SKOWHEGAN — Some members of the school board are angry that a pay raise was approved last week for Superintendent Brent Colbry without adding an agreed-to wage hike for subsequent years.

The School Administrative District 54 board granted Colbry a one-year extension to his five-year contract by a 13 to 6 vote, with four members absent from the meeting. The contract now expires in 2017 when he retires.

The extension included a 2 percent pay increase for fiscal 2012-13.

The problem, according to school board members Jane Arthur, Jennifer Lynds and Jennifer Poirier, is that Colbry offered to accept a salary freeze on his pay through the end of the contract if board members agreed to this one-time pay increase.

The salary freeze was not mentioned in the combined motion for a contract extension and a 2 percent increase in pay, a point Arthur, of Skowhegan, said will be a problem in the future.

“Because of the board voting yes on that motion, we’re going to be faced with possible increases for the superintendent from now until he retires; whereas he had offered to take a freeze after next year,” Arthur said Monday.

Board Vice Chairman Patrick Elwell, of Smithfield, said he made the motion without the salary freeze because it would not be binding to future boards if Colbry sought another pay raise.

“Any future board certainly could chose to override that at any point and I didn’t think it was appropriate at this time,” Elwell said Tuesday. “If he chooses not to seek a raise in the future, that’s great — he’s made that promise and I’m sure everyone will remember it.”

Colbry pledged this week not to request further pay increases. He said his 2 percent increase was a matter of fairness with teachers and support staff about to receive pay raises next year.

“There was no collusion,” Colbry said. “I made the offer in good faith. The motion that got made did not include the freeze. Every board member knew what they were voting on and voted. I have absolutely no intention of asking for another raise after this year.”

Colbry, like many other superintendents, said he has a long-term contract that is extended annually by one year. He said it is done simply to replace the year that has gone by. Elwell said the board has granted Colbry the same one-year extension for several years and is nothing new.

Lynds, of Cornville, a member of the district’s personnel committee, said she was present when Colbry said he would agree to a pay freeze if he was given a 2 percent increase this coming year. With the board vote last Thursday, that guarantee is gone, she said.

“I voted no,” Lynds said Monday of the contract vote. “I thought it was irresponsible for the board not considering taking him up on his offer for a pay freeze. The whole board knew that he had made that offer.”

The vote was 13 in favor of the extension and salary increase, with six opposed and four absent from the meeting.

Poirier, of Skowhegan, agreed with Lynds’ assessment of the board’s actions, and said giving Colbry a pay increase during hard economic times will open the door to pay increases for all administrators in the district.

“We know we’re facing a lot of cuts this year as far as funding and it may seem as a minuscule amount … but all these little things add up and could result in the need to cut teachers and programs,” Poirier said.

Colbry earns $108,389 a year and also has an option that allows him to either take health insurance through the district or the cash it would have cost to cover him. Colbry takes the cash, bringing his total annual compensation to $132,182.

The average salary for the state’s 122 school superintendents — not including benefits — is $91,399, including full-time and part-time superintendents and those overseeing small rural units, according to the Maine Department of Education.

Colbry said school superintendents work 50 to 70 hours a week and attend every committee meeting.

He said he will propose raises for the upcoming 2012-13 budget for all district administrators, because they have not had raises in two years.

“We’ve given that same thing to every other employee in the district, so it’s a matter of fairness,” he said. “Administrators have taken a wage freeze for two years — this year would make three.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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