Salary information for all Billings School District 2 employees except administrators has been posted on the district’s website, a move that the district said is nothing more than an effort to be more transparent.
Superintendent Keith Beeman said the release of salary information on the district’s website was in response to repeated questions from trustees and the public, noting, “This information is basic to an understanding of the district’s budget.”
But Jeff Greenfield, president of the district’s teachers union, isn’t so sure.
“It’s tough to say why they’re doing it,” he said. “Years and years ago, this was a common practice.”
Salary schedules for district employees is public information and available from the district upon request. Teachers in the district start with a base salary of $35,391 and can top out after 14 years at $67,974, depending on how much education and training they earn while teaching.
Greenfield said voluntary releases of salary information can be used by the district to curry sympathy from the public when it sits down to negotiate with a union.
But Greenfield has no intention of negotiating with the district this year.
SD2’s teachers union, the Billings Education Association, announced in January that it would not seek negotiated raises for its teachers. Rather, the union would take no increase and would wait to open its contract for negotiations with the district until next year.
District officials and trustees have said the district will open negotiations this year and sit down with union officials to hammer out a new contract once the Legislature approves a state budget.
But Greenfield has said the district can’t open the contract. He said officials missed the Jan. 1 deadline to request negotiations.
Superintendent Keith Beeman and board President Barbara Bryan have both said the district did give notice before the deadline. Officials are waiting for the Legislature before looking to resolve the impasse.
“I respect the comments Jeff has made on behalf of his members,” Beeman said. “The purpose (of the release) was just to convey information to the public.”
Beeman is restructuring leadership at the district’s central office. Once the restructuring is complete, administrator salaries will also be listed on the district website.
“If it were an attempt to be transparent, everything would have gone up at the same time,” Greenfield said.
Some administrator salaries were announced during Monday night’s board meeting. Beeman requested that the board hire Josh Middleton, Laurel Public Schools’ departing superintendent, as SD2’s new assistant superintendent of administration and operational support.
Middleton will oversee facilities, finances, technology — all departments that used to report directly to Beeman — and earn $115,000 a year.
Gail Surwill, executive director of curriculum and instruction, will be promoted to assistant superintendent of teaching and learning support and will earn the same as Middleton, if approved by the board.
Brenda Koch, superintendent of Elysian Public Schools, was named the new executive director of school leadership support, pending board approval. If hired, she will earn $96,308 a year.