Board extends chancellor’s contract to plan for change

Michele Johnson is expected to stay until 2015 and receive deferred pay.

The Puyallup Post

Joe Dennis


Michele Johnson, Pierce College District chancellor and chief executive officer, has been given the opportunity to help prepare the college for administrative changes.

While renewing her contract in October, the college’s Board of Trustees acknowledged Johnson for her lengthy leadership and commitment to the college.

Board members also earmarked a $25,000 pay increase to Johnson. They also added $50,000 to her retirement account in an effort to keep her at Pierce College for the next two years and to provide continuity of leadership.

Johnson will receive the extra pay when her contract ends.

“If I’m not here to oversee these changes to the college, I don’t deserve the pay increase,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s salary for the 2012-13 school year was cut by 3 percent—to $181,574—consistent with Pierce College classified and exempt staff members’ salaries cuts. Her salary for the 2011-12 school year was $188,757.

“My position to the board was that I was going to take the 3 percent cut like everyone else,” she says. “If their goal is to keep me here during the next two years during these transitions, then I should be here.”

After the $25,000 increase for the 2014-15 school year, Johnson’s annual salary will be $211,612, more comparable to the salaries of chancellors at other multi-campus community colleges in the state, such as Seattle Community College and Spokane Community College.

A deferred amount of $50,000, contingent on Johnson remaining chancellor and CEO until the end of her contract, will be set aside until no later than June 30, 2014, meaning $25,000 for both this year and next year will be coming out of the college’s reserve fund. The reserve fund is comprised of any money not spent by the operating expense. The operating expense is then compiled from three sources.

“Our operating budget is based on the state allocation from the state, tuition and local revenue, making sure we spend all of the allocation money so we don’t have to send anything back to the state,” she said. “At the end of the year anything not spent rolls over into a reserve account.”

The Board of Trustees added chief executive officer of the Pierce College District to her previous title of chancellor due to confusion on what chancellor means to the business community.

For example, both chancellors at the University of Washington work under their president and chief executive officer while in contrast at Pierce College there is one district chancellor and two campus-based presidents.

“There are often times when people are confused and don’t know whether I report to Colette Burnette, Puyallup campus interim president, or whether she reports to me,” Johnson said. “I believe the board did this to provide some clarity in the business community.”

Board members are concerned about continuity in leadership because the college needs to hire new college administrators to replace the ones who recently have retired or left, and in order to attract employees, it will need to offer salaries comparable to other area community colleges.

Johnson has been working at Pierce College for 35 years and has served as chancellor for the past eight years. She is the fourth longest serving chief executive officer of the 34 community and technical colleges in the state.

Johnson said she feels fortunate to be able to make positive changes to student lives and continue the work that she loves.


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Board extends chancellor’s contract to plan for change

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