RICHMOND – Being placed on paid “leave” blindsided school district Superintendent Mike Aytes, he said during an interview at his Richmond residence Tuesday.
“There have been no reasons given,” he said while resting in a lounge chair overlooking a grassy hillside sloping down into trees.
Nothing he did, Aytes said, negated his contract. To do so, he would have had to violate board policy or been convicted of a felony – no bank robberies in his past, he said.
Aytes served the district for more than six years.
“The only thing I’ve tried to do is the best job I could to make the school district better, and I felt like I’d done a pretty good job of that,” he said.
Major accomplishments during his tenure included leading the district in 2015, when the public agreed to pass a 50-cent tax levy increase.
“It’s made a major impact in terms of what we’ve been able to do,” Aytes said.
The levy increase allowed the district to raise teacher salaries across the board. The base salary for teachers rose from $29,250 to $35,500 per year, he said.
“It makes a big difference in trying to hire teachers,” Aytes said. “It made us more competitive with everybody in the area.”
The increase put the district in the middle in terms of area pay for teachers, which has helped with recruiting and retention, Aytes said.
“Everyone who had been in the district at that time has seen an increase in salary of somewhere in the neighborhood of about $8,000 (overall),” he said.
Being paid more means teachers can buy more, which has likely helped improve the bottom line for area businesses and bolster employment, he said.
“We’re one of the largest employers in the county,” Aytes said. “The vast majority (about 75 percent) of our staff does live in the county.”
Aytes said the district also used the added tax funding to cover the cost to tackle deferred maintenance projects; provide internet rewiring; install security cameras; provide a long-term agreement to continue using the school resource office; update textbooks, some of which dated to the early 1990s; add new equipment in the agriculture department, with the new plasma table among purchases; and construct a science lab, with part of the cost covered by a matching grant to save district dollars.
“A lot of the stuff that we had was very dated,” Aytes said.
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