Editorial: Critiques of home acquisition for Park City superintendent miss the point
September 12, 2018
After months of searching for the right place, the Park City School District is officially a homeowner.
Congratulations are in order, even if some in the community aren't exactly lining up to shower the district with housewarming gifts.
Last week, the Board of Education voted 3-1 to finalize the purchase of an $870,000 home in Jeremy Ranch meant to house superintendent Jill Gildea. The idea, officials say, stems from the community expressing a desire during the search for a new superintendent that the leader of the district live within its boundaries.
Mission accomplished. Residents can look forward to Gildea becoming a familiar face both at school events and in line at the grocery store. Hopefully it will help her quickly integrate into the community and engender a common understanding that, as Parkites, we're all in this together.
The acquisition, though, has been controversial. Some residents have expressed doubts about the prudence of such a significant outlay for what is, in Utah at least, an unusual perk. The criticisms are fair given the Board of Education's mixed fiscal track record and the fact the spending comes on the heels of an unrelated $5.6 million tax increase.
It's also fair to wonder why Gildea, who inked a significantly more lucrative contract than her predecessor Ember Conley, can't purchase housing with a salary of $235,000 plus benefits.
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Those critiques, though, miss the point. In addition to fulfilling the community's request that the superintendent live in Park City, the home makes the district a more attractive destination for prospective superintendents. While Gildea's tenure is just beginning, Board members say her hefty compensation package was necessary to lure an educator of her caliber. And the home could also pay dividends the next time the district finds itself searching for a superintendent.
Other school systems around the country in places with high costs of living have adopted the same strategy to sweeten the deal for superintendents. If our community is serious about wanting our district to have top-flight leadership that can improve the education of our children — the kind of talent that other prestigious school systems also want to hire — it's reasonable that we would follow suit.
The fact that school officials view the home as a financial investment is also important. The home will accrue value as prices in Park City's lucrative real estate market rise, making the acquisition a wiser fiscal strategy than simply providing Gildea with a housing stipend, which was one idea the Board of Education considered.
Housewarming gifts from residents? Still unnecessary. But skeptical taxpayers should rest easier knowing that, while the home may seem like an unconventional perk, it's a sound investment that could pay off for the entire community.