Image courtesy buffaloreformed.com
Last week, Governor Cuomo proposed a statewide $175,000 salary cap for superintendents. The cap would use student enrollment to determine the maximum salary for superintendents, and would range between $125,00 - $175,000. The cap would save an estimated $15 million which is meager when compared to the overall debt of the state. In this sense, the cap is symbolic and echos the popular disconnect between the education system and the public’s opinion of it.
Rational arguments over the salary cap exist on either side. Grand Island Superintendent Robert Christmann suggested that the proposal revealed a lack of understanding of leadership in education. It downplays the role and responsibility of the superintendent. Others, however, disagree. Supporters of the cap argue that low test scores and graduation rates suggest that highly paid superintendents have not earned their keep. In theory, there should be a correlation.
Buffalo Superintendent, Dr. James Williams came under fire when he flatly warned of his resignation should the cap pass into legislation. Williams currently earns $223,372 annually. Despite Williams’ explanation that he has not seen a raise since 2005 and that his salary accounts for like than .5% of the school budget, many Buffalo residents are calling him greedy and unsympathetic to the difficult economic times.
Whether Williams deserves his salary is not up for debate. He has a contract that was negotiated by the Buffalo Board of Education. If his leadership is not worth the nearly $224,000 price tag, then the board members who agreed to that salary should be the ones under fire, not him. Furthermore, you can’t blame him for leaving should his salary be slashed. If I was told that I would be taking a mandatory %22 pay cut, I would question the future of my employment too.
So let's say the cap goes into effect and Williams leaves. Now what? The district is already in shambles - dismal test scores and countless layoffs and school closings. Will someone step forward to bear this burden for a lesser salary? If so, will this person be capable of turning the struggling district around?
Take a look at this segment from WGRZ. I find it a bit unrealistic that the school board member - one of the folks who signed Williams' contract in the first place - thinks someone would sacrifice a salary for the "good of the community." Superintendency is a position that requires at least three degrees - it's not charity work.
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