Keeping educators' salaries competitive

January 09, 2005|by SCOTT BUTKI

Editor's Note: The salaries used for the Washington County Board of Education stories are from the 2003-04 fiscal year which ran from July 1, 2003, through June 30, 2004. These salaries are the latest complete year.

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Out of about 2,400 full-time Washington County Public Schools employees, 322 had total compensation of more than $60,000 for the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to public documents.

Of those 322 employees, 115 were administrators and 207 were teachers, according to the documents.

About 75 employees, including one staff development teacher, had a base salary of at least $70,000, according to the documents.

"While salaries may seem high, they are not competitive for their experience," schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said.

"We need to continuously re-evaluate the salaries of administrators and teachers," Washington County Board of Education member Roxanne Ober said.

Most of the teachers making more than $60,000 a year have been working for the school system for at least 20 years, Mowen said.


The school system considers school principals and assistant principals to be administrators, Mowen said.

For the 2003 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, 2003, the school system had about 2,400 full-time employees. Of those, 230 had total compensation of at least $60,000, according to public documents.

That number included 103 administrators and 127 teachers, according to the documents.

The school system had about 1,500 teachers in each of the fiscal years, Mowen said. The school system had 122 administrators in fiscal 2003 and 136 in fiscal 2004, Mowen said.

The school system budgeted $107.2 million for salaries for the 2004 fiscal year and $102.7 million for salaries for full-time employees for the 2003 fiscal year.

Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the administrators' salaries are at a necessary level.

"Right now, we are in a fierce struggle to hire qualified, experienced administrators. We are growing and promoting our own, but we have to give them an incentive to stay with us," Morgan said. "And I think the last several years, we have been doing that."

Ober said that some Washington County administrators are doing work which, in other county school systems, is done by two or three people. These administrators deserve the salary they are paid, she said.

"Our administrators work very hard and they work long hours and they are committed to the school system," Ober said. "We have to remain competitive with our neighboring counties, especially for those positions requiring backgrounds in certain subjects such as English, language arts, math and special education."

Ober said she was aware that some Washington County residents disagree with the pay level of administrators. She said she recently was stopped on the street by a stranger who criticized the school board for giving Morgan a pay raise.

Ober said that if people want to change administrators' pay, they should consider running for a school board seat.

Board President Edward Forrest said qualified administrators, including Morgan, are not easy to find and money must be spent to attract and keep good employees.

Morgan said she and the school board have been working to increase the salaries of teachers. The focus for the next year is on increasing the pay of teachers with 20 or more years of experience in the system, she said.

"Our teachers need to be paid competitively so we can attract and retain the highest quality possible," Morgan said. Some teachers, particularly math teachers, are leaving to go to school systems that pay higher salaries, Morgan said.

Forrest said there has been progress in increasing teachers' salaries, but all need to be paid more, especially the more experienced teachers.

In the 2004 fiscal year, the average county teacher had a salary of $46,854, below the state salary average of $50,303, Mowen said. In the 2003 fiscal year, the average county teacher had a salary of $46,087, below the state average of $49,679, she said.

Mowen said that in fiscal 2003, the average salaries for Washington County principals and some other administrative positions were the lowest of six benchmark counties: Calvert, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, St. Mary's and Washington. The average salary for teachers also was the lowest when compared to the same benchmark counties, according to the documents.

Under contracted agreements between Washington County Public Schools and the Washington County Teachers Association, teachers are given additional compensation for doing extra work beyond their regular teaching duties. A few teachers make as much as $20,000 in additional compensation by doing work including teaching at the Evening High School, coaching and serving as a department head.

The association president, Claude Sasse, refused to comment for these stories, and advised teachers not to talk either.

Some administrators also receive extra compensation, including mileage reimbursement, which also was the result of negotiations, Mowen said. Administrators also can convert vacation days to a tax-sheltered annuity, Morgan said.

Administrators with perfect or near perfect attendance for a 12-month period can exchange up to five unused sick days for pay, Mowen said.

"Near perfect attendance" is defined as a year when an administrator uses fewer than five sick days during the set 12-month period, Mowen said.

Administrators do not receive extra pay for additional work beyond the regular workday, Mowen said.

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