The North Penn School Board Tuesday night unanimously approved a pay raise for Superintendent Dr. Curt Dietrich.
“I’ve worked with five superintendents since I’ve been on the board, and you are the best,” said board President Vince Sherpinsky. “You saved North Penn taxpayers tens of millions of dollars with your solid leadership, your innovation and your good ideas. You’ve been able to hold your ground when you feel that others don’t like what you’re doing. You’re a strong leader. I think you’re the guy that can take us to what we’re looking for in the district. I hope your career ends here someday.”
Since his new five-year contract with the school board in August 2012, Dietrich’s salary has grown by 14 percent. The approval Tuesday was an amendment to his employment agreement.
“I do appreciate the board’s support and approval of this amendment. I’m proud to work at North Penn School District, with the employees we have and all the parents and students that we’re working to educate,” Dietrich said. “I look forward to continued years here at North Penn.”
The former chemistry/biology/science teacher was named superintendent in December 2009, after Robert Hassler retired from his 11-year position. Dietrich was assistant superintendent, hired in May 2006.
The Lehigh University-educated Dietrich was former principal of Saucon Valley High School, and during his decade tenure there, he was named Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. All in all, he has 30-plus years of education experience under his belt.
Earlier in Tuesday night’s meeting, the board also unanimously approved a 2.5 percent increase in the salaries of non-union support staff for the next year, retroactive to July 1, as well as new medical plans.
However, negotiations continue with the teacher’s union and the support staff union, Dietrich said.
“We are really working hard with our unionized groups,” he said. “We continue to negotiate with them, with the expectation that any agreement reached would also include the same (benefits) plan.”
Two board directors opined on why Dietrich’s raise was well-deserved.
Director Suzan Leonard, who is running on the Democratic ticket for State Rep. Kate Harper’s 61st District seat, thanked Dietrich for his leadership and recognized his accomplishments.
“On tonight’s agenda, we approved a contract for non-union support staff, for administrators and now for Dr. Dietrich. We’ve been supplied with a list of his accomplishments, which is many,” she said.
At the top of the school board meeting Tuesday – one that began with recognition and proclamations for Linda Westerlund’s North Penn High School Future Business Leaders of America teams placing nationally and regionally in various competitions – Dietrich announced some achievements in the district under his tenure.
For instance, North Penn is now in the top five percent in the state for school profile performance scores. The district was also just nationally recognized for a record number of students completing advanced placement courses and testing.
Dietrich also reported positive feedback from teachers on the online learning options. Due to the difficult winter and snowy, lost days, the district put together an opportunity for teachers to complete professional development online, with freedom of choice on topics meaningful to them.
Perhaps the biggest buttress to the salary increase for Dietrich was being asked to sit on a panel with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and his team a few weeks ago, where they discussed pension reform and property tax issues going on at the state level.
“I do want to emphasize,” Leonard said, “that if we are recognizing all the great people that work here, we have to recognize all the groups that work here as well.”
Director Carolyn Murphy, a retired North Penn High School German language teacher, said she was voting for Dietrich’s increase because she knows what he has done. However, she said she is not content because the teachers’ and support staff contracts are still not resolved.
“Believe it or not, Mr. Sullivan,” said Murphy to fellow Director Joseph Sullivan, “he and I have worked very closely at Montgomery County Intermediate Unit.”
She then took the opportunity to admit she cannot make a difference anymore on the school board.
“I want to say, one of the reasons I ran for the board four years ago was because I was so upset about the upheaval in the community, and I really thought I could make a difference and I can’t. I just have to say it: I feel like I can’t,” she said. “I’ve always been involved in international diplomacy, and people getting along, and with everything we have in the district, I will feel such discontent until we all have everything settled.”
Sherpinsky said he was sorry Murphy felt that way, and told her he thought she is making a difference on the board.
“You, as a teacher, and me, being a teacher, I’ve felt your influence is effective,” Sherpinsky said.
“I ran to make things easier. It’s not working,” Murphy said. “I don’t want sympathy, but I feel I haven’t made a difference. I do not want to go through all the turmoil we went through four years ago.”
Director Frank O’Donnell asked Murphy, “Don’t you think you’ve done great on Safe Schools Committee with all that you’ve done?”
Murphy snapped, “You didn’t even vote for me, Frank!”
After the meeting, Dietrich said the board looked at his performance and determined it merited an increase in salary.
“The board is also looking at other salaries of superintendents in the county, to see where North Penn stands relative to those superintendents,” Dietrich said. “I won’t be anywhere near to be the highest paid superintendent salary-wise. North Penn is, by far, the largest school district in the county, as you know. The board agreed to make some adjustments there.”