By ERIC WEDDLE and ELIZABETH GABRIEL
Flora Reichanadter is no longer the superintendent of Pike Township Schools following months of parent and teacher criticism over her management of the district and concerns over teacher pay.
On Jan. 13, the school board voted unanimously to appoint an interim superintendent and signaled Reichanadter’s contract would soon be terminated. Reichanadter, who is often referred to as Dr. Flora, was hired as the district leader in January 2017.
“Our board council is in discussion with Dr. Flora’s council regarding an amicable separation between Dr. Flora and MSD of Pike Township,” said Pike School Board President Terry A. Webster Sr.
Last month Webster described recent months as the toughest board members faced as they took “lumps and hits” from the public about their commitment to students and the community.
In late November, some parents of the district’s roughly 11,000 students started an online petition to remove Reichanadter as superintendent, partially due to her leadership during the teacher contract bargaining sessions. Later, members of the Pike teachers association approved a vote of no confidence in the superintendent. Following a meditation process, the district and teachers union reached an agreement to raise educator pay.
Pike Township has struggled to offer in-person classes throughout the first part of this school year and this month.
Larry Young, assistant superintendent of operations, was approved by the board at the meeting Jan. 13 to be interim superintendent for the remainder of the school year. Young said he knows the community is frustrated.
“I hear and really offer no excuses for the concerns that have been brought by parents, by staff, even by the board, and those concerns are justified,” said Young, who is also a Pike graduate. “Getting children to school should not even be a discussion that we’re having. Please, I want to let the community know that the board has the expectation that my staff gets this thing right. We are going to.”
Reichanadter could not immediately be reached for comment. She did not attend the public school board meeting, as well the last three public meetings.
The board approved a new three-year contract with her in July which set an annual base salary of $206,907, not including other compensation such as performance pay, fringe benefits and retirement contributions.
According to the contract, the board can terminate the agreement prior to June 2024 if it gives 30 days notice and pays out whatever is greater — a year of compensation or half the compensation due for the remainder of the contract period.
Reichanadter’s total compensation in 2020 was $277,395, according to the listing in the state’s public employees database.
Bus driver absences lead to remote learning
Students were forced into remote learning for most of this month because staff absences prevented transportation to school. Although the district resumed in-person learning Jan. 13 after more than seven days of remote instruction, Pike parent Rhonda Moore said the inconsistent school schedule and bus delays may force her to remove her kindergartener from Pike Township.
“My kids sat for almost two hours waiting on somebody to come and pick him up,” Moore said. “This is ridiculous.”
In response to the transportation problems, the Pike board members unanimously approved a motion to begin paying bus drivers based on their experience, which increases the hourly wage for some “top tier drivers” from roughly $24 to nearly $28 and provides an annual step increase.
“I believe part of our shortage over the last few years has been because we don’t pay drivers for their years of experience,” Young said. “So for drivers next door — and they’re making $25 per hour and they’ve been working as a driver for 10 years — if they came over to Pike they would start at the bottom of our pay — which has been lower — and they’d only make $19 per hour.”
This motion also allows the district to implement bus route changes to ensure in-person learning can continue when some bus drivers are absent.
Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.