By Rita Cook / The Ellis County Press
PALMER – In a follow-up to the Palmer ISD story several weeks ago, Palmer ISD Superintendent Kevin Noack responded to several resident’s concerns regarding ISD salaries, unwarranted rumors, the current Head Start Program and the athletic department budget.
It was reported for the 2015-16 school year the Palmer ISD teachers’ salaries were averaging $8,998 less than the state average.
Specifically, elementary teachers were making $10,671 less, middle school teachers were making $11,263 less and high school teachers were making $5,174 less than the state average.
Noack said, “Our salary schedule is comparable with school districts our size on the front end of the salary schedule.”
He did indicate that the district does need to improve the middle part of the salary schedule.
Noack also pointed out a variety of perks that Palmer ISD teachers receive that are not customary in many other districts.
For example he said the district pays a $1,000 Christmas/retention bonus to all staff members each year, a portion of their dental insurance and, while the state requires school districts pay $175 per month towards an employee’s health insurance, Palmer ISD pays $350 per month.
“Our teachers also only work 182 days as compared to the vast majority of other districts whose staff works 187 days,” Noack added.
The question of Noack’s salary had also been brought up. The concerned resident, using the Texas Education Agency average, said he believed Noack’s salary at $163,681 was high based on that agency’s numbers.
Noack confirmed he did make this salary, but adde
“I don’t compare my salary with other school district salaries paid to their superintendents. I will add that I am completing my eighth year in Palmer and 16 total years as a superintendent and that does play a part in the superintendent’s salary.”
Noack received his last salary increase at the beginning of the year.
“Historically, superintendent contracts are discussed and action taken in the January board meeting,” he explained.
“All teachers will receive a salary increase for next year.”
ISD Head Start
Noack did confirm that Palmer ISD will be dropping the district’s current Head Start program at the end of the school year. Some residents were under the impression this was to save the district money. Noack said not true.
“Eliminating the Head Start Program and going to four Pre-K classes will actually cost the district more money that the current Head Start Program,” he explained. “Administration feels that we can do a better job of educating the kids in a regular half-day Pre-K program. Students in Head Start attend school a full day. Because of Federal Guidelines, they receive 210 minutes of actual instructional time. Students in our current half-day Pre-K receive 220 minutes of instructional time. PPCD students also attend the Head Start Program. We have nine PPCD students in that class.”
Noack said the district will have four half-day Pre-K classes that will enable the PPCD students to be placed in four different classes.
“We believe this will create a better learning environment for those students. This will also allow us to accept more students into the Pre-K Program at no cost to the parent,” he said.
Athletic Department Budget
The Athletic Department budget was also of concern to some residents.
In February, at the school board meeting there was an Athletic Director’s report. The Athletic director indicated he would like to see a new building built to facilitate all sport work-outs. This was estimated to cost up to $500,000. The director was also said to be hoping for money to be given to improve the current field house to accommodate visitor locker rooms and a locker room remodel at the High School gym to accommodate visiting teams. A budget for the new work was not approved at that meeting.
Noack said “We are in the beginning phases of developing the 2017-2018 budget. It will be later in the summer before any decisions are made on budgeting for next year.”
The Palmer Superintendent also brought up some rumors that he believed needed to be addressed. Rumor number one was Palmer ISD had in excess of $600,000 left from the bond election and the district was spending $3.5 million-dollar on an indoor practice facility.
In documents Noack sent the Ellis County Press he referred to the first page and said “it shows where we actually spent $199,169 more than was budgeted on the new elementary. The second page is the documentation supporting this copied straight out of the audit. We transferred the $199,169 out of the general fund balance to cover the expenses.”
The second rumor, he said, was about the school district being bankrupt or it will be bankrupt in 10 years.
“The next page is a spread sheet that contains our fund balances for the last 17 years,” Noack said. “As you can see from the spread sheet, our fund balance is healthier than ever with $4.2 million in the bank. The next five sheets contain information of positions eliminated during attrition, and projects designed to save the district money. The next two pages are copies out of our 2009 and 2016 Audits. As evidenced in these pages, from 2009 to 2016 our fund balance shows a significant increase as well as our capital assets.”