AUGUSTA — A school board committee recommended Superintendent James Anastasio receive the same 2.5 percent raise most other school employees received this year.

After brief but sometimes tense debate, the Personnel Committee voted 3-0 Monday to recommend to the full school board that Anastasio receive the raise, retroactive to July, the same amount school administrators and other employees not represented by a union received this year.

Anastasio’s current salary is $115,000 a year.

Ed Hastings, at-large board member and a committee member, reluctantly voted for the proposal, noting he doesn’t like the “me too” aspect of simply giving the superintendent a raise because other employees received one. He said the city’s financial condition should be part of the conversation about a raise for the superintendent. He suggested board members have been hesitant to speak openly about such issues.

“Part of the reason I’m asking these questions is board members should be able to do so, without people getting upset,” Hastings said. “I’m trying to be a lighting rod, so if you put an idea out there, it should be able to be discussed. I’m not looking to hurt anybody’s feelings.”

Kim Martin, school board chairwoman, responded that Hastings was free to speak, and no one on the board was upset. She also said it wouldn’t be fair not to offer a raise similar to those received by other employees to one district employee, Anastasio. She said the time to bring up changes to how salaries are set is at the beginning of contract negotiations with employees, not after most of those talks have concluded.

“If we’ve given that to everybody else, it would be hard to justify not giving it to the superintendent,” Martin said of the raise.

Anastasio said if the board opened up full negotiations for a new contract with a superintendent, it probably would be for more than his current salary plus a 2.5 percent raise.

“To be honest, if you open it up to negotiations, it’s going to cost you more,” said Anastasio, who said he took less than he might be able to get otherwise because he started as an interim superintendent and he knows the district’s financial situation. “You’re not going to fill this position for that.”

Jennifer Day, Ward 1 board member, said she looked at the salaries of superintendents of Maine school districts of similar size and found that Waterville pays its superintendent $129,000; Auburn, $115,000; Bangor, $148,000; Lewiston, $123,000; Fairfield, $122,000; and Portland, $135,000.

Donna Madore, assistant superintendent, said there are a number of vacant superintendent positions, and interim superintendent positions, and school systems are paying a premium to fill those positions.

A former Cony High School principal, Anastasio was named interim superintendent in 2013. A year later, the school board extended his contract through June 2018. In 2015 the “interim” part of his title was removed, after voters, the previous November, voted to remove a City Charter requirement that the superintendent of schools live in Augusta. Anastasio is a Gardiner resident.

Controversy arose in June tied to board members’ annual evaluation of Anastasio. The board went into an executive session June 8 for the purpose of evaluating his job performance. However, the vote to go into the closed-door session, at 5-4, didn’t meet the requirements in state law and the board’s own policies that call for an affirmative vote of at least three-fifths of members present — in that case, six members — to go into executive session.

Some members said then they didn’t feel all aspects of the evaluation had been completed and needed to be resolved first. Board members first had a tie vote about whether to go into the closed-door session, leaving Martin, the chairwoman, to cast the deciding vote to enter the executive session.

Martin said in a statement two days later that she miscalculated the numbers during the executive session vote, and she took responsibility for that mistake in directing the board to enter the session. She said no actions were taken by the board during the session.

Martin, in her statement, also referred to a state law that deems school employee evaluations confidential, which allows the board to enter into executive session for those talks.

Board members have since met again in executive session for the purpose of evaluating the superintendent.

School board policy states the board will evaluate the performance of the superintendent “as a regular and scheduled activity.” The primary purpose of the evaluation, the policy states, “will be to continually improve administrative leadership, to strengthen the working relationship of the board and superintendent governance team, and to assist the board in reviewing issues associated with the superintendent’s employment.” The policy does not specify a time frame, but it does make several time frame references that indicate it is performed annually.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj