ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Anchorage Schools Superintendent Bob Christal became an independent contractor instead of an employee under a precedent-setting move by the school board this week.
Monday's decision allows Christal to increase his income if he wants by taking retirement pay at the same time.
Christal is believed to be the first sitting superintendent in a large school district hired to run that same district as a company.
The board's 4-3 vote came despite mostly negative comments from the presidents of two district unions, an Eagle River pastor, teachers and former teachers among about a dozen people who testified.
''This proposal has a hidden cost: the public trust,'' retired teacher Karen Dodd said. ''The image seen by the public is not one of saving $20,000 but rather of Mr. Christal being able to double dip at the public trough.''
The board itself was strongly divided, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
''This is such bad timing,'' said board member Rita Holthouse, who voted against the plan. ''We had a chance this fall to start a school year on a positive note, and we have blown it.''
Other members, including Dave Werdal, said the superintendent is underpaid and this will give Christal an opportunity to make more money. It will also save money for the district.
As a private contractor, Christal will be paid a flat fee of $160,000 annually for services. He will not receive the normal benefits package afforded employees.
Christal's new corporate contract extends to July 31, 2002, the same duration as his employee contract. He has been Anchorage's superintendent for eight years.
The deal will save the district about $23,000 annually. As an employee, Christal would have had salary and benefits worth $183,739 for the coming school year. That includes $115,000 in salary and more than $68,000 in benefits.
Under the new arrangement, however, if he opts to take retirement, Christal's income would rise to about $240,000, Holthouse said. Retirement includes free health insurance and comes from a state fund that the district has already contributed to.
Under the new contract, the Anchorage district will now be managed by a company called Robert Christal, LLC.
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