After meeting in closed session June 24 for a review of Ed Saxton’s work in the district’s top post, the St. Francis School Board voted 5-2 to approve a contract that would retain the former St. Francis High School principal in his current role as district superintendent through the 2015-2016 school year.
The agreement includes annual base pay of $144,929, which has not changed from Saxton’s previous contract.
Saxton and any dependents can remain on the district’s group health plan, or he may elect (in a change from the past agreement) to drop out of the group plan and instead accept an amount equal to 9.5 percent of his base pay, divided over 24 pay periods.
He will retain a group term life insurance plan, equal to three times the amount of his annual base pay, along with long-term disability coverage and a payment of $3,500 into a health care savings plan in the first year. The district’s contribution into that savings plan will change to a district standard amount in the second year.
The new contract excludes a previous option that the superintendent had to receive paid premiums for remaining on the district’s group health plan for up to five years after retirement.
Saxton keeps 25 days of paid vacation for the July-to-June fiscal year and may carry over up to 10 of those days for application by Dec. 31 of the following year. The position also includes 11 paid holidays and five floating holidays.
Accrued sick or bereavement leave is increasing from one and one-half days per month in the previous contract up to two days in the new agreement. The former contract allowed the superintendent to surrender up to one and one-half vacation or sick leave days per month, in exchange for a district payment into an investment fund, but that option is available now for only a cash payment and not an investment.
Among other benefits, the district will cover the superintendent’s administrative licensing fees and reimburse Saxton for business use of his private vehicle along with conference expenses and any professional, educational and civic group membership dues (up to $2,000) that are board-approved.
School Board chairperson Amy Kelly voted in favor of approving the new contract.
“I think he has done a very credible job at leading District 15,” Kelly later told the Anoka County Union. “Every decision I see that he makes is guided by what is in the best interest of our students.”
Kelly said that the district has made gains under Saxton’s leadership by introducing all-day, every-day kindergarten along with technology such as iPads and installing interactive whiteboards in 80 percent of the middle school and high school classrooms.
“There are many positive things that I have seen happen with Superintendent Saxton,” she said. “I share his vision for our students.”
School Board member Marsha Van Denburgh dissented in the June 24 vote joined by board member Suzanne Erkel.
Van Denburgh told the Anoka County Union that she voted for teachers and staff who have grown disappointed by administrative decisions led by Saxton.
According to Van Denburgh, in the more than three years that she has served on the board, more teachers and staff have been filling the audience at meetings in the last six weeks than at any other time, and not out of approval.
Some were upset by a proposal to transfer long-time middle school Assistant Principal Bobbi Hume to a role at the high school (a plan that has since been dropped), Van Denburgh said.
Teachers in the elementary schools are nervous about a move toward performance-based grouping for math and reading education to start in the fall, she said.
“My opinion is that our staff has given us an unofficial vote of no confidence in our superintendent over the last six weeks,” Van Denburgh said. “Because of that, I do not believe Mr. Saxton is the right choice for superintendent of ISD 15.”
School Board member David Anderson joined Kelly and their other colleagues Janet Glover, Harry Grams and David Roberts in supporting the new contract.
Anderson told the Anoka County Union that he, too, approved of Saxton’s leadership in implementing all-day, every-day kindergarten among other changes.
Anderson also appreciates the moves to carry the STEM education program, for science, technology, engineering and math, from the elementary grades into the secondary schools, he said. “That’s not to say we don’t have things we need to work on as a district,” Anderson said. “But (Saxton) has done a good job in his leadership role.”
Saxton joined the district as an assistant principal at the high school in October 1995. He was named interim principal there for the 2001-2002 school year and became principal without the interim tag in 2002-2003. He began his first contract as district superintendent in July 2003.
“I think it’s a really good district,” Saxton told the Anoka County Union. “I think there are lots of great teachers and good families. It’s a good place to work.
“There are some things that are on the horizon that are real positive for the district.”