Su­per­in­ten­dent wins praise, 7.5 per­cent raise

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Melissa B.taboada mtaboada@states­ Bret Cham­pion said the re­view was vote of con­fi­dence in teach­ers, staff. Con­tact Melissa Taboada at 445-3620. Twit­ter: @melis­sa­taboada

The Le­an­der school board gave a nod of ap­proval to Su­per­in­ten­dent Bret Cham­pion, giv­ing him a 7.5 per­cent bump in pay and ex­tend­ing his con­tract by three years.

Trustees voted unan­i­mously to ex­tend Cham­pion’s con­tract through Jan­uary 2016 and to ap­prove a base salary of $205,110, ex­clud­ing ben­e­fits. Cham­pion also re­ceives about $25,000 in ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing car and cell­phone al­lowances

Cham­pion, dur­ing the an­nual cri­tique Thurs­day night, was eval­u­ated on im­prov­ing stu­dent aca­demic per­for­mance, man­ag­ing the bud­get and main­tain­ing a strong work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the board and the com­mu­nity, among other mea­sures.

“I’m frankly hum­bled and flat­tered,” said Cham­pion, 43. “I love this school district. I love the com­mu­nity we have. I don’t want to be any­where but here. What a great vote of con­fi­dence in what the teach­ers and staff are do­ing.”

Cham­pion, who once shaved his head to ful­fill a prom­ise to his stu­dents, joined the district 19 years ago as the­ater arts ele­men­tary school teacher and rose to su­per­in­ten­dent in 2008.

Trustees lauded Cham­pion for steer­ing the bur­geon­ing 34,270-stu­dent district through con­tin­ued growth — adding at least 1,000 stu­dents to its rolls an­nu­ally — es­pe­cially dur­ing re­cent state bud­get cuts to pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.

The district made tough de­ci­sions in the past two years, in­clud­ing keep­ing two fin­ished schools dor­mant to save money.

Dur­ing that time, Cham­pion in 2010 forewent $20,000 worth of ben­e­fits and last year de­clined a 6 per­cent raise.

Un­der Cham­pion’s lead­er­ship, the district made strides in clos­ing the achieve­ment gap for high school com­ple­tion rates among low­in­come stu­dents, from 70.2 per­cent for the class of 2007 to 94.6 per­cent in 2011.

Le­an­der stu­dents in the spring also had high per­for­mance on the new State of Texas As­sess­ments of Aca­demic Readi­ness endof-course ex­ams, out­per­form­ing most Cen­tral Texas and statewide av­er­ages.

De­spite those achieve­ments, crit­ics this year have ques­tioned whether the district has done enough to pro­tect chil­dren from bul­ly­ing.

The district has been sued at least three times this year by par­ents who al­lege it did lit­tle to pro­tect their chil­dren. Law en­force­ment in­ves­ti­gated the cases but took no ac­tion.

Cham­pion said stu­dent safety re­mains a pri­or­ity and this school year launched a new ap­pli­ca­tion for phones and com­put­ers that stu­dents can use to report bul­ly­ing.

The soft­ware al­lows them to con­fi­den­tially report in­ci­dents to teach­ers or staff mem­bers of their choos­ing.

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