Since he is already officially retired, the board doesn’t pay for his health insurance or vacation time.
Griggs said his current reduced schedule saved the district more than $43,000. His proposal for fewer days next year would result in a savings of $68,955 for 2009-10.
Griggs said his status allows flexibility with a mix of half-day and full-day sessions. Communication via e-mail and cellular phone allows contact when he’s out of the office. The majority of daily issues can be addressed by the principals and support staff, he said.
On the negative side, Griggs acknowledged that he isn’t always available for immediate consultation by students, staff or community members. With the frequency of meetings and off-campus obligations, Griggs said he’s often unavailable with the current contract.
Griggs pointed out to the board that it has protection should he not get the job done or go into “a coasting mode.”
“The contract with the superintendent has a clause that allows the majority of the board to terminate the contract at any time, with notice, without cause or repercussions to the district,” he wrote.
Griggs wrote that he wouldn’t want to continue working in the district without the support of board members.
When he leaves, Griggs said, the board should keep in mind that it would face much higher administrative costs if returning to the traditional full-time superintendent.
If his proposal for a further reduction in days is accepted, Griggs said that his savings to the district, from when he started in Dec. 2007 through the end of July 2010, would total $123,984.
Budget cuts due to shrinking revenue are expected to be announced at the next board of education meeting March 16.
A response from board of education president Paula Schaffner arrived too late for publication:
I have two ways of looking at Russ's schedule. One is that sometimes it is inconvenient not to be able to call or stop in to talk to him at any time as one might do with a "full-time" superintendent. However, I found that, as Russ mentions in his article, many times a superintendent is out of the office attending to things in the building, or at meetings which are important that he attend. I do know that we are able to contact him immediately by phone or email if necessary. Would I like a superintendent that is here full-time? The answer is, "Yes."
The other way is that over that last few years we have been trying to find ways to save money. One way to save money was to hire Russ. He came to us with many years of experience and some of these years as a "less-than-full-time" superintendent. He was aware of what could and couldn't be done in a situation like ours. He has come into our district, finished overseeing the building project, spend countless hours working out the "blips" that come with a building project as big as ours with as many different contractors that we had. He is working to help us find ways to save money in the future. We are not waiting to see what we MAY or MAY NOT get from the state or the federal government. Right now he is saving us quite a bit of money by being part-time.
We DO NOT want to have to come back the community for more money. We know that if and when we do, there will be those who will say, "Yeah, they built that new school and now they need more money to run it." Well, to them I would say that if we hadn't built the new school, we would probably have been to you much sooner to keep the old buildings running. The Franklin Building needed a new sewage system and a new water system. The EPA gave us a pass because we were going to move out of the Franklin Building. The Fayette Building need many, many repairs that would have been very costly. Without the money we received from the OSFC, we would have come to the public for funds to make those and continued costly repairs to keep the two older buildings safe and up-to-code.