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School Board weighs pay of administrators

The board votes Tuesday on a raise package that includes larger increases for the assistant superintendent, high school principals and WTI's director.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 2, 2002

INVERNESS -- Few topics pique more public and political interest in the school district than that of administrators. Specifically, how many of them there are and how much they are being paid.

School Board members hear the chatter every time raises for the administrative staff are proposed. This year, the board has put a special emphasis on knowing all the details before deciding on the proposed $94,000 raise package for the nearly 80 administrators. They are expected to vote Tuesday on the issue.

Superintendent David Hickey and his staff have said the raises represent the same 2 percent pay increase that was offered to all of the other employees. Hickey has recommended larger pay raises for his assistant superintendent, the high school principals and the director of the Withlacoochee Technical Institute.

His rationale has been that the salaries for those positions are below the state averages. Staying competitive to attract new administrators is vital, he said.

School officials also tried to widen the gap between the lowest-paid administrators and the highest-paid teachers. They could not afford to do that this year, but the efforts sparked a debate that shows why this topic generates such controversy.

Under the proposal, the lowest-paid administrator with no experience and working 216 days would be paid $47,750. For an administrator working 251 days, the lowest salary would be $53,550.

A beginning teacher, by comparison, earns $26,400.

A teacher with a bachelor's degree and more than 15 years' experience is paid $41,623, which includes a raise of $1,073 this year. Teachers below the top rung of the salary scale got $400 raises.

The district's assistant superintendent would get a $3,750 raise under the proposal, while high school principals and the WTI director would get $2,650 raises. Raises would be $1,050 for administrators working 216 days and $1,150 for 251-day administrators.

Because the Citrus County superintendent is elected, not appointed, his salary is set by the state. The salary of School Board members is also set by the state and is based on the student population. With the changes in the school code approved this year by the Legislature and the governor, board members will soon be setting their own salaries.

Personnel Director Steve Richardson told the board last week that the administrators' raises were set based in part on keeping the gap between those positions and that of teachers. The concern has been that some new assistant principals would earn less than long-term teachers with advanced degrees or supplemental jobs.

Board member Sandra "Sam" Himmel questioned that logic.

"I don't compare our top-end teachers to our administrators," Himmel said. "Who wrote the rules that say they cannot make the same amount of money as an assistant principal?"

Richardson said administrators need to be compensated for the time and effort they have made to see the whole picture of the educational system. A teacher for 21 years before he became an administrator several years ago, Richardson said his classroom experience gave him the information he needed to move to the next level.

"Why do we go into administration?" he said. "We felt that we could make a difference in the whole educational system by doing this."

Board member Patience Nave said good teachers should be encouraged to remain in the classroom. "Why do we tell people that if they do really well in a classroom, then you've got to be an administrator?" she asked.

Board Chairwoman Pat Deutschman defended the administrative pay proposal, saying that many teachers got more than the raises negotiated by their union. Many also received an $850 bonus mandated by the state.

The discussion then veered into the number of administrators in the district and, in particular, Hickey's proposal to add five new quasi-administrators to the high schools.

All three high schools would get assessment specialists to deal with testing, while two of the three schools -- those with enrollments above 1,500 -- would get deans to handle discipline concerns.

But what about those people at the schools now who are handling those duties? Nave asked. What would they do with their extra time?

Himmel noted that, "When we discuss the administrative pay raises, I'm told it's a political issue . . . but people ask, "Why do you have all these administrators at the high schools?' "

In Citrus, 54 of the 78 administrators are principals or assistant principals. The rest are county-level administrators. Richardson offered some comparisons to tbe board on the number and pay of district administrators compared to their counterparts around the state.

For example, the district's top appointed official, assistant superintendent Linda Kelley, has a salary of $73,400, which is the top of the local scale for her position.

The state average for the job, however, is $91,741. Martin County, which has a school population similar in size to Citrus, pays its assistant superintendent $86,529, according to the state Department of Education.

For high school principals, the Citrus average was $66,667; the state average is $79,421.

Richardson said that comparisons with surrounding and similar-size counties are critical in making salary decisions. "Those are usually the counties we're competing with," he said. "We have got to have good school-based administrators and we've got to have good district-based administrators."

He said he did not expect that Citrus would ever reach the state averages for administrator pay and that is partially because the state considers the cost of living when distributing funds. Because of that, Citrus gets about 93 percent of the money it might if the dollars were based strictly on student population, he said.

Pay ranges within 5 or 6 percent of state averages might make sense, but Citrus lags in most categories.

"I don't expect us to be at the state average," Richardson said. "But we should be trying to get where similar counties are."

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