- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Nearly four dozen teachers in South Bend schools were overpaid this school year, but local officials aren’t saying by how much.

The school board this week approved $175,000 to pay for one-time stipends to other teachers as a goodwill gesture for their colleagues being overpaid. The stipends are part of a deal with the teachers’ union that includes the salaries of the 47 overpaid teachers being adjusted next year.

District spokeswoman Sue Coney said Tuesday that the matter was handled by the district’s attorneys and she didn’t have further information to share.

But several school board members told the South Bend Tribune (https://bit.ly/1JosJa9) they believe the overall amount that the district mistakenly overpaid to the teachers should be disclosed by the administration.

“I don’t think we cannot release it,” board member Dawn Jones said. “It’s the public’s money. We always talk about transparency. The school corporation was in error, not purposely or maliciously. To me, there’s no reason to hide anything.”

School board president Jay Caponigro declined to comment Wednesday on whether the amount, which likely total at least tens of thousands of dollars, should be released publicly.

Six teachers were underpaid due to the salary errors and will receive retroactive pay spread evenly over their remaining paychecks for the school year.

Board member Bill Sniadecki believes the errors, which were described as “discrepancies” and “clerical errors” by officials, won’t be repeated.

“Principals were quoting salaries,” to prospective hires, he said. “Now, they’re going to have to follow the rules and the hiring process is going to be done through the personnel department.”

Another issue that led to the overpayments was a provision in the teachers’ contracts that allows for certain high-demand positions, such as special education teachers, to be paid more. Some teachers were paid at an elevated pay scale they shouldn’t have been, while some new teachers were contracted at pay-scale amounts that should’ve been reduced to take a years-long hiring freeze into consideration.

Jones agrees that the mistakes won’t happen again and expressed confidence all of the problems that led to the overpayments have been resolved.

“We’ll be very conscientious,” she said. “But I don’t think we’re paying teachers what they’re worth anyway. They work very hard.”

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com

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