Ypsilanti school district seals deal with new superintendent despite concerns over compensation package
After more than six months and two superintendent searches, the 3,800-student Ypsilanti school district has a new leader.
The Board of Education approved a three-year contract tonight with Dedrick Martin, executive director of equity and achievement at the Champaign, Ill., Unit 4 school district. Martin begins work this week.
Under the contract, Martin’s annual salary will be $140,000, plus benefits. His package includes a $300 monthly stipend for a car and a $75 monthly stipend for a cell phone, a laptop computer and a $2,500 annual bonus if he completes his doctoral dissertation. The district will also pay $800 a month for up to four months to cover temporary housing.
The board approved the contract in a 6-1 vote, with Trustee Andy Fanta dissenting. Fanta earlier had voted against entering into contract negotiations with Martin. Tonight Fanta objected to some of the provisions of the contract, such as paying for temporary housing, saying the district can't afford it.
Martin, 37, will need to hit the ground running. The district is required to file a deficit elimination plan with the state by Dec. 15, which must outline how to deal with a growing deficit.Â
The district is in the midst of contract negotiations with its teachers. And the tight times have seen unpopular cuts: Parents are being asked to fund field trips, and teachers complained tonight that the district’s arts program is hurting, and only 50 cents per student is spent annually on supplies for art, music and physical education.
Martin replaces James Hawkins, who began his second tenure with the district in 2005. He retires at the end of the week or early next week. Hawkins first served as school chief in the 1980s.
Martin said he's ready to tackle his first superintendent’s job. He said student achievement will be his top priority, followed by dealing with the district’s finances. He said he also wants to boost student enrollment.
Kelly Powers, president of the Ypsilanti Education Association, which represents the district’s teachers, objected to Martin’s compensation package. She said it's too generous during such tough economic times - especially since Martin doesn’t have a Ph.D. or superintendent experience.Â
“I think it should be something more reasonable,” she said. “Why are you paying someone top dollar when you’re not paying (teachers) top dollar?”
The district ended last school year $2.1 million in debt and is on track to end the current school year $4 million in debt. The district would be ending the year $6.2 million in the hole except for the sale of Fletcher Elementary School, which pumped a one-time infusion of $2.2 million into the budget, said Kelli Glenn, acting chief financial officer.
Even some board members were squeamish about parts of Martin’s compensation package.
“It’s really very difficult for me to hear that we only have 50 cents for supplies and to see cuts in the classroom,” said Trustee Kira Berman. “I wish the contract read a little differently. But I realize there would be a cost to us to not have Mr. Martin start soon so I will support it.”
Martin grew up in Muskegon, earned his bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from the University of Houston. He started his career teaching special education in Texas in 1996, where he went on to became as assistant principal and later a principal before moving to Illinois.
Earlier this year, a first superintendent search ended in a deadlock between two candidates, and the board agreed to start anew.
Janet Miller is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com.