Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake schools Superintendent Patrick McGrath will see a big raise under a new five-year contract the school board approved last month.
McGrath started the school year with a base salary of just over $177,000. Under the new contract, which took effect Jan. 1, his base pay increases to $195,000. He will start next school year with a salary of nearly $200,000 — a year-to-year raise of 12.5 percent.
The contract also guarantees annual salary increases of more than 3 percent in each subsequent year until the contract’s December 2023 expiration.
Before the board approved the contract last month, Board President John Blowers said McGrath was hired as a new superintendent at a “below-market” compensation level, as he settled into the role. But he has consistently earned high marks during annual performance reviews and strengthened the district academic programs, Blowers said.
“Patrick was definitely, in our estimation, being undervalued in the previous contract, and it was by design and agreement,” Blowers said in a recent interview. “This was a chance to demonstrate our commitment and Patrick’s commitment to see us through these next five years.”
Under McGrath’s leadership, Burnt Hills has consistently posted among the highest graduation rates in the region and was one of the first districts in the area to establish a districtwide program that provides nearly all students with personal computers.
McGrath, in his seventh year as the district’s superintendent, said he was committed to serving the length of the new contract – though he can resign at any time with a 90-day notice – and didn’t envision himself moving on to a new job.
“No, I wouldn’t go anyplace else,” McGrath said Thursday. “I really think, right now, this is the place I can be part of a great team and do a great job for the kids that live up this way.”
While the contract outlines a 2 percent annual salary increase, a “longevity” bonus – which is worth $300 for each year he has served the district – drives the annual raises even higher. As McGrath starts his eighth year as superintendent in the fall, the longevity payment will be $2,100, rising to $3,000 by the end of the contract’s term.
Blowers said the contract brings McGrath’s pay in line with comparable districts in the region.
He ranked as the 15th-highest-paid superintendent in the Capital Region at the start of this school year. At his new salary, McGrath would rank as the sixth-highest-paid superintendent in the region.
Other benefits in the new contract also improve over time. After 10 years of service, the district will pay for 80 percent of McGrath’s health insurance premium in retirement. After 14 years on the job, the district will pay all of McGrath’s insurance premium in retirement. McGrath also earns a $10,000 annual annuity payment, under the contract.
McGrath, 51, joined the district as superintendent in 2012 after serving as an assistant superintendent and school principal in the Mohonasen school district. Before that, he was an eighth-grade science teacher in Niskayuna. He and his wife have three adult children and a fourth child who attends Charlton Heights Elementary School.
As he started out under the new contract, McGrath highlighted a $34 million capital project that was approved by voters in October. He said leading that project to completion over the coming years will round out the most significant facilities needs of the district.
He referenced the district’s efforts to get all of its students from third grade on up access to a personal computer and said continuing to improve the district’s technology plan would be a top priority in the coming years. He also said it was important to focus on both advanced computer programming courses and welding and machining programs.
“We need to make sure we are always maintaining that personal human connection in education; that’s a big part of being educated,” McGrath said. “It’s not just reading, writing and arithmetic, it’s also teaching kids to be adults and growing up with character and treating each other right and understanding all of the nuances of the world they are stepping into.”
Blowers said that, over the coming years, the district will need to take full advantage of its new and renovated facilities, not only expanding offerings to Burnt Hills students, but also opening some of those offerings to students outside the district as a revenue source.
He also noted the district’s low demographic diversity and said district leaders need to do more to expose students to a variety of people and experiences, suggesting efforts to attract a more diverse staff.