Just what are the central issues to be addressed in regards to analyzing the compensation and benefits for PCS employees and retirees (or, for that matter, for most NYS public schools)? For the PCSD, let’s first examine the salaries.
Regarding Salaries for Administrators
Are administrators overpaid? Well, that depends. A good administrator should be an ethical and intelligent educational leader who is committed to the continual improvement of education for students. An administrator who fits this description is by no means overpaid. It has been said that there needs to be a renaissance in American public education. Administrators should be asked if they agree and how they propose to help lead the school district into such a renaissance. Additionally, they should be asked what they propose to do about the lack of rigor in teacher preparation programs and what they plan to do to attract more academically competitive undergrads to the teaching profession.
The PCSD is lean on administration. The superintendent position comes with no professional academic assistant. This is also true of the principal positions. In addition, these individuals incur significant expense for multiple degrees and certifications. Are the PCSD professional administrative salaries out of line with what is fair and reasonable for this area? No, they are not.
The position of superintendent of schools is especially important because the person in this position has a central role in selecting good teachers. Anyone who has ever served on a BOE has too often seen political hires trump quality hires. When a Board is complicit in this, well…students can be doomed to mediocrity for up to thirty years.
The superintendent of schools also has the sole authority to negotiate collective bargaining agreements while it is the Board's job to vote on ratification (release of the money). Unions are getting the contracts that the superintendent favors. I have never seen a BOE fail to ratify a proposed contract that was endorsed by the superintendent. Fair and insightful negotiating can leave the school district in solid financial standing- a Win/Win for management and labor. Board members in NYS are always advised to have the district hire an attorney, with specialized knowledge in labor law and negotiations, to handle negotiations and to work within the parameters given to him/her by the superintendent and BOE. The argument, of course, is that superintendents usually come from the teaching ranks and have little to no expertise in labor law, negotiating, or contract writing. A sloppily written contract, as the PCSD discovered a few years ago, can lead to lost grievances, lost legal rights, and lost negotiating power. Over the 13 years I served on the BOE, I have never seen a superintendent willing to hire an attorney to handle negotiations nor a Board where the majority saw the value in it. The argument has always been that it would be too expensive. This is untrue. What is too expensive is dealing with the consequences of poorly written contracts that contain costly and unsustainable provisions. Everyone suffers when the bank is broken so why pretend we aren’t heading in that direction? Why pass on to future employees, students, and taxpayers the burden of unsustainable benefits that have been negotiated by past supers and ratified by union-compromised Boards? It’s easier, of course, to pass on the burden to the next generation but it is inexcusable.
What, one might ask, are administrators worth? Good ones are invaluable.
Future postings will cover:
Ø Teacher and CSEA compensation
Ø Benefits for Employees and Retirees