Board Weighs Salary Freeze Superintendent Faces Scrutiny of Job and Contract Evaluation

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If the Rockwood School Board freezes salaries to cope with a financial crisis, the $110,500-a-year pay of Superintendent Dennis Peterson will be on ice, along with that of every other employee.

"I would not consider letting the board give me a raise if everyone's wages are frozen," Peterson said.

The Rockwood School Board this month will evaluate Peterson's performance, set his salary for the next school year and decide whether to extend his contract for another year. At different meetings this month, the board will take the steps needed to live with a potential loss of $17 million in income.

Under terms of Peterson's contract, the board will consider setting a salary for the year beginning July 1 that could range from his present salary to $119,000.

The fiscal problem happened when voters defeated on Feb. 8 a proposal to make permanent a portion of the tax rate of 99 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation and add 24 cents to that rate. Voters will reconsider the proposal on April 5. The 99-cent portion expired last year.

A pay freeze is one of the measures Peterson has proposed to keep spending within the district's reduced income.

Peterson's salary is the highest of the superintendents of the five districts in St. Louis County with enrollments of more than 10,000 students. The lowest salary of the five was $98,700. Rockwood, with an enrollment of 18,384, is the second-largest district in the county.

Peterson said his salary was higher because of his experience as a superintendent before coming to Rockwood and because some superintendents had not held their positions very long.

Peterson's salary has increased by about 25 percent since he started at Rockwood in 1989. The salaries of teachers, counselors and administrators have grown by a slightly smaller percentage in the same time. …