Eight people are running in the Nov. 6 election to fill four seats on the Ferndale Board of Education.
Last week, all eight candidates participated in their first candidate forum at Ferndale City Hall, hosted by the League of Women Voters. Two more forums are planned Oct. 28 and Oct. 29.
In the meantime, let's take a look back at some of their individual responses, in case you missed it last week. Today, here's a recap on what the candidates had to say about Superintendent Gary Meier's salary, as well as contracts involving his consulting firm Innovative Consulting Education (ICE).
Superintendent salary and contracts
Question: Do you support the superintendent's current contracts and salary- why or why not?
Katrina Collins said she was part of reviewing Superintendent Gary Meier's contracts and she does support his salary and contracts. "He has not taken any raise in the last couple of years," she said. As for his consulting contract, Collins said: "I signed that contract a year ago and in that year I have not seen any problems with it," she said, noting that Meier "works 24/7 for the district."
Regarding the $180,000 a year the district gains under the contract, Collins said, "if we didn't have that we'd have to find that somewhere else."
Keivn Deegan-Krause said Meier's five-year contract is too long, his salary is too high and there is not enough oversight. "We have the highest paid superintendent in Oakland County," he said, and the fourth-highest-paid top administrators in the county. He said there needs to be more oversight and attention from the school board. "We could probably save some costs as well."
Deegan-Krause also said the district doesn't need the distractions of the consulting. "Our district has enough challenges as it is," he said.
Raylon Leaks-May said a five-year contract may be too long and she would prefer one-year contracts. "Contracts are fine but us being citizens of this community I think they should be made public, we should know what they're about when we ask about these contracts," she said. "... None of us know what it consists of. And it effects our district and I think everyone here has a right to know."
Jim O'Donnell said it's a problem that Meier is the highest compensated in the county and said Ferndale's teachers are the second lowest paid.
"The board is responsible for both," he said. O'Donnell also called for "much more detailed disclosure" and transparency and more oversight from the board on contracts.
Brad Parks said consulting "is a good thing for the district." He said his wife, who is a teacher in another district, has consulting contracts based on her expertise.
"If you can serve as the subject matter expert for your district it shows you have qualities people are looking for," he said.
Jim Pfleger said he's "not an advocate of turnover" and prefers long-term contracts. He pointed out that probably no one thinks Justin Verlander's five-year contract is a bad deal right now.
"This superintendent has done an excellent job for this district," he said, adding that the district's administrators are also well qualified and well respected. He said other districts have sought out Meier for an interview. "[The contract] was a good thing for this district," he said.
Keith Warnick said he does support the superintendent's salary. "He might be one of the highest [paid in the county] but he's been with the district for 12 years and the average superintendent serves for three," Warnick said.
As for his consulting work, "they work on Ferndale business first before they work on any consulting issues."
Amy Butters said "a lot of things" trouble her about the topic and said parents are often surprised when they find out Meier has a consulting contract. "People are like 'What? Who is he really working for?"
She said the consulting could be fine "but we don't know because there's not a whole lot of information about the contract." She also has concerns over the nature of the business, advising other districts about charter schools. "That troubles me. We're a public school district and there needs to be an advocacy for public schools," she said. "It just raises a lot of red flags for me."
The above is just a summary of what the candidates had to say at the forum on the topic of Meier's salary and contracts. You can view a video of the full forum online here.
Want to learn more about each of the candidates and their positions? Find links to their profiles below.