HAMMOND, Ind. (CBS) — In the middle of the pandemic, the head of the Hammond, Indiana schools says he wants more money.
And he does not want it at the end of his three-year contract. School City of Hammond Supt. Scott Miller wants a $20,000 raise now, and he is making his case to the school board on Monday night.
As CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas reported, Miller is also going to face pushback from the community.
Paul Buck is a straight shooter – he has coached basketball at Maywood Elementary School in Hammond for 17 years. Now, he is playing defense against the superintendent’s proposed raise.
“It could be used for books. It could be used for classroom materials,” Buck said. “It could be used much better than just putting it in one man’s pocket.”
Miller is shooting for a $170,000 salary. He also wants the district to pay for his Ph.D. at Indiana State University, which could come out to about $30,000.
And he is asking for it halfway through his current three-year contract.
“It should stay right where it is until the contract is up,” Buck said.
Miller told us over the phone he is actually underpaid compared to other superintendents of large Indiana districts.
“There are people that have expressed that to us, that it should just stay at 150 and that’s plenty of money,” McNicholas told Miller.
That is a point Miller brought up five times in McNicholas’ interview with him – including when he was asked about Hammond’s graduation rate, which Miller says increased only slightly after his first full year.
“Despite being in COVID and everything else it stayed almost exactly the same,” Miller said.
The rate is still below the state’s average.
“Why do you think you deserve a raise despite that?” McNicholas asked.
“Again, I’m going to go back to the equity issue,” Miller said. “It’s for the role and responsibility.”
But equity is not a word that coms to mind when the Hammond Teachers Federation reads the proposal. The district just agreed to give teachers a bump of about $1,000 per year.
“It feels extravagant, especially when I sat for months listening to the School City of Hammond tell me how cash-strapped they were and they didn’t have the money, and they didn’t have the money to pay the teachers what we were asking,” said Anita Cox of the Hammond Teacher Federation.
It is not unheard of for a district to cover a superintendent’s tuition. But Vanderbilt University education professor Jason Riggins said changing a contract halfway through is unusual.
“Amendment to contracts to increase compensation would be especially unusual in the current time,” Riggins said.
Buck and others say they plan to speak up at the meeting Monday night. But if Miller can earn the school board’s support, he might have a breakaway.
The school board is expected to vote on the raise later this month. Miller said he expects at least one member to vote no, but he thinks it will pass.