Stipends not unreasonable for school board service

WSESD board members cite breadth and depth of board responsibilities and increased time commitments in their request to district voters for compensation

BRATTLEBORO — The Windham Southeast School District board is asking the voters to approve stipends of $7,000 for regular board directors and $9,000 for the chair of the board.

The Act 46 merger - which combined four separate school districts (Putney, Guilford, Dummerston and Brattleboro), each with its own board, into one district-wide board - has impacted the breadth and depth of board responsibilities, while also increasing time commitments to an extent that few could have anticipated.

We understand that stipends are far from being the primary motivation for serving the school district.

At the same time, economic adversity should not be an obstacle for anyone who wants to do so.

* * *

We offer three main justifications for an increase in stipends:

1. Vastly broader range of fiduciary responsibilities. The WSESD board is now responsible for a budget of over $60 million for pre-K through 12th grade in nine schools in four towns plus Early Education Services. Serving more than 2,200 students, our district is now one of the largest in Vermont.

2. Much greater time commitments. In addition to two (two-hour) regular meetings per month, each board member serves on at least two standing committees and one Leadership Council.

In addition to public meetings held twice a month, board members frequently meet privately in executive session to handle personnel and student issues.

There are numerous policies, warrants, and payrolls to review and approve, ever-changing “guidance” from the state Legislature to keep up with, professional trainings to attend, and educational papers, blogs, and forums on student learning and assessment to stay abreast of.

In addition, board members regularly field emails and phone calls from community members - our constituents - on a number of issues. In these unprecedented times, community engagement has been more important than ever.

It is not unusual for board members to spend over 20 hours a week preparing for and attending meetings to promote quality educational opportunities and to ensure the health and safety of more than 2,200 students.

3. Extra compensation for the chair: The responsibilities of the chair of the board quite clearly justify extra compensation. The general public sees this person hosting regular meetings, ensuring that Robert's Rules are followed and time schedules are respected. In fact, the chair's responsibilities extend to far more.

The chair, in collaboration with others, sets the agenda. The chair serves as the crucial link between the superintendent's office and the board. This person is also chiefly responsible for keeping up with legislative matters that impact education in the district and the state.

The chair, more than any other person, ensures that the district adheres to established policies and creates new policies when needed.

As leader of the board, the chair is largely responsible for ensuring that we are meeting the mission and goals of the WSESD.

For these reasons, extra compensation is clearly warranted.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates