Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More than a dozen D.C. public school system central office administrators are taking home base salaries of at least $150,000 per year, compared with just one official earning that much two years ago, according to an analysis of payroll records.

The salary information, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, shows 14 central administration officials receiving a base pay of at least $150,000 in fiscal 2006, including five officials making $170,000 or more.

By comparison, pay records approved by the Board of Education in July 2004 show only one administrator — former interim Superintendent Elfreda Massie — earning at least $150,000. She was paid $175,000.

An analysis by The Washington Times compared Schedule A pay documents approved by the school board in July 2004 and in January 2006, and found that the school system’s top jobs pay significantly more than they did two years ago. The document is a detailed financial snapshot that contains schedules of salaries and benefits.

The pay increases come at a time when the school system struggles with declining enrollment brought on by competition from charter schools. In recent years, D.C. school officials also have cut teaching jobs and made plans to consolidate schools.

Roxanne Evans, the school system’s media strategist, said the salaries are necessary so the school system can “hire and retain the best people we can.”

“The thinking is that in order to elevate DCPS into a world-class school district, the superintendent needs a world-class management team,” said Miss Evans, who earns $78,502 a year.

“The salaries of our senior management team are consistent with their knowledge, ability and skills, as well as the expectations of the superintendent.”

But D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the council’s Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation, said she plans to ask school system officials about the salaries during upcoming budget hearings.

“We need to pay to have top talent in our school system, but I have to say that this will be an issue as we review the DCPS school budget,” Mrs. Patterson said.

D.C. schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey is the highest-paid school official in fiscal 2006, with a base salary of $250,000, not including a performance bonus last year of $25,000.

Among the executives in the school system two years ago, the biggest pay jump by far was for Peter G. Parham.

Mr. Parham earned $86,450 as director of interagency partnerships under Mrs. Massie. By 2006, he had received a promotion and a nearly 100 percent pay raise. Mr. Parham now earns $170,000 per year in base pay as Mr. Janey’s chief of staff.

Mr. Janey also has a special assistant, former interim Superintendent Robert C. Rice, who receives $146,550 per year, according to the Schedule A document.

Three other employees recruited from outside the school system — Meria Carstarphen, chief accountability officer; Thomas Brady, business administrator; and Hilda Ortiz, chief academic officer — are paid $170,000 each in base salary.

Erika Pierson, who was paid $91,114 as a supervisory lawyer in 2004, now gets paid $150,000 as acting general counsel. The school system’s former general counsel, Veleter Mazyck, received $125,950 in 2004, pay records show.

Other top earners in 2006 include Gregory Barlow, chief information officer, $153,000; Cheryl Hiers-Wilhoyte, assistant superintendent, $154,500; and Dale Talbert, deputy chief for accountability, $160,500.

In addition, assistant superintendents Gloria Benjamin and Wilma Bonner receive $150,000, along with Nicole Conley, director of quality management, and Michelle Walker, chief of strategic planning.

Pay records also list a $150,000 salary for Alexis Moore Bruton, director of communications.

Russell Smith is the highest-paid employee at the school board. He received $105,040 two years ago as the board’s executive director. In the same position, Mr. Smith’s pay jumped nearly 20 percent over two years, to $125,000 in 2006.

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