Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 14, 2013

State will display superintendent pay, evaluations

BEN FINLEY
Associated Press

FRANKFORT — The public will soon be able to view the full compensation packages of Kentucky's superintendents as well as their performance evaluations on the education department's website, state officials announced Thursday.

The future database stems from last week's allegations that a former superintendent pocketed nearly $224,000 in unauthorized benefits and payments from a struggling district in northern Kentucky.

Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen, who investigated the alleged thefts, said the information will help the public — and more importantly school boards — hold accountable their districts' leadership.

"State and local government have come a long way in becoming more transparent, making everything from state contracts to our basketball coaches' compensation packages readily available," he said. "Yet important information about our schools is still cloaked in darkness."

Education Department Associate Commissioner Hiren Desai said the state also will start to require districts to evaluate superintendents' handling of fiscal matters.

Superintendents' base salaries, the average of which is just under $120,000, already are listed on the Kentucky Department of Education's website, KED spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said. The department will soon display additional compensation such as travel expenses, reimbursements for retirement contributions and use of a school district vehicle— all of which are considered public information under state law.

Edelen said he hopes the information will encourage school boards to keep better tabs on a superintendent's contract and spending.

Last week, Edelen's office alleged that former Dayton Independent Schools superintendent Gary Rye was reimbursed $146,276 for retirement-related benefits not in his contract. Rye was improperly paid $47,429 for sick and annual leave days, charged $21,464 to a district gas credit card for his personal vehicle and received thousands of dollars in expenses for meetings he didn't attend or never occurred, the audit report said.

Edelen said the unapproved benefits and payments spanned eight years and amounted to $240 per student in the district, which is across the Ohio River from Cincinnati in Campbell County.

Rye has not been charged with a crime. But the auditor's findings were turned over to the FBI. The Associated Press was unable to reach Rye's attorney, Jon Alig, for comment. Alig also declined to comment to The Associated Press last week, saying he hadn't read the auditor's report.