Chase to take $20,000 cut in salary

Thursday, June 19, 2008 | 9:46 p.m. CDT; updated 2:25 p.m. CDT, Friday, August 1, 2008

COLUMBIA — Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Phyllis Chase will take a $20,000 pay cut for the coming year, about 10 percent of her salary, she announced Thursday.

“If it draws attention to the financial situation this district currently faces, hopefully that will be a really strong message to our public,” Chase told a gathering that included administrators at a news conference late Thursday afternoon.

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Join Schoolhouse Talk, the Missourian’s online discussion of Columbia schools, at If you were not able to make it to the Columbia Public School Board’s listening session Wednesday or its work session Thursday, they are expected to be aired on Ch. 16 (Mediacom and Charter). For times of showing, check the programming schedule on the Columbia Public Schools’ Web site, Click on the CPS Television Ch. 16 logo on the right, then click on the Programming Guide to view times.

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The money will be put in Columbia Public Schools’ reserves, Chase said, and the Columbia School Board will decide what to do with it.

Other administrators — for example, at the assistant superintendent level — face salary reductions of an average 2.4 percent, a move decided earlier in the district’s budget-paring process. Whether other people who work in central administration will be affected was unclear Thursday.

The duration of the pay cut is the board’s decision, Chase said. Her contract is reviewed annually.

School board President Michelle Gadbois, who stood alongside Chase at the announcement, said the district is in a “unique year” and the financial situation is “not good.”

“We (Chase and Gadbois) talked at length about what it would mean to the employees” to have the superintendent take a pay cut, Gadbois said. “It would send a message that you’re one of us, and we’re all experiencing the same impact that the budget is having on this community.”

Chase announced she would take a voluntary pay cut in an opinion piece published in the Missourian on April 6 that urged voters to approve an increase to the property tax levy.

“Please note,” Chase wrote, “that my salary and the salaries of other administrators in the district will also be reduced in order to keep the initial cuts as far from the classroom as possible. In fact, reductions to district administration make up nearly $1 million of the $5 million in reductions that will be made regardless of the passage of the levy.”

The levy increase was firmly rejected in the election two days later. Weeks later, Chase’s announcement was revived in the news, in the context of post-election coverage of the defeat and what it meant for the district.

“I didn’t intend for this to be a front-page issue,” she said at the time.

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