For the last six months, I’ve been spending my weekday evenings and weekends walking through our Central Bucks neighborhoods, talking to community members about their concerns and visions for CBSD.
I’ve talked to Democrats, Republicans, Independents, super voters and non-voters. The most important thing I’ve learned is that our community is made up of intelligent people with diverse opinions and ideas about improving our schools.
But something changed this week. At every single home my fellow canvassers and I went to, there was one topic that came up again and again: the exorbitant $85,000 raise given to Superintendent Abram Lucabaugh by the board majority before the end of his current contract — a raise which makes him the second-highest-paid superintendent at $315,000 in Pennsylvania.
Every single person, without exception, reported the same reaction to this raise: outrage.
What is it about this raise that is causing such a stir? Was it the lack of transparency? The hasty way it was rushed through at the last school board meeting without any negotiations? The tax hike Dr. Lucabaugh helped push through right before his raise was given? The five-year extension of his contract? The fact that he will receive a full year’s pay if a newly elected board decides to end his contract?
While these are all very alarming issues, there was one concern that took precedence: What about teachers and support staff?
If CBSD is so wealthy that we can throw a 40% raise at the top of the chain, why are teachers and support staff fighting to get single digit raises? Why are more than 350 female teachers suing the district for equal pay? Why are so many students being denied appropriate accommodations because underpaid staff are leaving in droves? Why don’t we have enough bus drivers or cafeteria workers or aides?
In short, why is our board majority prioritizing making administration wealthier while neglecting the hard-working teachers and support staff who show up for our kids every day?
Unfortunately, I did not have a clear answer to give my neighbors. In fact, I share their outrage. At a time when our school district is dealing with staff shortages, learning loss and a major mental health crisis, giving a controversy-racked superintendent an enormous raise is irresponsible.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked as a marketing and sales executive for a Fortune 500 company, a leading private company in its industry, and a professional sports team. In 25 years in the corporate world, I have never seen a raise of this magnitude within any of those companies.
Central Bucks School District needs a leader willing to do the right thing to help manage situations and viewpoints, not cause more chaos. Sadly, Dr. Lucabaugh has two years of controversial leadership filled with investigations and lawsuits.
Ginger Hardwick, a local employment lawyer, shared our community’s concerns about this raise. At last week’s school board meeting she commented, “I look at contracts for a living and I have never seen a change like this.”
While this is undoubtedly an alarming raise, it is not the first time our board has been irresponsible with our money. In the past year, they’ve spent over $1.4 million (and counting) on exorbitant and unnecessary lawyer fees and shelled out tens of thousands of dollars monthly to a PR firm, while raising our taxes.
So, what can we do about this outrage so many of us are feeling?
The board majority ignored both the dozens of community members and three minority board members who spoke out against the huge raise. Their actions, in fact, ignore the thousands of constituents who voted those members into office and it reflects poorly on the board majority’s understanding of the function of school boards.
If our school board will not listen to the public, if they will continue to waste our money and make decisions that harm students, if they will not value the hardworking teachers and support staff that show up for our kids every day, our only recourse is to vote for more responsible leadership.
My CBSD Neighbors United candidates and I have been listening to all of your concerns, and we are ready to be the change we need in Central Bucks School District: to be open and transparent, to include all stakeholders in discussions and be respectful of opinions and ideas, and to hold our school leadership accountable.
I hope I can count on your support in November.
Rick Haring is running for Central Bucks School Board in Region 6.