Storey superintendent still drawing controversy
Appeal Staff Writer
Controversy has followed Dr. Robert Slaby to Virginia City.
In January, Slaby was criticized by Hugh Gallagher Elementary School staff and parents for his handling of the resignation of Principal Sue Moulden.
Some Storey County parents have complained he is unresponsive to their concerns and some staff have called him a bully.
A look through clippings about his last two superintendent jobs show that Slaby’s contract with the Salinas City Elementary School District ended early in December 2004 amid allegations of financial mismanagement, and that the school board from his previous job in the Shasta Unified High School District fired him in 1997.
Slaby was hired by the Storey County School District in 2005, and was given a multiyear contract the following year, when the board’s past practice has been to wait two years before offering a multiyear contract.
Pam Smith, president of the Storey County School Board, thinks he has done a good job.
“I think in general yes, he’s done everything that has been asked of him,” she said. “He’s done a very good job. Unfortunately, there have been instances where people are offended by him, fair or not.”
Slaby will face an evaluation at a March 20 meeting that will be open to the public.
Smith said comments from parents would be welcome.
“We’ll take them into account,” she said. “We want to make sure it’s fair on all sides, but we do want to hear what parents have to say.”
Smith said the public evaluation would be difficult because Slaby “Is a lightning rod right now.”
She said that in the evaluation process, the focus will be on whether goals set by the board have been met by the superintendent.
Smith said that despite complaints at the board meetings, the board and Slaby have been responsive to the public.
“I think a lot of times it has not been communicated as well as it could have been, and that is something that we’re working on,” she said. “The problem is there are certain topics that are brought up at the board meetings that we can’t comment on. We really try to do our best.”
Smith said the board has tried to settle things at the school level, rather than bringing issues to the board.
“It’s usually the most efficient way to do things,” she said.
Slaby has said the district was “bankrupt” when he arrived, a term Smith called “hyperbole.”
“We were in a pretty difficult financial situation at the beginning of his tenure, and the state had us on a watch list,” she said. “We’re in a much better situation. It’s not quite the accurate word, but the financial situation was pretty serious.”
Smith said she thinks the larger issue for residents has been the multiyear contract.
Henry Kilmer, who served as Storey County’s superintendent for five years before retiring in 2005, said he was not offered a multiyear contract until his second year.
“My first contract was a two-year contract,” he said. “It takes two years to really get established well.”
He said he was given a three-year contract before his second year was out. Kilmer served a few months over five years as superintendent and resigned with two years left on his contract.
Kilmer wouldn’t comment on the current superintendent, but bristled at the suggestion the district was bankrupt.
“I worked hard to get that district in good shape,” he said. “People have to trust you. We passed a bond with 70 percent of the vote. I don’t think that could be done now.”
Smith wouldn’t comment on past practice.
“The practice (of offering multiyear contracts) has just evolved,” she said, adding that it was very difficult to keep people without offering them.
“I wasn’t on the board when Mr. Kilmer was hired,” she said. “We went through so many superintendents for so long before Henry. A multiyear contract is very standard to start them out with.”
On Slaby’s multiyear contract, attorney Bob Cox said the school board policy allowed for such a contract for the superintendent, and that only lower-level administrators had to pass a two-year probationary period before receiving multiyear contracts.
“The contract is consistent with state law,” Cox said.
Slaby’s contract was signed in June 2006 and extends to 2010. He also has an 80-20 clause, which means he is paid 80 percent of his salary for the first five years and is able to take the final year off.
Board president Pam Smith said that Slaby requested the 80-20 provision after it was given to an elementary school teacher.
Basically, you make an agreement for five years and for the first four years of that agreement you get paid 80 percent of your salary,” she said. “Then on the fifth year, you don’t work and you continue at 80 percent of your salary.”
Smith said she was assuming Slaby would not work the final year of his contract and denied that the multiple-year contract had anything to do with Slaby’s eligibility for PERS.
“The real goal was stability,” she said.
Slaby, who is out of town, was not available for comment.
If you go
WHAT: Storey County School Board meetings
WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday and March 20
WHERE: Hugh Gallagher Elementary School multipurpose room
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111 ext. 351.