With Long Island school administrators dominating the ranks of the highest-paid public school employees in the state, district officials and board members interviewed Thursday defended the pay, saying they get quality and experience in return.
In the Commack Union Free School District, district spokeswoman Brenda Lentsch said, "These were dedicated people who rarely took time off," referring to Superintendent James Feltman, who retired in June, and two other recent retirees.
Feltman took in $657,970 for the fiscal year that ended June 30, topping a list of the state's 10 highest-paid K-12 school employees. His total compensation included two decades' worth of accrued vacation and sick time.
In a statement on the district's website, Commack officials cautioned: "Please be aware the reported salary figures for the Commack employees listed are misleading, and do not represent a typical year's salary."
Syosset Superintendent Carole Hankin, who was paid $485,246 for the fiscal year ending June 30, has often been among the Island's top-paid administrators. School officials credit Hankin with running the district efficiently while maintaining high academic standards. The district's Deputy Superintendent Jeffrey Streitman, also made the list with a salary of $353,368.
"Throughout her tenure, Syosset has been recognized as one of the top-performing districts in our region, as well as in the state and country," read a statement issued by the district.
The figures from the Empire Center for New York State Policy, an arm of the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, included total compensation for retirement packages, overtime and other benefits.
Kevin Regan, Levittown's school board secretary, said Superintendent Herman Sirois' salary, reported as $369,254 for the last fiscal year, is commensurate with his 28 years of experience. Sirois has said he plans to retire in June, Regan said.
"I can assure you that the new superintendent will not be paid at the level that Dr. Sirois is being paid," Regan said.
Mount Sinai Superintendent Anthony Bonasera said the figure reported for him includes a $120,000 advance he took on severance money he would be entitled to in three years, when he plans to retire. His salary last year was $285,000, he said. "When you've been in a district for 28 years, you accumulate a high salary, " he said.
The $462,084 listed for Shelley Saffer, former superintendent of the Comsewogue school district, includes accumulated sick time and other benefits paid out when she retired this year.
"People work hard," Saffer said. "They have benefits they are entitled to, and I am a lucky person. I was able to retire after giving many, many years of good service to the school district."
Michell Davi, Comsewogue board president, said the current school board did not include anything extra in contracts negotiated with new administrators that could be used to inflate retirement compensation.
The pay for Westbury Superintendent Constance Clark-Snead, listed at $365,404, included accumulated vacation and sick time after she announced her retirement. However, she rescinded her retirement before June 30 and continues to work for the district at a $268,371 base salary, school officials said.
Jericho Superintendent Henry Grishman, whose compensation was $354,880, said moving from upstate tripled his cost of living. Jericho board president Barbara Krieger called Grishman "the most experienced superintendent in the state.
"People would love to spend less," she said. "But they would very much like to have someone who is beyond competent."