Fifty-seven Long Island educators ranked among the 100 highest-paid employees in the state's public schools and colleges during the 2014-15 academic year, according to the latest compensation figures from the New York State Teachers' Retirement System.
Joyce Bisso, 69, who retired in June as schools chief in the Hewlett-Woodmere district, emerged as the No. 1 earner among educators statewide, with total compensation of $625,214 for the school year.
Bisso's gross earnings as of June 30, the end of the fiscal year, included salary, benefits and payouts for unused vacation and sick days that are typically distributed upon retirement.
Newsday obtained pay data for about 250,000 workers statewide from the teachers' retirement system through the Freedom of Information Law.
Bisso, an educator for more than 30 years, noted that a superintendent's job is one that requires long hours at night meetings and special events, as well as on regular duties.
'Essentially a 24/7 job'
"You work as hard as you can in what is essentially a 24/7 job," she said in a phone interview last week, describing the rigors of dealing with controversial issues including Common Core testing and the state's intensified evaluations of teachers. "I would just tell you the job is a major challenge, very challenging."
School districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties, as usual, dominated the annual statewide ranks of well-compensated educators, with 12 of the top 20 earners, 32 of the highest-paid 50 and 57 of the highest-paid 100.
Louis DeAngelo, who recently retired as East Meadow's schools chief, ranked No. 4 with compensation of $454,527, which included payout money. Henry Grishman, Jericho's superintendent, was sixth with $371,374; Jeffrey Streitman, Syosset's deputy chief, was seventh with $371,124; and Anna Hunderfund, Locust Valley's superintendent, was ninth with $355,833.
The second, third and fifth slots were held by State University of New York physicians and researchers. They were, respectively, Ovadia Abulafia, an obstetrician/gynecologist at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, with gross pay of $539,076; Michael Lucchesi, an internist/emergency physician at the same center, with $506,590; and Esther Takeuchi, a chemical engineer and materials scientist at Stony Brook University, with $418,936.
Long Island school representatives noted that administrators' salaries reflect in part the region's relatively high living costs. Officials with the Albany-based New York State Council of School Superintendents added that schools chiefs' salaries statewide rose at annual rates averaging well under 1 percent during the past five years, though the average increase this year was 1.7 percent.
Some analysts critical of school costs contended that districts should give residents more opportunity to air their views on superintendents' salary contracts before boards of education give those agreements final approval.
"As a taxpayer, you don't have a chance to comment on it before it's too late to do anything about it," said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank headquartered in Albany. "I don't know why you have to hide it."
Decades of experience
Most school administrators and university faculty listed in the upper ranks of compensation have decades of experience. The careers of many began in the 1970s.
DeAngelo, the former East Meadow superintendent, worked 30 years in that district as a superintendent, assistant superintendent and director of special education after teaching special education classes in private schools and at Western Suffolk BOCES. In an interview, he reiterated what colleagues said about the long hours required by superintendents' responsibilities.
"We're never without our cellphones," he said.
Bisso, for her part, served as a superintendent, assistant superintendent, principal and assistant principal in Hewlett-Woodmere after teaching English in Catholic schools and in the Jericho public system. Bisso also was a trustee on the Oyster Bay-East Norwich school board for nine years, including four years as president.
Now, she continues working as an adjunct professor of educational leadership at LIU Post in Brookville.
When contacted by Newsday at her Oyster Bay home, she was in the midst of writing college recommendations for some seniors she had known at George W. Hewlett High School in Hewlett. Bisso said she particularly enjoyed her interactions with students, whom she continued to instruct at youth leadership forums after becoming an administrator.
"You can't write about what you don't know," the veteran educator said. "So I've made a point of getting to know students."