Squawk that turns to talk is worthwhile

Published 11:37pm Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Does the Natchez-Adams School District pay its top administrators too much? Or does it have too many top administrators?

I don’t know. But I know how I’d find out, if allowed.

You can’t simply look at a list of numbers, become flabbergasted and start squawking about salaries.

Sure, $844,976.66 — the sum of the annual salaries for the top 10 administrators — sounds like a lot of money to most of us.

The top 10 people in most Adams County businesses probably don’t make that much in a year, either.

Further, the individual salaries of these administrators — between $80,000 and $117,000 — is far above the median income in our community, which is $27,096.

But before you get back to your flabbergasted squawking again, please realize that if we hope to ever raise our median income from $27,096 we must invest money in the people leading our school district.

The employees in the top administrative roles need to be some of the most educated, most professional people in town.

School Board President Wayne Barnett is correct — you can’t compare them to the average county employee whose job is to clear roads of debris, track inventory or maintain crumbling bridges.

But you also can’t cut school administrators a check each month without doing some serious monitoring of their work. Every employee in the world needs that.

It has to start simply. How do they spend their days?

Is every minute consumed with something that either directly or indirectly improves the education of our students or must be done to meet state or federal reporting regulations?

If significant gaps of time that simply aren’t well used exist in their schedules, then it may be time to consider merging that job with another.

Paying an employee $1 to waste time is paying them $1 too much.

If time is spent on task, then someone must start asking whether or not the task is meeting the goals of the district and whether the employee is accomplishing the task as quickly as someone else might be able to do.

This is not rocket science.

But, according to at least two school board members, there are doubts that it’s been done thoroughly.

The school district isn’t set up like a business — there’s no CEO who can hire and fire at will — and regardless of what plenty of taxpayers in the community will say, it shouldn’t be run like a business, either.

It can, of course, do some things in a business-like manner.

The board has acknowledged concern over salaries and has spent time at several recent meetings discussing the issue.

That’s a great start, and they seem on the right track.

Now it’s time for the board to make a decision about who will handle one-by-one employee reviews. Who will sit down with the top 10 administrators and genuinely seek to learn how they spend their time?

Who will review the reports from that person?

What will the board do with the information they receive?

Few outside the district should point to salary numbers and say “too high.”

But those of us on the outside have every right to demand that the men and women appointed to represent us on the school board look at each employee and ask thorough questions, now, and again each year.

If both sides do their part, our future will be brighter.


Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.