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After community uproar, Warwick school administrators decline raises for work related to 2018 fatal crash

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Warwick Strong float

The 2018 Lititz Lions Club Halloween parade featured floats of support for Warwick School District after two students died in a crash outside the high school. 

Twelve Warwick school administrators have turned down controversial salary increases the school board proposed as a reward for their efforts after two students died last October in a crash near the high school.

The proposed raises of 1% to 1.5% ignited outrage on social media over the weekend after the district listed the measure on the agenda for Tuesday night’s board meeting.

Many in the community questioned why school administrators should benefit financially after a tragedy.

Superintendent April Hershey and 11 other administrators in a statement released Sunday to the media said they “respectfully decline the additional salary increases.”

“Our team is humbled by this gesture and deeply grateful for the support and recognition of our board of school directors,” the administrators said in their statement. “We have felt that unwavering support throughout this very challenging school year, and we are grateful for the board’s understanding and acknowledgment of the work of our team.”

In a statement released at the same time by district spokeswoman Jackie Yanchocik, the district said no administrator asked for additional compensation.

“To suggest anything different is not only untrue, but is quite the opposite of the demonstrated behavior of these individuals,” the district’s statement said.

Raises “insulting”

Lititz resident Tom Benjamin, a Warwick graduate and father of two Warwick graduates, called the proposed raises insulting to others in the community who responded to the tragedy, and he said he still plans to attend Tuesday’s meeting to question the board. He said he believes others also plan to address the board.

Benjamin said he appreciates the administrators’ decision to decline the raise.

“I think (the raise) was something that was thrown at them,” he said.

The district in its statement sought to explain why raises were proposed. The statement said the board had discussed ways to recognize administrators who worked extra in the wake of the tragedy.

The district explained that the administrative evaluation system allows the board to provide up to 2% additional compensation “for work above and beyond the normal scope of responsibilities.”

“Deciding to follow the existing procedures, the board chose this mechanism rather than creating a new or different process,” the statement said.

The district said the board followed its solicitor’s recommendation that the board be transparent about the rationale for the raises “so that there would be no question about why this action was being recommended for a specific group.”

“This is required to keep the public informed; it is also a necessary function for auditing purposes,” the district said.

The district said the raises for administrators “was never meant to diminish the work of others.”

“The district recognizes and applauds the efforts of all district staff members for their tireless work assisting our students, families and community during the fall and throughout the school year,” the district said.

Trial pending

School leaders and staff were involved in vigils, memorial services, counseling sessions and other activities in the wake of the Oct. 26 crash that killed 17-year-old Meghan Keeney and 16-year-old Jack Nicholson and seriously injured a third student.

A 63-year-old motorist, Deborah Slaymaker-Walker, is awaiting trial on third-degree murder and related charges.

In addition to Hershey, the administrators who declined the proposed raises are Ryan Axe, Melanie Calender, Michelle Harris, Sid Harrison, Scott Kyper, Mark Leidich, Jennifer Murphy, Kristy Szobocsan, Steve Szobocsan, KC Testerman and Nathan Wertsch.

“We lead with our hearts, and it was for that reason that we responded as we did for our families, our students, our staff and our community,” the administrators said.