A-R Superintendent's position advertised; what should it pay?

ATHOL — The Athol Royalston Regional School District has named the members of the new Superintendent of Schools Search Committee — a vibrant list with people of many professions now hard at work on the task at hand. The district officially posted the position of superintendent of schools on Tuesday, Nov. 16, with an application deadline of Wednesday, Dec. 2. The chosen candidate would officially take over the position on July 1, 2016.

There are 13 members: A-R School Committee Chair Nancy Melbourne, Vice Chair Deb Kuzmesks, members Amber Parker and Charles Pretti, former member Mary Barclay, Ken Vaidulas, ARRSD Director of Special Education Jeff Ferranti, RCS Principal Molly Superchi, Jessica Willhite, ARRSD Administrative Assistant Julie Marynok, Shannon Cleveland, Athol Teachers Association President Keith Williams, and AHS Vice Principal and Athletic Director David King.

The position is being advertised on the educational website and job search engine, www.schoolspring.com.

The Job Description 

The position requires: strong leadership skills, excellent communication and political skills, show experience with development and implementation of curriculum, show evidence of successful administrative experience, budgeting skills, demonstrate success in improving and maintaining high academic performance, demonstrate success in building construction and facilities management, understand and recognize good teaching practices, demonstrate success in community engagement/involvement, show understanding of and experience with special education, show experience with educational technology and digital learning.

Other requirements are: certified or eligible for certification as a superintendent in Massachusetts, hold a master’s degree (advanced degree encouraged), 8-10 years of successful work experience in education administration preferred, at least 10 years of relevant experience preferred, Masters degree preferred, and citizenship, residency or work VISA in United States required.

Currently, superintendent Anthony Polito, who has been at the helm of the school district 11 consecutive years, receives a salary for the 2015-16 academic year of $183,855 (as listed in the most recent ARRSD Expenditure Report). In addition, he receives contractually agreed upon additional benefits. According to state records, the average Massachusetts superintendent of schools lasts anywhere from 4 to 6 years, on average, at a district before moving on to another district, often times for more pay.

The question has been raised of what the district/taxpayers should pay the next superintendent, and what is a competitive wage worth paying verses performance expected? 

Currently, the ARRSD is a “Level 4” school district. While it has made many efforts to improve, it remains at the bottom of four possible levels. There is a myriad of factors that could be attributed to the Level 4 status. 

At a previous school committee meeting it was reported during the 2014-15 academic year 320 students had “choiced out” at a cost to the district of $2.25 million. It has recently been learned by the Athol Daily News that this academic year of 2015-16, the number has ballooned to a reported 367 students exiting the district.

Other Districts

After a review of available superintendent of schools job postings listed at the website for the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (www.masc.org/superintendent-searches/superintendent/searches) it was discovered that much larger districts with much larger budgets and student populations are advertising for superintendent like the ARRSD at significantly less of a starting cost, while other schools, including a local regional school, are offering pay much less for the entry level position candidate.

Tewksbury is currently advertising the position of superintendent for a salary based on experience for the range of $160,000 to $190,000, with a student population of 3,638 students. The ARRSD at this time over sees 1,471 students while Polito contractually earns just over $6,000 less than the top possible Tewksbury advertised entry level salary, while the ARRSD manages less than half of Tewksbury’s nearly $58 million budget at roughly $25 million and over seeing some roughly 2,167 less students.

Falmouth on Cape Cod has a school district with 2,903 students, a $44 million budget, and is a Level 1 school district advertising the position of Superintendent for $145,000- $165,000 per year, at a student population almost twice that of the ARRSD and a budget some 56 percent greater.

While regional school districts are known to pay more than non-regional districts, locally again, the difference is significant. The Narragansett Regional School District, which encompasses the towns of Phillipston and Templeton, again is offering the position at a far lower salary, based on experience. Offering an entry salary of $145,000- $165,000, the NRSD boasts a student population of 1,348 and budget just shy of $19 million.

Polito reached his level of compensation after serving 11 years.

Others include Hopedale, 1,207 students advertising at $140-160K, Granby with 825 students advertising at $120-130K, Southbridge with 2,200 students advertising at $145-$160K, and Longmeadow with 2,900 students advertising $140-170K.

Research Suggested

Athol Selectman Lee Chauvette, and chairman of the Budget Sub-committee was asked about a potential salary, and said, “As budget subcommittee chairman I can only state that I would suggest to the full committee that research be conducted with regards to the next Superintendent’s salary based upon student enrollment, district size and other comparable districts. Certainly my own personal opinion is that the range currently paid would be very high for an incoming employee. We simply cannot afford to continue to do business ‘just because.’ People applying need to be committed based upon their desire to bring change and rejuvenation to the district, not because of a big salary. The range and salary debate will need to be taken up by the full committee some point in the near future as we enter the search process.”

This story was researched and composed due to the request of the citizens of Athol, and Royalston who raised questions. At the Saturday, Nov. 14 meeting of the ARRSC, Athol resident James Meehan asked what the current numbers are for district students who choice out. Other residents attending the meeting openly said they felt the district needed more transparency. Various residents have approached the Athol Daily News asking while even though it is extremely early in the hiring process, what does the current Superintendent of Schools earn for a salary, has the district increased from Level 4, and expressed they are concerned with the starting salary of the incoming superintendent.

The question now remains, does paying near top dollar equate to receiving near top results? There is a significant effort to make great strides, and credit should be given to many administrators, teachers, and students alike. However the problems can not be ignored and the Athol Daily News has an obligation to report the facts as requested by the public at large.

Athol Daily News

PO Box 1000
225 Exchange Street
Athol, MA 01331
Phone: (978) 249-3535


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