Floyd County school superintendent Terry Arbogast is blaming the media for news getting out about his controversial — and questionable — handling of multiple raises he received from the school board during his tenure as the system’s administrator.
That’s wrong. The media did not approve multiple raises in phone calls without any public record. The media did not artificially-low salary line item to the board of supervisors for approval. The media did not keep the actual salary paid to the superintendent from the public record to avoid “taking heat” from teachers who didn’t get a raise. The media simply reported the fact.
The only ones Arbogast has to blame for his woes is himself and a complaint school board that traditionally gives him anything he wants.
After a meeting of the school board this week board member David Sulzen said a number of county residents have told him they are very upset with how the school board has given the superintendent multiple raises without being open and honest with the board of supervisors or the public.
“It appears the entire image [of the district] has changed,” Roanoke Times reporter Katelyn Polatntz reported Sulzen as saying in the school board meeting. “A lot of people are thinking things have been done improperly.”
Copper Hill resident Jesse Lawrence agrees. Lawrence went to the school meeting this week and then came to the board of supervisors meeting tonight to say he thinks the school board and its superintendent have — at the very least — deceived the public and should be held accountable.
Looking at the history of how the school board reported Arbogast’s salary suggests a pattern of concealment and one that — at best — is less than transparent.
The most recent budget request submitted to the Board of Supervisors shows the school superintendent’s salary is $98,000 a year. That’s the same as it has been for the last few years.
But that figure is both wrong and low. Arbogast’s actual “base pay” is $118,000 a year and change. When you add in a fat car allowance of $18,000 a year plus benefits that includes a generous annuity the school superintendent’s monthly paychecks add up to 168 grand over a 12 month period.
That’s the figure county treasurer Mary Turman gave to Courthouse Supervisor Case Clinger and to Times reporter Polantz. Her story in last Sunday’s edition of the paper outlined — in detail — just how much the superintendent is paid and the multiple accounts — including salary money left over from teacher vacancies — he taps to fund that salary.
After the school board meeting this week, Poltantz reports Arbogast told her: “”You’ve turned my staff against me. You’ve got the community upset with me.”
Polantz did her job. She reported the facts. She did a better job than me because I had the same information but had not reported it yet. What has upset the community and pissed off school teachers is the secretive way the superintendent and the school board has handled inquiries into his salary.
Arbogast is in damage control mode, meeting with teachers and school system staff to try and contain the fallout.
The superintenent told me two weeks ago that he left his salary line item at the $98,000 when it was — in fact — more because he did not want to show he received a raise when teachers in the system did not. I reported that in The Floyd Press and received many phone calls and emails from residents who found that admission appalling. An earlier story about questions raised by Courthouse Supervisor Clinger brought even more comments, most wondering just what the school board was doing.
While most teachers are afraid to speak out publicly against the man and board that controls their salaries, Floyd County High School David Turpin is not. He says he emailed board chairman Doug Phillips and asked him to resign. Phillips has not responded.
Others have told me they will work to defeat any school board member that seeks re-election. Three — David Sulzen, Margaret Hubbard and Clay Link — are up this year. Each has served on the board for more than 10 years.
Phillips and Arbogast tell different stories about the reasons behind the salary raises. Phillips told both the Roanoke Times and me that the board approved raises when the school superintendent got offers from other school systems or talked about leaving is job. Arbogast says he only interviewed for one other job and withdraw from consideration.
While the stories differ, the facts remain consistent. The board has nearly doubled the school superintendent’s salary during and very little public record exists on when the raises were approved or how they were funded. The budgets submitted for approval by the Board of Supervisors do not reflect the true level of compensation for the school system chief.
At their meeting this week, the school board passed a CYA resolution that said: “”All salary and benefit payments to Division Superintendent Terry E. Arbogast for fiscal years 1996 to 2011 are ratified, approved and included in all adopted school budgets.”
Supervisors aren’t buying. Last week, they voted to assume more control over the school system budget. Tonight, they slashed $265,285 from the school system budget request — giving the same level of funding as the current year — and told the school board to come back with a revised budget for next year.