Danville board keeps pre-retirement pay boost for some employees

DANVILLE — Eligible administrators and non-union flat-salaried staff can still take advantage of a retirement incentive that allows them to receive a 6 percent salary increase each year during their last three years with the district.

Danville school board members on Wednesday voted 4-3 to change retirement language in the district's policy manual for those types of employees so that it mirrors the retirement language in the most recent teachers' contract, despite efforts by some members to put an end to it immediately.

Under the new language, the last day administrators and non-union flat-salaried employees can request the incentive is June 30, 2015.

Board members Frank Young and Steve Bragorgos not only opposed the change, which they both have called "an insult to taxpayers." They also said they didn't understand why the proposal was brought back for another vote on Wednesday when it failed to pass by a 3-3 vote two weeks ago.

"This is a bonus to administrators for nothing," Young said, adding the incentive may have served a purpose at one point but is "no longer valid for this district.

"We as taxpayers are going to be paying another 18 percent over three years so that they can boost their pension. I can't tell you how I think this flies in the face of absolute arrogance."

Young and Bragorgos voted against the proposal along with board member Randal Ashton, as they did earlier this month.

But board President Bill Dobbles said it was a matter of fairness, as board members weren't able to immediately negotiate the incentive out of the teachers' contract.

"I think it's unfair to have the secretary (for) special education or the high school principal be able to have these benefits but the secretary to the board not to," he said, adding only a handful of employees would be eligible before the window closed.

"I also see this benefit as saving money for the district, and therefore, something that benefits the taxpayers," Dobbles continued, adding the incentive has saved the district $150,000 a year by allowing longtime employees with larger salaries to be replaced by staff who earn less.

However, Bragorgos said he didn't think the increase was fair to the community, most of whom don't have a taxpayer-supported pension.

"We can no longer afford this in this day in a community like ours," he said, adding when employees in the private sector take a buyout, "you don't stay for three more years" and receive a 6 percent raise. "It's called a retirement incentive, but we're not (encouraging) anyone to retire. We're just ensuring that people who are going to retire get an extra kick before they leave."

Dobbles, board members Darlene Halloran and Lon Henderson — all former district employees — and Gina McGuire approved the measure.

Also at the meeting during a public comment period, RiCharda Evans told the board she was upset about an incident at North Ridge Middle School, in which her son claims he was strip-searched in an effort to recover $2.05 that he had been accused of taking from another student.

Evans said her son told his dad that on Sept. 10, Principal Jason Bletzinger questioned him and another boy about taking money from a girl at lunch. When the principal asked her son to empty his pockets, he told him he had thrown the money back at the girl.

Evans said her son claimed that Bletzinger and School Resource Officer Amy Wasson took the boys to an office where Wasson searched his backpack, and Bletzinger had him remove his shoes and socks so they could be searched. When no money was recovered, the boy said Bletzinger asked him to remove his pants. After he did, he said Bletzinger shook the pants to see if any money fell out.

The boy also claimed the principal asked him to turn down a pair of gym shorts, which he was wearing over another pair of shorts, and to pull his shirt up in an effort to find the money, Evans said.

"We feel Mr. Bletzinger went too far," Evans said.

Denman said the matter has been fully investigated and addressed.

"It was not a strip search," Denman said, adding the school policy allows a student to be searched in cases of stolen property.

Bletzinger declined to comment on the incident or accusations.

Board member Gina McGuire apologized to Evans and said the board would look into the matter further.

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