Over the objections of residents who spoke at the meeting, the Saucon Valley School Board unanimously approved retroactive 3 percent pay raises for the district’s superintendent and business manager Tuesday.
Among the complaints registered by those who addressed the board was the timing of the raises for superintendent Jaime Vlasaty and business manager David Bonenberger, which were approved just a week before the makeup of the board is scheduled to change as a result of this month’s election.
“You were voted out because people wanted change,” Stacy Wittenberg said to the four incumbent board members who lost their seats and are about to be replaced.
Calling the timing of the raises “tone deaf,” Wittenberg said approving them would “taint the work you’ve done.”
“The public does not think that the people deserve it,” she told Susan Baxter, Michael Karabin, Bryan Eichfeld and Shawn Welch. “It’s not the right time.”
Bill Broun, who won one of the contested seats in the election and will be sworn in as a new board member Dec. 5, also addressed the timing.
“Our district also just agreed to pay the Satanic Temple $200,000. Why? It’s not because we have extra money to spend to support the Satanic Temple, I assume,” he said. “It’s because we likely violated the rights of students and citizens.”
“We don’t have extra money to be throwing around,” he added. “I don’t understand the timing of that, and I think that it sends a message to the community that is asking for change that is awkward, to say the least.”
Board president Baxter defended the raises in a follow-up response to the concerns that were raised.
She said she took responsibility for the fact that Vlasaty’s employment evaluation was not conducted over the summer, and instead was completed only recently.
“Her current raise reflects that evaluation,” she said.
Bonenberger was the only current district employee who did not receive a raise during the COVID pandemic and “his current raise reflects the raise that he did not receive that year,” she continued.
Baxter also said the timing of the raises had nothing to do with the outcome of the election, and that the $200,000 settlement Broun referenced was paid by the district’s insurance carrier.
“I don’t believe elections have anything to do with either Ms. Vlasaty or Mr. Bonenberger,” Baxter said. “They’re just separate issues that needed to be taken care of and the board did that.”
“The school district did not pay a penny of that money,” she said in response to the criticism involving the settlement. “That was a settlement with the insurance firm.”
Both approved raises are retroactive to July 1, 2023.