The closely guarded salary of recently rehired Hempstead school district Superintendent Susan Johnson is scheduled to peak at $265,000 by 2016, with supplemental merit pay as high as $40,000 annually based on her performance.
The school board, after negotiating two months, approved the contract on May 23, retroactive to November and extending through June 30, 2016. But the board only revealed her salary to Newsday last week, after numerous requests.
The salary is toward the high end of base salaries for most Long Island school superintendents, whose income for 2011- 12 ranged from $200,000 to $280,000.
Several critics questioned the rationality of Johnson's salary.
"The whole community is bobbleheads if we are letting this happen," said Maribel Toure, a frequent school board critic and parent of a high school student. "This whole situation is insane."
But school board president Betty Cross defended the move. "It's great to have her on board. It is great to have a Hempstead graduate back to lead us to excellence .?.?. Under the direction of Susan Johnson we will return back to basics."
Hempstead consistently has been one of Long Island's worst-performing school systems. Its 2011-12 graduation rate of 38 percent was the lowest of the Island's 124 public school districts.
The state Education Department is reviewing its decision not to classify Hempstead High School as a "priority school" -- a short list of the state's lowest-performing schools — according to a May 15 letter to the district.
The district also is facing questions over its policy of routinely raising students' final course grades of 63 and 64 — both failing marks — to a passing grade of 65.
Johnson, 62, has declined to comment on the practice. She came out of retirement to run the troubled school system, her third term as Hempstead superintendent, when former Superintendent Patricia Garcia left on Nov. 2, after three years in the job.
Johnson's salary is $250,000 until Dec. 31, according to the employment agreement obtained by Newsday after a Freedom of Information Law request. Her annual base salary is scheduled to increase to $255,000 by June 30, 2014, then rise to $260,000 for the period from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015. It is to peak at $265,000 from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016.
Johnson, who lives in Freeport, could qualify for the additional merit pay starting in January. She would need to improve the district's academic achievement and high school graduation rates, according to the contract. Johnson did not respond to requests for comment.
"We are looking for her to produce," school board trustee Waylyn Hobbs said. "We are not rewarding anybody who doesn't meet the goal. We are not celebrating failure. We are working toward achievement .?.?. Our goal is to get our graduation rates up."
The district has agreed to pay 86 percent of Johnson’s health insurance coverage cost and 100 percent of her dental insurance tab. She also is entitled to 25 vacation days, 3 personal days, 15 sick days, more than 13 paid holidays, and as many as 10 paid leave days per year, with board approval. She also has the right to a district vehicle with insurance, gasoline, maintenance and repairs paid by the district, or $500 per month as compensation for car expenses, per the contract.
Johnson “is an ideal candidate for this job because she does not need supplemental pay upon retirement in the form of banked sick days or vacation days” the contract said.
Johnson was required to give up her pension of more than $100,000 after the state denied a waiver request that would have allowed her to collect the pension and be paid more than $30,000 as superintendent.