In a 6-3 vote, the Central Bucks School Board Tuesday night approved a controversial five-year contract with its superintendent that includes an $85,500 raise. The new deal immediately takes Abram Lucabaugh’s annual base salary to $315,000, among the highest in the state for district superintendents.
After a long line of speakers, both for and against the compensation package, addressed the board during a three-hour meeting, the board split along party lines to pass the contract.
Critics of the deal argued the substantial pay hike was ill-timed, with the district just settling a contract with its support staff that provided a small salary increase.
“What we settled on was well below market,” said board member Tabitha Dell’Angelo, of the support staff raises, noting the employees “begged” for even the modest pay hike.
While she said she would have supported a smaller raise, Dell’Angelo said, a 40 percent increase was too high and a five-year contract too long.
“Five of us may or may not be on this board in a couple of months,” she noted. “So we are making a fiscal and leadership decision for a future board. I think that is overextending our power in an inappropriate way.” Dell’Angelo is not running for re-election.
Currently, said board member Karen Smith, there are 100 support staff vacancies due, in part, to low wages the district needed to stay within its budget. “We worked hard as a board during contract negotiations to keep increases for all our staff positions to about 2.5 percent.” The superintendent’s pay raise, Smith said, is, “absolutely grotesque,” given those efforts.
Lucabaugh oversees the state’s fourth largest school district with approximately 18,000 students. The only top administrator with a higher salary is Tony Watlington, who is superintendent for the Philadelphia School District.
Supporters of the new pact said Lucabaugh has been diligent in keeping Central Bucks students safe. Board member Jim Pepper pointed to his effort to investigate a teacher now facing charges for inappropriate contact with a student.
“It’s worth every single penny,” to keep the superintendent, said Pepper, “because I know that this man has the safety of all our children at the forefront of his mind every single day.” Pepper is a lawyer who represents victims of sexual abuse.
Board president Dana Hunter said Lucabaugh was being recruited by other districts. “It’s in the best interest to keep him,” she said.
Leigh Vlasblom said the new contract will provide “stability and consistency” for the district.