Paying for good teachers, administrators

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Nobody could have summed up the public perception of school administrators' salaries better than Central High School parent Rhonda Young, quoted in an article on the subject earlier this week.

"People always want to blame something, and the top is where they start because those are the people in charge," she said.

This year, across the state, the blame game is over school funding. State revenue for school districts is tight. Then local property-tax revenue estimates for the Cape Girardeau School District came in below even very conservative estimates.

The result has been a crunch some longtime teachers say they've never dealt with before. Some vacant positions aren't being filled. Classes have been merged. Teachers have been shifted.

It's a tough situation, and it has many parents properly wondering if this lack of money is going to affect their children's education.

And then they turn their attention to where some of that money is going: district administration.

There were whispers around the area about giant raises for school leaders while teachers suffered. Some of those comments made it to the Southeast Missourian's Speak Out line.

The newspaper set the record straight by running a list of administrative salaries from 2002-03 and 2003-04, taking into account the raises. The numbers were provided by Jackson and Cape Girardeau school districts.

The truth: Jackson administrators took the same raise as teachers, around 1 percent. In Cape Girardeau, administrators also took the same raise as teachers, 4 percent.

Cape Girardeau's superintendent, Mark Bowles, said the raises in his district filled two commitments: keeping a promise to teachers and retaining the best educators possible.

Those managing similar duties and workers in the private sector would command similar or higher salaries. And national figures show neither district is overstaffed with administrators.

Still, the public is correct to question these positions and their associated costs.

Scrutiny particularly seems deserved when an administrative position is to be added. Cape Girardeau, for example, added a curriculum director, special education director and business manager while losing an assistant superintendent and a special education coordinator.

Now the district is discussing adding a public relations person. In a time of tight budgets, adding another position might best be delayed.

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