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Ingram gets raise despite dropout rates

Date: 5/10/2011

May 11, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — Despite increases in the dropout rate and decreases in the graduation rate for Springfield schools, the School Committee voted to give Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram not only a cost of living adjustment (COLA) but a performance raise that was higher than the one originally stated in his contract.

Ingram, whose base pay is $190,000, is in the third year of a five-year contract. The vote taken by the School Committee gave Ingram a COLA of 1.5 percent from his first year that Ingram delayed in accepting as well as a COLA for the second year of the contract and a 2.5 percent raise to reward performance.

The addition to his pay is about $12,000, according to School Committee member Christopher Collins.

Collins said the contract had not been negotiated by the School Committee but rather by the Finance Control Board. Collins, however, was one of three School Committee members at an April 27 superintendent evaluation subcommittee meeting that voted in favor of increasing the performance raise from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent. The other members were Denise Hurst and Norman Roldan.

According to the minutes of that meeting, the School Committee members acknowledged the graduation rate had decreased and the dropout rate had increased, but truancy has declined. Test scores in English language arts, math and science also increased.

According to the minutes, "However the committee did agree that the goals set the superintendent next year should include graduation/dropout combined as one goal and make it more heavily weighted."

Collins added that while the contract with the superintendent has a raise for performance, there are no goals specified in the agreement.

The graduation rate has declined from 54.5 percent in 2008 to 2009 to 53 percent in 2009 to 2010. The dropout rate over the same period increased from 9.6 percent to 10.5 percent.

Student attendance remained flat at 90.4 percent from the 2008 to 2009 school year to the 2009 to 2010 school year and truancy has declined from 6 percent to 5.4 percent, according to School Department statistics.

Attendance reports as of March 31 showed out of a student enrollment of 24,889 children, there have been 49,594 excused absences, 184,749 incidences of tardiness and 159,096 cases of truancy. During the same period last year, with a larger student base of 25,017, there were 212,087 cases of tardiness and 157,526 of truancy.

Collins acknowledged the superintendent was being rewarded at a time when the School Department is facing an $18 million budget gap.

Antonette Pepe was the one member of the committee to vote against the raise. She said she knows Ingram is trying to make improvements and her vote was "not personal."

Pepe urged the COLA and performances raises be voted on separately, but the motion made by Collins grouped all of the increases together. Collins explained after the meeting that the raises could have been presented as separate votes, but it was the wish of the superintendent evaluation subcommittee to have the raises grouped together.

When the vote to approve the raises was taken, Roldan said his vote was a "hesitant yes," which might change next year if greater improvements aren't made.

Pepe said the superintendent also has a car and a $900 a year parking space provided by the city.


The School Committee also voted to approve the schematic designs for the renovations to Forest Park Middle School. Rita Coppola-Wallace, the city's Capital Asset Construction Director, told the committee with their positive vote, the project now moves to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for its approval of the design.

Coppola-Wallace said students would still enter the school on Oakland Street and into a ground floor lobby that will be "the face of the school."

This ground floor, which utilizes the space provided by the current basement, will be the locations of the administrative offices, as well as the cafeteria, gym, technical classrooms and spaces for music and art classes.

There will be a new gym built on the Garfield Street side of the school that will have separate entrances and restrooms, so it can be used when the rest of the school is closed, she explained.

The current gym will be the space used for a new library and media center, Coppola-Wallace said.

There will be a drop-off area built in Oakland Street to allow the safe pick-up and drop-off of students and Garfield Street from Oakland Street to Litchfield Street would be closed to traffic to increase safety for students as well as parking.

School Committee member Peter Murphy said the designs "look great" and noted the project is on schedule.

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