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Salaries for School Administrators Brought in Line with Comparable Communities

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Budget pie chart for fiscal 2019 in Westford. The graphic illustrates that the school budget of $57.9 million is roughly half of the town's $120 million operating budget. COURTESY IMAGE DAN O'DONNELL

Budget pie chart for fiscal 2019 in Westford. The graphic illustrates that the school budget of $57.9 million is roughly half of the town’s $120 million operating budget. COURTESY IMAGE BY DAN O’DONNELL

School administrators will receive raises for the current fiscal year ranging from 3 to 12 percent to bring them in line with the salaries of administrators working in comparable communities.

The increases for principals, assistant principals, deans, the assistant superintendent, director of school finance, director of instructional technology, administrative technician, and the director of athletics were unanimously approved by the School Committee on June 18, just before it took a month’s hiatus. Meetings resume Aug. 13.

“Our salaries have been quite low compared to comparable communities,” said Superintendent Everett V. Olsen. “…that’s why we weren’t attracting people and had open positions.”

In a town where roughly half the $120 million municipal budget goes to the School Department, School Committee members tread carefully in assigning salaries.

Westford School Committee members in 2018. COURTESY PHOTO

Westford School Committee members in 2018. COURTESY PHOTO

The payroll for all school administrators in fiscal 2019 totals $2.979 million as compared to $2.460 million in the previous fiscal year — a 21 percent increase. The numbers include Superintendent Everett V. Olsen’s  fiscal 2019 salary of $204.4K, up 6 percent from fiscal 2018, which ended June 30.

“One of the primary charges of the School Committee is the evaluation of the superintendent,” stated School Committee Chairman Avery Adam. “We are fortunate to have Bill’s tenure, fiscal responsibility and innovation ‘steering’ Westford Schools into the future.”

Bill Olsen. WESTFORDCAT PHOTO

Bill Olsen. WESTFORDCAT FILE PHOTO

Adam said Olsen set “lofty” goals for himself this school year and praised his management of security concerns and “deliberate implementation of differentiated learning models.” She said the committee voted unanimously to bring his salary in line with comparable communities.

Comparable Communities

That market basket of comparable communities includes Wellesley and Natick, according to the state Department of Secondary and Elementary Education. Wellesley’s superintendent will earn $240,190 this fiscal year. Natick’s interim superintendent will receive an annual salary of $195,000.

School districts comparable to Westford, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. COURTESY IMAGE

School districts comparable to Westford, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. COURTESY IMAGE

The DESE determines comparable communities by analyzing data on such things as demographics, assessments, student support, finances and achievement gaps.

Analysis includes a study of students with disabilities and English language learning.

Other comparable communities include Lexington, Franklin, Hopkinton, Milton, Needham, Sharon, Shrewsbury and Wachusetts.

Until this past school year, Westford had developed a reputation among area educators for underpaying staff, making it difficult to fill some administrative positions.

Olsen said he alerted the School Committee a couple of years ago that he would be adjusting salaries upwards.

“So last year and this year I’ve tried to make the adjustment,” he said.

The extra $518K came from the compensation reserve account, Olsen said.

The compensation reserve account also holds funds raised by a 2017 permanent property tax hike of $1.6 million over three years. Those funds are earmarked solely for teacher salaries to fill a gaping 6 percent hole in comparison to teachers’ earnings in comparable communities.

Olsen stressed administrative salaries would not be fueled by the funds set aside for the teachers. “The override is not intended for administrative salaries…” Olsen said.

The Numbers

A survey of salaries in other communities showed how Westford compares.

Annual salaries for Westford elementary school principals range from $115K to $122.6K and average $117K.

In neighboring Chelmsford, a school district with eight schools and almost 5,000 students, they average $112.7K for the current fiscal year and range from $111K to $113.2K.

Natick is a town of 36,000 with 2,886 students enrolled in its eight public schools. The salary range for elementary school principals in Natick is $122K to $142K.

Wellesley has a student body of almost 5,000 among 10 public schools, and a town population of more than 29,000.

Wellesley elementary school principals will earn between $128,265 and $147,151, depending on experience and level of education. The secondary principal salaries will range between $141.7K and $161K.

Assistant Principal Salaries

The three elementary school assistant principals in Westford will each earn $107K in fiscal 2019. In Chelmsford the range is $98.2K to $106.3K.

Natick did not provide assistant principal salaries, but in Wellesley the salary range for elementary school assistant principals runs from $109.7K to $131.4K.

Outliers

The higher Westford salary increases of 12 percent come from outliers. The salary for Assistant Principal Scott Middlemiss’s income will rise this fiscal year by $11.3K, from $95.7K to $107K.

“Scott Middlemiss’s salary was extraordinarily low…and needed to be adjusted,” said Olsen.

In addition, Assistant Superintendent Kerry Clery’s income jumped $10K or 7.3 percent during fiscal 2018. She is slated to earn an additional $5k or 3 percent for the current fiscal year, bringing her annual salary to $155K. That number is close to Clery’s counterpart in Chelmsford who has a base salary of $145K and a performance bonus of $5K.

In fiscal 2018, Westford administrators received raises ranging from 1.5 to 7 percent.

The salary range for Natick’s assistant superintendent of curriculum is $142K to $170K.

The assistant superintendent in Wellesley will earn $160,000.

The Bottom Line

Avery Adam. WESTFORDCAT FILE PHOTO

Avery Adam. WESTFORDCAT FILE PHOTO

Adam reflected.

“Overall, the district strives to keep salaries competitive, even in fiscally challenging times,” she said.

Olsen stood by his salary recommendations.

“Our administrative salaries in the school system were greatly lagging behind,” he said.