Archive for Friday, October 3, 2003

Worth it

October 3, 2003

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How much are school administrators worth to a community?

To some local residents, the salaries of Lawrence school district administrators listed in Wedneday's Journal-World might seem high, too high. But are they out of line?

It's difficult to compare all the Lawrence salaries listed on Wednesday with pay for similar jobs in other districts, but superintendent salaries provide a benchmark. The $130,000 salary of Lawrence Supt. Randy Weseman was the highest on the Journal-World list, but Lawrence also was the largest district represented.

How does that salary stack up in other comparisons? Weseman's predecessor, Kathleen Williams was earning $122,000 when she left the district three years ago. Three annual raises of just 2 percent would have put Williams at Weseman's current salary.

The Salina school district, which is slightly smaller than Lawrence's, pays its superintendent about $117,000; Topeka, which is the next largest Kansas district to Lawrence, pays $155,000. The larger Blue Valley School District in Johnson County pays its superintendent $166,000. Those comparisons seem to indicate Weseman's salary is reasonable for a district this size. And, after all, you get what you pay for, generally, and Weseman would seem to be a bargain for Lawrence.

When considering the salaries of other members of the Lawrence district's administrative staff, it's important to remember that one of Weseman's first moves after taking over as superintendent in 2000 was to reorganize and combine administrative jobs and cut more than $400,000 in administrative salaries.

The reduction in jobs, as well as the continuing budget challenges facing the district, means that the Lawrence administrative staff is working a little harder these days. Being a school administrator while fees are being added, schools are being closed and employees are being laid off poses many special challenges. Administrators also must document student achievement, oversee federally funded programs and many other tasks that keep classrooms running. There's no summer break; it's a year-round job.

The last thing to consider when deciding whether our school administrators are paid adequately or too much is to ask how important those people are to the quality of our schools. If we want professional staff members with advanced academic degrees, we should expect to pay professional salaries. If we place a high value on providing the best possible education for our children, we also need to place a high value on those we hire to ensure the quality of our schools.

Weseman has done a good job of pinching district pennies and trimming administrative expenditures. He and probably most of his administrative staff are earning reasonable wages for the services they provide for this community.

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