Area school execs' pay far above U.S. average
Galleries2012 Valedictorians in the Hudson Valley
Hudson Valley school districts are paying their top administrators tens of thousands of dollars more than the national average, according to salary data released by the state Department of Education, and that's fine with many parents.
Superintendents top 2012's compensation list, with Michael McGill, the superintendent of the Scarsdale Public Schools, who was named the 2008 New York State School Superintendent of the Year, making the most at $401,230 in total compensation.
The searchable database is broken down by district and lists base salary, benefits and other miscellaneous compensation to come up with a total cost per position to taxpayers.
McGill, in his 14th year at Scarsdale, said the success of a superintendent is often invisible by design.
"Your child has a far better chance of getting a quality education if there's a really well-qualified, highly effective superintendent in his or her position than if that's not the case," McGill said.
Experts say several factors pump up administrator salaries in the tristate region -- a high cost of living being perhaps the biggest.
"In order to attract and retain high-quality leadership, it is essential to provide compensation commensurate with the enormous responsibilities of the job," said Louis Wool, president of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents. "Hudson Valley superintendents' salaries and the national average can be best understood by looking at various calculations which indicate a much higher cost of living."
The median compensation for the 91 superintendents included in the data -- which include Westchester, Duchess, Putnam, Orange, Ulster, and Rockland counties but do not include the Yonkers Public Schools -- is $277,417. The national median salary for public school superintendents, as reported by Salary.com, is $190,018. For the New York City metropolitan area, the figure is $219,250.
Twenty-seven public school districts are listed as paying their superintendents at least $300,000 in total compensation, and two districts -- the Katonah-Lewisboro School District and the Bronxville School District -- are paying a second administrator more than $300,000 as well.
Other top earners include the following:
• In Rockland County, Nanuet School District Superintendent Mark McNeill is listed as the top earner, reportedly making $318,665 in total compensation.
• In Putnam County, Carmel Central School District superintendent James Ryan tops the list at $320,784.
• In Orange County, Middletown City School District Superintendent Kenneth Eastwood is reported as the highest-compensated at $281,488.
• In Ulster County, the top earner is New Paltz Superintendent Maria Rice with a total compensation of $247,195.
• In Duchess County, Poughkeepsie City School District Superintendent Laval Wilson leads the pack with $301,753 of reported total compensation.
The highest-paid principal is Harrison High School's James Ruck, who will earn $245,728 this year after benefits are taken into account.
Only one district, Webutuck Central School District in Dutchess County, pays its superintendent, James Gratto Jr., below the national average -- at $170,419. A request for comment to the Webutuck Central School District was not returned.
Mount Vernon interim Superintendent Judy Johnson will receive $331,414 in total compensation this year -- $144,222 more than the national median.
"Typically, Westchester is considered a very wealthy county, and it is," said Gerald Whiteside, vice president of the Mount Vernon Board of Education. "But there are pockets, there are districts that are suffering."
Whiteside said schools are looking for the best fit for the district, regardless of cost. "The fact that we're in Westchester does not have a lot of bearing on our ability to pay," he said. "We want to get the best value for our money, and I think we have found it."
Many parents are unconcerned about the amount earned by their district's superintendents.
Lisa Ferrara, a parent with children in the Dobbs Ferry School District, supports her superintendent, Lisa Brady -- who will reportedly earn $278,342 in total compensation this year. "She's an incredible leader," Ferrara said. "That leadership quality is highly valuable. That's probably the best thing that she's brought to the district."
Many Scarsdale parents also were unconcerned with the level of McGill's compensation. "Scarsdale feels lucky to have in Mike McGill such an intelligent, experienced and nationally respected educator," said Vivienne Braun of the Scarsdale PT Council executive committee. "He is a creative and energetic thinker who is constantly challenging our students, teachers and staff."