Superintendents Defend Salaries from Proposed Cap – Bedford-Katonah, NY Patch

  • A proposal by Gov. Cuomo would cap a school superintendent’s salary to between $125,000 to $175,000 a year. Why some educators and parents think that’s a bad idea.

It’s a dark time for school superintendents, administrators and teachers, who find themselves a frequent target of outrage by a public eager to assign blame for the current budget crises facing their communities and the state.

The latest salvo on public educators is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to cap public school superintendents’ salaries to between $125,000 and $175,000 a year based on school enrollment. Cuomo said the measure would save $15 million in the effort to bridge the state’s $10 billion budget deficit.

Currently, all superintendents in the lower Hudson Valley earn more than the proposed cap. The average local superintendent salary was more than $250,000 as of May 2010, according to figures from the state education department.

With several area school districts searching for new superintendents, the salary cap could have a major impact on finding qualified candidates, said Dr. Charles Fowler, the president of School Leadership LLC, a firm that helps school districts recruit superintendents and other school leadership positions. School Leadership is currently working with the Briarcliff School District in its superintendent search.

“The proposition has had a chilling effect on people who are considering moving into the superintendent’s role,” Fowler said. Within the past two weeks, “some have withdrawn their applications. Others have asked what we thought the likelihood this bill would pass.”

Fowler said that there will be even more superintendent vacancies in the next two years. The vast majority of superintendents in New York are more than 50-years old, and 46 percent said they plan to retire by 2013, according to a study by the New York State Council of School Superintendents. In the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, 60 percent of superintendents said they plan to retire by 2013.

Fowler and others interviewed said the governor’s proposal seems more intent on shifting the focus from the state’s budget troubles onto school administrators’ and teachers’ salaries and benefits.

“The bill is playing on public anger in general because of tough economic times,” said Chappaqua School Board President Janet Benton, who has been involved in several superintendent searches.

Stephen Jambor, president of the Brewster Board of Education, went further in his assessment of the governor’s proposal.

 “This plays into, and in fact, whips up a lynch mob frenzy,” Jambor said. “People who lost their jobs, their 401ks, perhaps even their houses are in no mood to think rationally about the state’s budgetary crisis. They will take the bait and jump at the opportunity to target salaries that they have been told should simply not exceed the governor’s.”

 You don’t have to look far to find people who believe school superintendents, and even teachers, are grossly over-compensated. Many people who commented on a recent Patch story on the issue strongly favored the idea of a salary cap, saying superintendent’s salaries and benefits were “outrageous” for the job they do.

Educators say there seems to be a disconnect in many people’s minds about what superintendents actually do. Fowler, who worked as a superintendent for 36 years in districts ranging from 3,000 to 50,000 students, compared the work of a superintendent to that of a CEO.

“These are very large operations, to say nothing of the public dollars involved that superintendents are responsible for,” Fowler said.

Superintendents must also invest in furthering their education with college credits (many superintendents have a Ph.D.) and specialized leadership training.

Louis Wool, who has been superintendent of the Harrison Central School District for nine years and was named the 2010 New York State Superintendent of the Year, said the proposal doesn’t take into account the specialized educational skills required to run a school district.

“There is a significant body of research talking about the leadership of the superintendent and principals in public school success,” Wool said.  “There’s a misconception that some individuals can step in and run a school district as if they were running a public sector corporation without the expertise required in those areas.”

A perhaps unintended consequence of the proposed bill is that it would cap only superintendent salaries, meaning in many cases, assistant superintendents, principals, other administrators, and even long-time teachers would make more than the head of the district.

That is what’s happened at BOCES, when Gov. Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father, capped superintendents’ salaries at $166,762 in 1992. Since then, BOCES has had trouble filling superintendent vacancies, and often an “assistant” superintendent, whose pay is not capped, actually runs the show.

“The [BOCES] superintendent has become more of a figurehead and the assistant superintendent is making more and doing the work,” Benton said.

The salary cap measure would also wrest control from local school boards, which currently approve a superintendent’s salary.

“A superintendent’s contract remains the responsibility of the local school board, elected by the public to be stewards of public trust and public funds,” said Judith Johnson, who was the superintendent of the Peekskill School District for nine years until her retirement at the end of 2010. “Thoughtful board members can and will make decisions that protect and represent the interests and will of the communities they serve.”

A school district could, however, vote to override the salary cap, which some district leaders say would simply widen the quality gap between wealthy and poorer districts.

“Communities can override the salary cap, so a community with high resources would be more likely to do that,” Wool said. “And that would exacerbate the difference between the haves and the have-nots, and create a permanent underclass that’s left behind.”

Check the chart below for an overview of superintendent salaries in Patch’s Hudson Valley coverage area:

Source: State Education Department, May 2010.  

Local Superintendent Salaries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School DistrictSuperintendent Salary
Ardsley$244,000
Brewster$226,964
Blind Brook*$250,920
Briarcliff Manor$276,204
Bronxville$279,212
Chappaqua$265,801
Dobbs Ferry$232,532
Eastchester$238,855
Harrison$287,074
Hastings$228,000
Irvington$256,965
Katonah-Lewisboro$274,275
Lakeland$250,000
Mamaroneck$255,000
Nanuet$237,317
New City/Clarkstown$225,000
New Rochelle$263,250
Nyack$237,038
Pearl River*$289,228
Peekskill*$212,226
Pelham$240,000
Rye$253,623
Rye Neck$286,575
Tarrytown$274,120 
Tuckahoe$160,000
White Plains$214,200
Yorktown$240,240

 

 

It’s a dark time for school superintendents, administrators and teachers, who find themselves a frequent target of outrage by a public eager to assign blame for the current budget crises facing their communities and the state.

The latest salvo on public educators is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to cap public school superintendents’ salaries to between $125,000 and $175,000 a year based on school enrollment. Cuomo said the measure would save $15 million in the effort to bridge the state’s $10 billion budget deficit.

Currently, all superintendents in the lower Hudson Valley earn more than the proposed cap. The average local superintendent salary was more than $250,000 as of May 2010, according to figures from the state education department.

With several area school districts searching for new superintendents, the salary cap could have a major impact on finding qualified candidates, said Dr. Charles Fowler, the president of School Leadership LLC, a firm that helps school districts recruit superintendents and other school leadership positions. School Leadership is currently working with the Briarcliff School District in its superintendent search.

“The proposition has had a chilling effect on people who are considering moving into the superintendent’s role,” Fowler said. Within the past two weeks, “some have withdrawn their applications. Others have asked what we thought the likelihood this bill would pass.”

Fowler said that there will be even more superintendent vacancies in the next two years. The vast majority of superintendents in New York are more than 50-years old, and 46 percent said they plan to retire by 2013, according to a study by the New York State Council of School Superintendents. In the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, 60 percent of superintendents said they plan to retire by 2013.

Fowler and others interviewed said the governor’s proposal seems more intent on shifting the focus from the state’s budget troubles onto school administrators’ and teachers’ salaries and benefits.

“The bill is playing on public anger in general because of tough economic times,” said Chappaqua School Board President Janet Benton, who has been involved in several superintendent searches.

Stephen Jambor, president of the Brewster Board of Education, went further in his assessment of the governor’s proposal.

 “This plays into, and in fact, whips up a lynch mob frenzy,” Jambor said. “People who lost their jobs, their 401ks, perhaps even their houses are in no mood to think rationally about the state’s budgetary crisis. They will take the bait and jump at the opportunity to target salaries that they have been told should simply not exceed the governor’s.”

 You don’t have to look far to find people who believe school superintendents, and even teachers, are grossly over-compensated. Many people who commented on a recent Patch story on the issue strongly favored the idea of a salary cap, saying superintendent’s salaries and benefits were “outrageous” for the job they do.

Educators say there seems to be a disconnect in many people’s minds about what superintendents actually do. Fowler, who worked as a superintendent for 36 years in districts ranging from 3,000 to 50,000 students, compared the work of a superintendent to that of a CEO.

“These are very large operations, to say nothing of the public dollars involved that superintendents are responsible for,” Fowler said.

Superintendents must also invest in furthering their education with college credits (many superintendents have a Ph.D.) and specialized leadership training.

Louis Wool, who has been superintendent of the Harrison Central School District for nine years and was named the 2010 New York State Superintendent of the Year, said the proposal doesn’t take into account the specialized educational skills required to run a school district.

“There is a significant body of research talking about the leadership of the superintendent and principals in public school success,” Wool said.  “There’s a misconception that some individuals can step in and run a school district as if they were running a public sector corporation without the expertise required in those areas.”

A perhaps unintended consequence of the proposed bill is that it would cap only superintendent salaries, meaning in many cases, assistant superintendents, principals, other administrators, and even long-time teachers would make more than the head of the district.

That is what’s happened at BOCES, when Gov. Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father, capped superintendents’ salaries at $166,762 in 1992. Since then, BOCES has had trouble filling superintendent vacancies, and often an “assistant” superintendent, whose pay is not capped, actually runs the show.

“The [BOCES] superintendent has become more of a figurehead and the assistant superintendent is making more and doing the work,” Benton said.

The salary cap measure would also wrest control from local school boards, which currently approve a superintendent’s salary.

“A superintendent’s contract remains the responsibility of the local school board, elected by the public to be stewards of public trust and public funds,” said Judith Johnson, who was the superintendent of the Peekskill School District for nine years until her retirement at the end of 2010. “Thoughtful board members can and will make decisions that protect and represent the interests and will of the communities they serve.”

A school district could, however, vote to override the salary cap, which some district leaders say would simply widen the quality gap between wealthy and poorer districts.

“Communities can override the salary cap, so a community with high resources would be more likely to do that,” Wool said. “And that would exacerbate the difference between the haves and the have-nots, and create a permanent underclass that’s left behind.”

Check the chart below for an overview of superintendent salaries in Patch’s Hudson Valley coverage area:

Source: State Education Department, May 2010. 

                                             Local Superintendent Salaries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School DistrictSuperintendent Salary
Ardsley$244,000
Brewster$226,964
Blind Brook*$250,920
Briarcliff Manor$276,204
Bronxville$279,212
Chappaqua$265,801
Dobbs Ferry$232,532
Eastchester$238,855
Harrison$287,074
Hastings$228,000
Irvington$256,965
Katonah-Lewisboro$274,275
Lakeland$250,000
Mamaroneck$255,000
Nanuet$237,317
New City/Clarkstown$225,000
New Rochelle$263,250
Nyack$237,038
Pearl River*$289,228
Peekskill*$212,226
Pelham$240,000
Rye$253,623
Rye Neck$286,575
Tarrytown$274,120 
Tuckahoe$160,000
White Plains$214,200
Yorktown$240,240

 *Pearl River’s current superintendent, Dr. Frank Auriemma, makes $289,228. His replacement, Dr. John Morgano, who takes over in July, has signed a five-year contract in which he will make $249,000 per year.

*Peekskill Superintendent Judith Johnson earned a salary of $212,226  for 2010-2011. The current interim superintendent, Larry Licopoli, gets $975 a day.

*Blind Brook Superintendent William Stark received a $5,000 raise in October 2010.

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