The Capital School District Board of Education will reconsider illegal pay raises for administrators at its February meeting. The school board voted unanimously, 5-0, Wednesday night at North Dover Elementary School to notify the Delaware Office of the Attorney General that it has placed the matter on its Feb. 8 agenda.


The Capital School District Board of Education will reconsider illegal pay raises for administrators at its February meeting.

The school board voted unanimously, 5-0, Wednesday night at North Dover Elementary School to notify the Delaware Office of the Attorney General that it has placed the matter on its Feb. 8 agenda.

The Office of the Attorney General determined in a Jan. 6 opinion that the Capital School District violated Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act when its board of education quietly approved pay raises for administrators as a last minute agenda item in August.

In their opinion, Deputy Attorney General Kent Walker and State Solicitor Lawrence W. Lewis determined that those raises were invalid since the board violated the Freedom of Information Act. The district had to reconsider those raises or recoup the funds already paid as a result of its illegal action on Aug. 24, the opinion stated.

Therefore, the Capital Board of Education faces the reality that it might have to ask administrators to reimburse the district if the board does not vote publicly to keep the raises, board President Phillip Martino Jr. said in response to a question after Wednesday night’s meeting. That scenario could also hold true to a lesser extent if the board decided to scale back the raises to 2 percent, he said.

“So, it’s all going to depend on the vote,” Martino said. “If it passes as it was, it’ll just stay the same.”

Capital administrators, similar to most district administrators in the state, make between $90,000 and $100,000 or more per year. They include central office administrators as well as building level principals.

The Office of Attorney General’s opinion stated Capital had to respond to its ruling within 20 days within of receipt of its opinion stating how it will reconsider administrative salaries.

Capital School District Attorney David Williams advised the board that this meant it had to report to the Attorney General’s Office within 20 days whether it intended to reconsider the raises and when. It did not mean the board had to make a final decision within that realm of time, he said.

“We are within that 20-day time frame,” Williams said.

The pay raises approved in August pertained to the local portion of their salaries, Business Manager Sean Sokolowski had said. This is the money that comes from local taxpayers. Like all school district employees, administrators received a 2 percent raise on the state portion of their salaries, which usually forms the bulk of their salaries.

The Capital District Administrators Association first approached Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas about a pay increase to make Capital more competitive with similarly sized districts, such as Caesar Rodney, early this past summer, Thomas had said. CDAA examined 2009 salaries across the state and its members did not believe Capital’s scale was competitive enough to attract, recruit and retain good people.

A formal presentation by CDAA was made to the board in July. At the time, the board discussed bringing the item back on the August agenda.

The salary increase was not listed on the original Aug. 24 agenda’s open session because Martino said he had operated under the assumption that this was a personnel matter only to be discussed in executive session, which are closed meetings held to discuss personnel, legal and real estate matters.

However, Williams advised Martino that the matter of administrator raises was not a subject for closed-door sessions, Martino said. At that point, the board voted to add the salary increase to the open session despite objections from Brian E. Lewis, the board’s lone dissenter on the matter.

The Capital Board of Education’s last minute addition of administrator raises on Aug. 24 was among the reasons the League of Women Voters of Delaware and the Delaware Coalition for Open Government filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint against Capital with the Delaware Department of Justice in October. Margaret “Mickey” McKay, chair of the League’s Open-Government Project, and Delaware Coalition for Open Government President John Flaherty filed the complaint in October.