School administrator salaries up 3.5 percent

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

Local school administrators are seeing paychecks roughly 3.5 percent higher in the new fiscal year that began July 1.

Virtually all Chittenden South Supervisory Union administrators received the same increase, according to Cindy Koenemann-Warren, CSSU human resources director.

CSSU includes Champlain Valley Union High School and schools in Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne and Williston.

The only exceptions to the average, according to Koenemann-Warren, were for a couple of administrators who shifted the number of days they’re expected to work this year. Except in rare circumstances, school administrators work year round, including through the summer.

Salary increases for CSSU teachers have yet to be determined; contract negotiations are still underway for the current fiscal year.

Local administrator salaries appear to be in the range of last year’s New England averages, according to data from Educational Research Service provided by the American Association of School Administrators. The CSSU superintendent will be earning $133,238 this year; for the 2006-07 year the New England average salary for superintendents was $139,664.

New England principal salaries last fiscal year were just over $90,000 for elementary schools, just below $95,000 for middle schools, and nearly $111,000 for high schools. Williston’s elementary and middle school principal salaries for the new fiscal year are in the low-to-mid $90,000 range; the CVU High School principal earns just under $97,000.

“The people in these leadership positions have a tremendous amount they’re responsible for,” said Jeff Francis, executive director of the Vermont Superintendents Association. “It’s fair to say these are high stress jobs. In many instances the operations of a school system, with the number of employees and the size of the budget, they parallel large businesses.”

CSSU, for instance, serves 4,273 students and employs 1,184, including substitute teachers. CVU High School alone is home to one third of the union’s students and 23 percent of its employees.

The nature of school leadership jobs has changed, too, Francis said.

“Everything in education is getting more complicated,” he said. “There’s more regulation. There are more individual consumer demands….”

CSSU Superintendent Elaine Pinckney agrees.

In addition to teaching math or science or a host of other academic disciplines and in addition to teaching students to be good citizens, Pinckney said, “we’re making sure they’re safe when they go home, making sure they have food in their bellies, making sure they get their immunizations. … It makes the job a whole lot more complex.

Administrators in the union’s top positions typically work 60 hours each week, Pinckney said. Compared with comparable positions in the business world dealing with large numbers of employees and customers, Pinckney said she does not believe school administrator salaries are exorbitant.

“We know there’s not a never-ending supply of money out there,” Pinckney said. “At the same time we want to make sure we compensate our administrators well because we want to keep them.”

Francis acknowledges the employment market for top school administrator positions is not always in Vermont’s favor, and that the pools of candidates interested in superintendent positions in Vermont are diminishing.

“If they are competitive (superintendent) candidates, they can go in the employment market in other places and do better economically at least in terms of salary concerns,” Francis said.

Data he quoted from 2005-2006 indicated that the average superintendent salary in Connecticut that year was $145,850; the average salary in Massachusetts was $124,000; both New Hampshire and Vermont trailed behind at $98,000 and $94,700 respectively. (The current Vermont average, Francis said, is $96,703; Chittenden County positions tend to command salaries considerably higher than more rural areas.)

A Vermont average for principal salaries is not readily available. Robert Stevens, executive director of the Vermont Principals Association, said such an average would be meaningless given the wide range of school types in Vermont. Some schools have assistant principals that to share workloads, some schools do not, he said; where one school might have 58 students, others have hundreds or over a thousand. Vermont middle schools alone, he added, come in 20 different configurations.

Stevens could not provide Chittenden County principal salary averages prior to his departure last week for out-of-state travel.