For a superintendent who's always claiming that his school district doesn't have enough money, he sure makes a lot of money.
The Schenectady school board on Wednesday rewarded Superintendent Laurence Spring with a $4,000 pay raise, bringing his base annual salary to over $196,000.
Already ranked fourth on the list of the region's highest paid school superintendents, the pay raise lifts Spring into third place.
At $196,000, Spring would be the highest paid governor in the country by about $5,000. Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes $179,000 to administer a state of 20 million people. Still, he earns $17,000 less than what Spring gets to administer a school district of about 10,000 students.
Add in another $58,000 or so in benefits to Spring's new salary, and the region's highest taxed citizens are paying over a quarter of a million dollars a year for one employee.
Doesn't anyone on that school board see anything wrong with that? Doesn't anyone on that board see how that salary is out of whack for Schenectady?
Schenectady city residents pay the highest property tax rates in the region, with school taxes making up about half the overall tax burden. And they don’t have much to pay them with.
According to the Census Bureau, the median household income in Schenectady last year was $38,916, the lowest in the region.
There should be some kind of balance between the tax burden, the ability of people to pay, and the pay for school administrators.
District officials say the superintendent's performance justifies the salary and the pay increase. But what about performance of the students he oversees? Shouldn’t the school district's academic success or failure play a role in his salary as well?
At 65 percent, the district's graduation rate has been inching upward, but is still well below the state average of about 78 percent. The district's proficiency rating for students in English Language Arts (ELA) for grades 3-8 was 13 percent in the 2014-15 school year, according to the state Education Department. The state average was 31 percent. For math, the district was at 14 percent, compared to 33 percent statewide.
If the superintendent is going to get paid for the improvements the district makes, he should take some of the heat for its shortcomings.
We understand that the school board feels Mr. Spring is doing a good job, especially under the circumstances. We understand that running a poor urban school district is difficult. We understand that Mr. Spring is a faithful advocate for the district, both locally and at the state capitol. And we understand that good superintendents are hard to find, so you have to adequately compensate them.
But all that hardly justifies paying someone that amount of money, and then boosting it, given the nature of the city's tax burden and the perennially poor financial condition in which the district finds itself.
Yes, a school board should consider an employees' value in setting salaries.
But it also must be sensitive to the financial circumstances of the community and the taxpayers who ultimately pay those salaries.
Clearly, in this case, it is not.