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LAEA critical of district budget status

Published May 17. 2011 05:00PM

(Editor's note: The following is a statement received from the Lehighton Area Education Association. It is critical of statements of the school district superintendent as well as some financial practices by the district).

Once again the Lehighton Area Education Association (LAEA) and the Lehighton Area Educational Support Professionals (LAESP) is mortified by the blatant mistruths and misinformation being stated by our Superintendent and Board President.

The administration and School Board has recently publicized a financial crisis and a $600,000 deficit. This is somewhat very strange since just two short months ago our Board President, David Krause, announced on TV 13 that we were in good shape financially.

Our Superintendent, James Kraky, also announced at a Building Task Force meeting, we were in good shape financially. Then within two months an alleged deficit appeared changing from $900,000 to $400,000 then to $600,000.

What is it really?

The Lehighton Area Education Association asked, both verbally and in writing, for them to justify these numbers. They have not.

The LAEA has asked for the information we need to help the Lehighton Area School District through whatever crisis they may have, and are more than willing to find solutions that carry on throughout the years. However, the Superintendent and Board President seem to want to keep everybody, including the taxpayers, in the dark.

It is less and less transparent all the time. There is no desire to work together, just a unilateral approach by the District that's going nowhere, for the employees, the community and most of all our students.

Here are some "facts" that we do know. The Superintendent has a "Discretionary Fund" he can draw from to cover whatever expenses he chooses. The District will not tell us what has been set aside in this fund only what money was spent.

Our Superintendent still gets an allowance to travel to and from work. How many taxpayers get paid to go to and from work? He now gets $275 per month to assist with his driving expenses. The Administration Office has a coffee service while the remaining employees buy their coffee while coming to work or make it with the supplies they buy on their own.

In a District with roughly 2,500 students, we have a Business Manager ($96,595 up from $84,460) an Assistant Business Manager ($60,078), a secretary to those administrators, and still outsourced additional work to the Jim Thorpe Business manager and an employee of the Northwestern Lehigh School District.

As a matter of fact, all of the school districts in Carbon County and many in Schuylkill County have only one business manager. In Lehighton it takes four people to do a job that one should be able to do. Why?

A Northwestern SD acquaintance was also given remote access to all of the district's financial information from her home in New Tripoli by the Superintendent and Business Manager without any approval by the Lehighton School Board.

Apparently she was allowed access because the district's business manager did not understand how to input the district's information into our program to report our budget to the state.

They are looking to hire a Human Resource person. Maybe another $70,000 administrator to do a job that's always been done in-house. Just another way to increase administration, spend unnecessary money, and "act" like a big district.

Although the LAEA asked, it is still unclear what the actual fund balance and surplus is in Lehighton. Another secret maybe?

Our Superintendent just got a $4,620 raise over last year's $133,306 annual salary. Now that he got his raise we, the teachers and support staff, should agree to a pay freeze?


It's equally interesting that Mr. Kraky does not have a Doctoral Degree. He is making well over $140,000 with benefits while teachers in the District who have a Master's Degree plus 45 or more additional credits make less than half of his salary.

Our Business Manager, Mike Malay, just got a $12,135 pay raise this past year. You're not reading wrong, that really is $12,135 in one year!

We have Educational Support Staff who don't even make that in one year. Maybe he'll agree to a pay freeze now as well?

If you ask "why?" to the above two items, they'll tell you their hands are tied as they have a contract to honor. First, who negotiated and signed those contracts? Second, why can't they honor our contracts if honoring a contract is so important to them?

A lawn service was just approved even though we already have support staff to cut the grass. Why can't the LAESP members, hired students, and former students perform this task as they have done in the past?

At last night's board meeting the school board also agreed to eliminate "Driver's Education on the Road Training" taught by local district teachers. They instead have outsourced it to the Intermediate Unit 21 thus hurting the students from Lehighton and eliminating that rapport between staff and students.

Our Business Manager is the official Board Secretary, yet we pay someone else to take his notes at every meeting. Why?

The Board knows, and so do other Districts, that the District saves money by offering a retirement incentive to get teachers to retire who are at the top of the salary schedule, yet they fail to act. Northern Lehigh took advantage of this and saved $600,000. Their Board proudly publicized that fact.

Now we're looking at a multimillion dollar building program. It's time this Superintendent and School Board get serious and be forthright with the teachers, support staff, and taxpayers of this district. They have a motto "Together We Can", yet they don't want to do anything "together".

They want to keep things to themselves and point the finger at someone else when problems arise. The LAEA and LAESP have always wanted the best for our students and community.

We live here, work here, pay taxes here and spend our money here. Only 3 of the 16 administrators can say that. It's time the taxpaying public attends Board meetings and question what's going on. How can we waste so much money and then claim financial woes?

It's time the taxpayers rise up and make our Board and leadership more accountable. You don't have to look far to see where money flows like water for some, while those who are educating your children and keeping them safe have to constantly take the brunt of poor decision-making.

The teachers and support staff are more than willing to work with the District in keeping our school financially sound. But first, we need to work together, and the District put on the table all pertinent information that allows for a logical and prudent decision.

Please take advantage of Courtesy of the Floor at the next Board meeting June 20, 7 p.m., at the Lehighton Area Administration building at 1000 Union Street.

Feel free to speak your mind or ask some questions. Maybe you'll have more luck getting answers?

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