New York State Exposed Education: Super salaries

Posted at: 04/23/2014 11:29 AM
Updated at: 04/24/2014 8:08 PM
By: Brett Davidsen

Your tax dollars help to pay their salaries, but how are school superintendent salaries measuring up when it comes to your child's test scores?

School superintendents are among the highest paid public officials in the state. Many make more than the governor. News10NBC compiled a list of the base salaries for all 18 public school district superintendents in Monroe County and their pay ranges from $158,000 to $221,000 a year, a comfortable living in an era of increased budget constraints.They get paid generously to lead your child's school district, a demanding job paid with your tax dollars.

Rush-Henrietta Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Graham, who has led the district for 14 years, is at the top of the list. Rochester City School Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, who heads up the area’s largest district, is in the middle of the pack. While Wheatland-Chili, the small district in Monroe County, is paying its superintendent the least at $158,000. 


But are these district leaders, paid with your tax dollars, worth those six-figure salaries? News10NBC asked New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King.

Dr. John King, New York State Education Commissioner, said, "Certainly, it's important that salaries remain reasonable. The bottom line statewide is administrative costs are still a relatively small percentage of the budgets in most districts."

King's boss, Governor Cuomo, has proposed capping superintendent pay based on the size of enrollment. Some education groups have suggested another way of determining their pay.

Kyle Olson, Education Action Group, said, "I think the compensation model needs to be flipped on its head and student performance, school performance needs to be a major factor in how they're compensated."

Kyle Olson is with Education Action Group, a national not-for-profit education watchdog organization.

Olson said, “Rochester is a good example, where graduation rates are certainly below average and unacceptable. When you have student proficiency rates that are terrible, then I think those superintendents are overpaid.

Vargas earns $195,000 a year. In the city school district last year, only five percent of students met or exceeded proficiency standards for English and math. Vargas was unavailable for an interview, but a district spokesman says the superintendent holds himself accountable to the Board of Education and hasn't received a raise since taking the job in 2012.

Van White, RCSD School Board President, said, "If you're going to hire a superintendent, you're going to pay the market rate."

Rochester City School Board President Van White says he sees merit in the idea tying salaries to student achievement in the form of inverse pay for performance.

White said, “Do citizens, should they expect better results? Absolutely and that's why I suggest that maybe we ought to be talking about reducing pay if they don't achieve results."

Second lowest locally on the proficiency tests is reportedly East Irondequoit. Superintendent Sue Allen makes $220,000 in base pay, second highest in Monroe County. When salaries are broken down by enrollment, Vargas makes the least at $6.70 per pupil. But Allen is still among the top three, at $72 per student. News10NBC wanted to ask her about those numbers, but Allen declined comment for this story.

Jody Siegle from the Monroe County School Boards Association says academics are certainly one part of the job, but says there are many other areas where a superintendent must accel.

Jody Siegle, Monroe County School Boards Association, said, “Superintendents are running very much multi-million dollar organizations and their salaries are nothing comparable to someone in the business world."

To see Monroe County superintendents salaries, click here