The St. Paul school board failed to give its blessing Tuesday night to nearly $1.3 million in wage and benefit increases for many of the district's highest-paid employees.

A late-night vote ended in a 3-to-3 tie, with a board member absent, leaving Superintendent Joe Gothard to say he will consult with the district's human resources director and board Chairwoman Jeanelle Foster to determine his next steps.

Foster joined Zuki Ellis and Jessica Kopp in supporting the increases, while John Brodrick, Jim Vue and Chauntyll Allen voted against. Allen raised concerns about how the high-priced superintendency group was being treated in comparison with low-paid paraprofessionals who work directly with students.

Member Steve Marchese was absent.

The proposed agreement spanned the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years and covered 25 members of Gothard's administrative team. The superintendency group is not represented by a union, leaving many of the terms of its agreements to mirror those in contracts previously negotiated by the district's bargaining units — most notably the St. Paul Federation of Educators.

Joe Nathan and Peter Hendricks, two former members of a district community budget committee, said they had concerns about the pay proposal. With the pandemic creating enrollment and budget challenges, "this is exactly the wrong time now" for such a package, Nathan said.

In recent days, Nathan, who's known as a school-choice advocate and champion of effective schools, posted individual wages and benefits for 24 administrators on Facebook pages representing various city and school communities. Each administrator had a salary of $107,000 or more; 16 collected an additional $2,200 to $6,000 per year in longevity pay; and 17 had $6,000 car allowances, according to the data.

Nathan said he believed pay increases for the superintendency group should be tied to specific, measurable goals such as increased enrollment and increased student participation in dual-credit courses. Rather than raise administrative pay, he said, district resources should be steered to those most affected by the virus.

District spokesman Kevin Burns said Tuesday that the salary increases called for under the agreement — 1.5% in the first year and 2% in the second — match those in the most recent round of union contract settlements.

Longevity pay also is standard in those deals, he said. Under the proposal, members of Gothard's team would collect an additional $500 during the 10th and 15th years of service.

The district's work, "especially during the pandemic, is to negate as much inequity as possible," from classroom instruction to social and emotional supports to employer-employee relationships, Burns said.

"To withhold consideration of one agreement for some employees and not others is inconsistent and unfair," he said earlier in the day. In addition, Burns said, the superintendency group's wages and benefits went unchanged in the 2017 to 2019 contract cycle.

Gothard's compensation is not covered by the agreement.

In September 2019, the school board voted to raise its pay beginning in January 2020. It also recommended then to create a policy to review board salaries every two years. That action has yet to be taken.

Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109