Attack campaign under way, Sandfort warns
May 11, 2005 - To the editor:
Last week another letter to the editor appeared criticizing the Lindbergh School District.
The most recent letter, however, differed from the others. From commenting exclusively on district policies and programs, it added a personal swipe at the superintendent.
In a strange way, I feel complimented because the commentary underscores the many positive programs in Lindbergh. The critics are having a difficult time finding legitimate fault with a district that has:
• The lowest residential tax rate in the metropolitan area — $2.70 — this is below the minimum set by the state.
• High assessed valuation yet a per pupil expenditure that is in the middle of all St. Louis County districts and below some of the area's private and parochial high schools.
• Three Missouri Gold Star Schools.
• Two U.S. Blue Ribbon Schools.
• Four consecutive Distinction in Perfor-mance Awards — one of eight in St. Louis County.
• Full compliance with federal No Child Left Behind mandates for 2004 — one of six in St. Louis County.
• A 94 percent college entrance rate for high school seniors.
• A 95 percent attendance rate — well above the state average.
• A 1.9 percent dropout rate — well be-low the state average.
As Lindbergh's superintendent for the past 14 years, I can tolerate the personal attacks. It goes with the job. What I find disheartening is that the critic who is so quick to speak up has never stepped up. If he feels so strongly about the district and is truly altruistic in his comments, why hasn't he run for the Board of Education and put his character, ethics and ideas up for public scrutiny as others have done?
Why hasn't he volunteered in the school and on district committees like so many other parents? Why hasn't he offered to work with administrators, teachers and other parents to improve the district? Why, when the need is so great, has he stood on the sidelines and hurled stones rather than gotten involved in helping to build a better district?
With regard to my salary, which is the latest focus of his attacks, there are some who would say that whatever it is, it is too much. My wife, on the other hand, might respond that, whatever the pay, it is not enough to account for all of the evenings and weekends I am away from home at school functions.
The reality is that I am in the first year of a three-year agreement signed in the spring of 2004. My contract calls for $172,000 for the '05-'06 school year and $181,000 for the following year. According to a daily newspaper article last fall, the salary for the superintendent's position in Lindbergh is below the top 10 in the county and considerably below average for "like" districts. This past January, I declined an offer from the Board of Education for an additional one-year contract extension.
What is more to the point is that the Board of Education has made a public com-mitment to provide competitive salaries for all job classifications, including that of superintendent, in order to attract and retain top quality people. Judging by student achievement results — the board has done a good job at all levels. Staff salaries are a blend of experience and education. Ad-ministrative salaries are 100 percent performance based. Both are benchmarked on surrounding districts.
My decision to respond to the most recent letter to the editor is to alert the community that an attack campaign is under way, the rhetoric of which can only be expected to increase, becoming more intense and aggressive as the board debates when to return to the voters with a levy proposal.
My response is also designed to encourage the community to carefully consider the kind of school district and education it wants for its children. Lindbergh is a very special place providing a very special education for each of its students. The question is: "Will it be maintained?"
superintendent of schools
Lindbergh School District