The dollars and cents fueling public education in Apache Junction

At the helm of the Apache Junction Unified School District is Dr. Krista Anderson who takes home six-figures in her service of public education. (Richard H. Dyer, Independent Newsmeda)

The Apache Junction and Queen Creek unified school districts pay a similar amount to their superintendents — $135,000 and $148,753.13 respectfully — with the possibility of additional performance-based pay, according to public records.

Queen Creek Unified School District offers its superintendent an additional 5 percent for performance-based pay if he earns an overall rating of “meets expectations” or above in governing board assessment in six areas, while Apache Junction Unified School District’s superintendent is to receive 2 percent to 6 percent if the governing board agrees that she has earned overall ratings of “outstanding” or “satisfactory” in four performance categories.

AJUSD has a high school, a junior-high school and three elementary schools, according to ajusd.org.

QCUSD has a high school (plus another opening in 2019), two middle schools and six elementary schools.

Records sought

Public-records requests were e-mailed Feb. 2 to the Apache Junction and Queen Creek unified school districts asking for superintendent and administration salaries and employment contracts.

Sally Marks, AJUSD public information specialist, said in a Feb. 4 e-mail that Superintendent Dr. Krista Anderson’s contract and compensation were on the district’s website and provided the link. “I’m not sure who else’s you want or who you mean by administrators. Please let me know and I’ll start assembling it for you,” she said.

An e-mail was sent Feb. 5 to Ms. Marks stating, “For administrators, please provide the information for the assistant superintendent (Dr. Jennifer Cruz) and all department heads (Cindy Reichert, finance director; Heather Wallace, director of educational services; Karen Warhus, food services director; Lisa Harrison, human resources coordinator; Larry Hill, facilities director; Heather Wallace, special education; Lori Jioras, transportation director; and Renee Jackson, technology director).”

The documents were ready Feb. 7 and were picked up at the AJUSD offices Feb. 12 for 25 cents a page, or $10.50.

In a Feb. 7 e-mail, Stephanie Ingersoll, QCUSD PR/marketing specialist, said: “We are dedicated to transparency and will work to fulfill your request. That being said, I do want to let you know, with it being the busiest time of year for HR this request will take some time. I can get you the superintendent employment contract fairly quickly. Additionally, we have posted on our website the administrative salary schedule.”

In a Feb. 19 e-mail, she wrote that the superintendent’s contract was available. On Feb. 28 Ms. Ingersoll e-mailed to state all were ready. “The documents are now available for you to inspect for free at the district office. If you would like any copies of the documents – either on paper, on a thumb drive, or via email – there is a fee of $0.25 per page per district policy. The total cost for your request is $33.75.”

After a request for the documents to be e-mailed, she wrote back March 1, stating “I would like to clarify my last email. These documents can’t be emailed. My apologies for any confusion. I can either mail the documents to your office or fax them to you upon receipt of payment.”

On March 5 the documents were picked up at the QCUSD offices at a cost of $33.75.

AJUSD superintendent

Dr. Krista Anderson

Dr. Anderson, superintendent, is in a three-year contract with AJUSD, commencing on July 1, 2017 and ending on June 30, 2020.

During the 2017-18 fiscal year, the district paid the superintendent an annual base salary of $135,000, minus mandatory and voluntary deductions. During the second and third fiscal years of the agreement, the AJUSD Governing Board may adjust the superintendent’s base salary upward but not downward, the contract states.

During each fiscal year of the agreement, no less than 2 percent and no more than 6 percent of the superintendent’s annual base salary for that fiscal year shall be designated as performance based pay, which may be earned in addition to the superintendent’s annual base salary. The superintendent shall have earned the performance-based pay if a majority of the board agrees that the superintendent has earned overall ratings of “outstanding” or “satisfactory” on the performance categories of education, management, governing board and personnel.

If funding cuts, delays or other occurrences beyond the district’s control cause the district to receive funding at lower levels than projected during each fiscal year of the agreement, the superintendent agrees to accept the same salary reduction or furlough as the board imposes upon other 12-month certified administrators.

The superintendent annually is to be paid an administrative stipend of $10,000 for health care savings, flex spending, additional disability coverage, additional business-related travel, professional books, journals, professional memberships, etc.

The agreement allows for the superintendent to have 20 days of vacation time during each fiscal year, exclusive of legal holidays. Vacation time may be accumulated during the term of this agreement, up to a maximum of 30 days. At the option of the superintendent, up to 10 earned and unused vacation days may be paid out by the district at any time during each fiscal year at 100 percent of the current per diem rate of pay.

The district provides the superintendent with an automobile allowance of $600 per month during each fiscal year of the agreement.

The superintendent is given a district-owned laptop or other computer device(s) that shall be used for professional purposes and which shall be returned to the district when the employment relationship has ended.

An allowance of $100 a month is provided for a cellphone with e-mail capabilities.

Other AJUSD administrators

All of the 12-month administrator contracts for the Apache Junction Unified School District state that set contract amounts could be reduced due to budgetary constraints or increased, with governing board approval, if there is an increase in funding.

The base salary may be reduced by not more than 5 percent if any of the following occurs: the district’s base support level, revenue control limit, or general budget limit is less or becomes less than that authorized; the district fails to receive funds in the amount initially budgeted for such year; the district does not receive funds that the district anticipates receiving from the Arizona legislature or from any federal fund; or the average daily attendance during the real-time measurement of student or fractional student attendance becomes less than that anticipated based upon the first 40 and first 100 days attendance. The administrator shall be given not fewer than 10 calendar days’ notice of any reduction in base salary that occurs as a result of this. Should such reduced funding occur, the board may eliminate the administrator’s position at the end of the contract year, the contracts state.

The administrator may be given a raise in salary if so approved by the governing board if the base support level funding that is made available to the district through legislative appropriation, state sales tax revenues, payment of back revenue owed by the state, decrease in anticipated cuts or decrease in revenue drop, other legal enactment and/or through cost savings in the district and if those revenues are appropriated, authorized, and/or permitted to be used for salaries during the 2018·2019 school year.

“Any such salary increase shall be apportioned to administrator in a manner that will be determined by the governing board, unless the authorizing enactment specifies the method by which the increase is to be distributed. The board may, in its sole discretion, increase administrator’s salary or may make a one-time allocation of funds to administrator in an amount not to exceed 10 percent of the base salary to supplement administrator’s base salary during the fiscal year,” the contracts state.

The one-time payment may be paid to an administrator in a single payment or in multiple payments, the contracts state.

The district may provide a personal electronic device such as a tablet, iPad, laptop and cellphone for work-related purposes.

AJUSD administrator salaries provided are:

Dr. Jennifer Cruz
  • Jennifer Cruz, assistant superintendent, on May 1, 2018, was issued a 260-day contract to be paid $110,000 as a full-time-equivalent employee. She was hired July 10, 2017.
  • Renee M. Jackson, technology director, on July 9, 2018, was issued a 255-day contract to be paid $74,293.27 as a full-time-equivalent employee and was issued a new 140-day contract on Dec. 17, 2018, to be paid $32,632.60 as a .80 full-time equivalent employee, or 32 hours a week. Hire dates are July 9, 2018, for the first contract and Dec. 17, 2018, for the second one.
  • Cynthia L. Reichert, finance director, on June 19, 2018, was issued a 260-day contract to be paid $75,000 as a full-time-equivalent employee, with an additional $500 for professional growth for a total of $75,500. She was hired July 1, 2009.
  • Heather A. Wallace, educational services director, on May 1, 2018, was issued a 260-day contract to be paid $87,312.50 as a full-time-equivalent employee. She was hired Aug. 3, 2000. A June 19, 2018, letter attached to the contract stated that as a result of the Arizona State Legislature in May 2018 approving additional K-12 education funding and the AJUSD Governing Board on June 12 approving salary increases, Ms. Wallace was to have a base salary for 2018-19 of $87,870.
  • Karen A. Warhus, food services director, on May 16, 2018, was issued a 260-day contract to be paid $60,312.50 as a full-time-equivalent employee. She was hired May 31, 2011.
  • Melissa H. Harrison, human resources coordinator, on May 7, 2018, was issued a certified or teachers contract to be paid $55,818.25 as a .75 full-time-equivalent employee. She was hired July 1, 2016.
  • Larry W. Hill, facilities director, on May 16, 2018, was issued a 260-day contract to be paid $55,050 as a full-time-equivalent employee. He was hired July 3, 2017.
  • Lori Rae Jioras, transportation director, on May 8, 2018, was issued a 260-day contract to be paid $65,312.50 as a full-time-equivalent employee. She was hired May 8, 2018.

QCUSD superintendent

Dr. Perry Berry is in a three-contract with the district, from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2020.

During the first fiscal year, the district paid an annual base salary of $148,753.13, not including a 5 percent performance-based pay or a stipend for community/legislative/organizational engagement.

The performance pay is given if he earns an overall rating of “meets expectations” or above in a governing board assessment of the following rating criteria: relationships with the board, community relationships, staff and personnel relationships, educational leadership, fiscal leadership and personal qualities.

A fund of $5,000 was established in the budget for the superintendent’s memberships in civic, educational and professional organizations. Up to $500 of it may be used by the superintendent for involvement in the community, the contract states.

The district reimburses the superintendent for “reasonable and necessary” travel and business expenses incurred in the performance of his duties under the contract.

A stipend of $2,500 is provided for food, travel and other expenses as the governing board expects the superintendent to participate in civic activities and organizations and to engage in other meetings, events and activities intended to provide benefit to the district by promoting positive relationships, awareness and support of the district’s education mission, it states.

A fund was established for $3,000 annually for the superintendent to attend professional meetings at the local, state and national levels,

He receives 25 days of vacation annually, exclusive of legal holidays. He may carry forward earned vacation to a maximum of 50 days, with any days over that purchased by the district at the daily rate of pay.

He also receives 13 days of general leave annually, which may be accumulated to a limit of 150 days. Upon separation, retirement or at the option of the superintendent, he may be reimbursed for up to five days of accumulated leave at his daily rate of pay.

He is paid $700 a month for costs associated with using a personal vehicle for business use.

The district annually provides $10,000 for a non-elective contribution to the 403(b) account.

The superintendent is also given $12,900 annually for an administrative stipend for additional business-related travel, professional books and/or journals, professional memberships, leadership training seminars and voluntary benefits. The amount may be adjusted by no more than 2 percent the second and third year of the contract.

He is to use his personal cellular phone for business use associated with his job duties as superintendent and be compensated $100 a month.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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