Saline Board of Education, Superintendent Laatsch Agree to 5-Year Contract

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Superintendent Steve Laatsch is pictured behind a stack of diplomas during the second Saline High School graduation ceremony Sunday, June 6, 2021, at Hornet Stadium.

The Saline Board of Education and Saline Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Laatsch have agreed to a five-year contract.

The deal, which takes effect July 1 and expires June 30, 2026, will pay Laatsch a base salary of $164,000 in year one. For having earned his doctoral degree, Laatsch receives another 10 percent of his base salary in stipend. Laatsch's base salary can increase twice during the contract, by two or three percent, if evaluation ratings of "effective" or "highly effective."

The contract also stipulates Laatsch be reimbursed up to $2,000 annually for costs associated with attending local events.

Recently retired superintendent Scot Graden was offered a base salary of $164,000 a year in his final contract with the district.

The board approved Laatsch's contract with a unanimous vote.

Trustee Brad Gerbe said the contract, negotiated with Laatsch by Assistant Superintendent Curt Ellis and the board's compensation committee, accomplishes a number of objectives.

"It obviously takes into consideration the totality of this position. It's a big job. It's an important job. And it recognizes Dr. Laatsch for his commitment to this district. It recognizes the leader he is and the commitment we want to make to him so the district will thrive," Gerbe said. 

Gerbe said the contract used superintendent pay in other districts as a benchmark for determining what to offer Laatsch. Dexter was among the school districts used in the comparison.

Trustee Jenny Miller said after seeing the peer district salary comparison, she wondered if Saline's offering was competitive enough.

"I think right now the entire package is competitive, but when I looked at the base salaries of other districts we were still on the low side, which I know helps us with that current with our budget," Miller said.

Miller noted that Dave Killups, the consultant the board used during the superintendent search, said the district's compensation was on the low end for a district of this size.

Gerbe said the compensation committee expects Laatsch can raise his compensation with performance reviews. If he meets expectations, "we  actually see that the increase will put him on par with, or be working towards being more in line with our peer districts," Gerbe said.

Board Secretary Susan Estep questioned why the committee chose to award Laatsch a 10 percent annual stipend for his education instead of simply bumping his base pay.

"We wanted to recognize the fact that Dr. Laatsch has a PhD and that he worked hard for that," Gerbe said.

Gerbe said the board likely would have found a way to compensate Laatsch for his educational achievement, without a 10 percent stipend.

Board Vice-President Michael McVey said he had questions about the model but came to believe it could be a suitable model for a future board that might look for a successor for Laatsch. He said that stipend might help inspired a qualified candidate to work towards their doctoral degree and meet the standards to the board sets.

For the Mackinac Institute's comparison of superintendent compensation in Washtenaw County, click here.

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