The Rose Hill school board last fall gave its superintendent what appears to be a $50,000 annual increase to also function as the district’s COVID Coordinator for the next three years. The district in rural Butler County is using COVID relief money to fund the increase, according to the December board packet.
According to the Kansas Department of Education, superintendent Randal Chickadonz is paid $161,000 in salary and benefits this year, but amounts reported for prior years indicate that the extra pay for being COVID Coordinator is not included.
The schedule of COVID ESSR funds in the December board packet says the total of $150,000 is for 4.5 years, but comments made at the February board meeting indicate that that includes 1.5 years of fulfilling the duties without pay.
Funding was secured with “Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds” a part of the U. S. Government’s $190 billion Covid-19 Relief Program. According to its website, ESSER “has set aside $122 billion in available funds to help schools safely reopen. The funding allows for expenses that reduce the pandemic’s impacts on students through the purchase of health screening tools, funds for learning loss, and additional resources to address the mental well-being of students impacted by the isolation of the lockdown.”
Paying Chickadonz to be COVID Coordinator has generated controversy among district patrons. Attendees at the February meeting say new board member Richard Ringwall proposed rescinding the pay increase and using the money to provide more COVID sick days for all staff. Ringwall’s proposal was supported by another new board member, Amy Rachinni, but the change was not implemented.
The Sentinel asked Superintendent Chickadonz for comment, but he referred us to Rose Hill School Board President Kylene Roberts, who condemned what she termed “half-truths” and “slander” on the issue and defended the Board’s decision. She did not, however, elaborate on what she considers to be half-truths or slander.
“In November of 2021, the Rose Hill Board of Education, in [an] open forum, voted 7-0 regarding use of ESSR 3 funds. ESSR funds are federal dollars provided to all school districts for use on COVID-related issues. These funds also come with a state oversight committee review to assure proper use.”
The minutes of the November meeting found in the December packet do not indicate any such vote or discussion, however. There is a motion to approve “the agenda” but there is no mention of ESSR 3 funds on the November agenda.
This isn’t the only transparency issue discovered. The district website only provides board packets, minutes, or agendas for the upcoming meeting. No history is provided and the board does not record its meetings.
Board President Roberts told The Sentinel that the position had required 10 to 15 hours per week based on the ongoing duties provided by our superintendent since the beginning of the pandemic a full two years before funding became available. She offered no other justification, however, for paying Chickadonz $150,000.
Roberts says Chickadonz is getting the money in a supplemental contract, not a raise, but she didn’t say whether his salary would decline when the ESSR funds go away.