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By 2017-18, superintendent's salary will increase to more than $199,000

The South Washington County School Board has approved future raises for Superintendent Keith Jacobus, a move that drew criticism for its timing amid a teacher contract dispute.

Board members voted 5-0 Thursday to give Jacobus a 3.5 percent salary increase in the 2016-17 school year and another 3.5 percent increase in 2017-18, the final year of his current three-year contract.

Jacobus earns $186,100. He requested his salary be frozen last year as the district faced budget cuts.

School Board Chairman Ron Kath said the board was obligated to decide on pay increases for Jacobus last December, but he and Jacobus agreed to postpone a decision due to unresolved employee contracts.

Deals were reached on all employee contracts except for the teachers' contract, which remains unsettled and is headed for mediation July 25 — nine months after negotiations started.

Kath said he was called out, including through emails from teachers and a letter to the editor published by the Bulletin, for approving pay increases for Jacobus while the teachers' contract is unresolved.

Former school board candidate Molly Lutz wrote in the published letter to the editor that the board should have waited until the teachers' contract is resolved and said the public should have been allowed an opportunity to comment.

Despite wanting to reach agreement with teachers, Kath said he did not want to further delay action on Jacobus' salary. The board gave him a favorable review at his last evaluation.

"I didn't feel it was pertinent to penalize Dr. Jacobus at this point for his performance because we haven't been able to settle this contract," he said.

A teachers' union leader could not be reached immediately for comment.

Jacobus is wrapping up his fourth school year in District 833. The pay increase next year would bring his salary to $192,613. It would increase to $199,354 in 2017-18.

Board members also amended his contract to increase his maximum number of sick days from 45 to 90. Kath said that brings Jacobus' contract in line with the sick day policy given other district employees.

Board members Katy McElwee-Stevens and Michelle Witte were absent from Thursday's meeting so they did not vote on the salary increases.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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