Tuesday, March 28, 2006

D.C. public schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey yesterday defended paying salaries of at least $150,000 to more than a dozen senior administrators in response to criticism by two D.C. Council members.

“I think we’re in line with other districts,” Mr. Janey said after a budget hearing before the council’s education committee. “And there are salaries, and not just teachers’ salaries but instructional aides, that we’re working on bringing up.”

But council members Carol Schwartz and Marion Barry expressed concern about high salaries for about a dozen of Mr. Janey’s inner circle, including several who earn $170,000 in base pay.

One of the D.C. officials earning $170,000 is the school system’s chief accountability officer, Meria J. Carstarphen. Appointed in October 2004 to the newly created job, she was selected last night to be the new superintendent for the St. Paul, Minn., school district.

According to 2004 and 2006 salary schedules approved by the D.C. Board of Education, 14 school administrators are making $150,000 or more this year, compared with just one official making that much two years ago.

The Washington Times first reported about the increase in administrators’ salaries last week.

Meanwhile, the school system faces declining enrollment and crumbling buildings that have sparked plans to close some schools. Officials also struggle to improve D.C. students’ standardized test scores, which have ranked among the lowest in the nation for years.

“I do think that does give people pause,” Mrs. Schwartz, at-large Republican, told Mr. Janey at yesterday’s hearing. “These are government jobs. I don’t think we have to be that competitive. … I would caution you about the number of salaries in the range.”

Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, questioned the salaries after hearing testimony from teacher Jerome Brocks, former political action director for the Washington Teachers Union, who complained about the administrative salaries.

“I am appalled by all those salaries,” Mr. Barry told Mr. Brocks.

Mr. Barry and Mrs. Schwartz tempered their criticism by saying they have given Mr. Janey good marks since he took over the school system in 2004.

Mr. Janey said he is responsible for setting the salaries of senior officials. “Those that are not bound by collective bargaining, I set the salaries,” he said.

Twice a year, the D.C. Board of Education approves a “Schedule A” pay document that includes the salary schedule with base pay and benefits. The school board approved the 2006 schedule with no discussion.

Mr. Janey said the school system’s pay scale is not competitive with salaries at the D.C. city government and federal government, which he said results in high turnover among some high-up administrative jobs.

Mr. Janey is the highest-paid school official in fiscal 2006, with a base salary of $250,000.

Peter G. Parham, Mr. Janey’s chief of staff, receives $170,000 per year in base pay for 2006. He earned $151,050 last year as acting chief of staff. In 2004, he made $86,400 per year as director of interagency partnerships for the school system.

In addition to Miss Carstarphen, Thomas Brady, business administrator, and Hilda Ortiz, chief academic officer, also earn $170,000 in base pay.

Other top earners include Gregory Barlow, chief information officer, $153,000; Cheryl Hiers-Wilhoyte, assistant superintendent, $154,500; and Dale Talbert, deputy chief for accountability, $160,500.

Mrs. Wilhoyte, who is married to William Wilhoyte, an administrator in the Office of the Associate Superintendent with a salary of $124,500 per year, recently has been placed on paid administrative leave.

In addition, Assistant Superintendents Gloria Benjamin and Wilma Bonner, Nicole Conley, director of quality management, and Michelle Walker, chief of strategic planning, earn $150,000 per year.

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