Administrative pay, teacher pay and student performance
Over the past decade, Delaware’s public education has climbed in many national rankings, having some of the safest schools and least bullying, to one of the best high school graduation rates.
Many good things happening in the public schools have to do with the state’s investment in education. In 2013-14, it allocated $1.8 billion to fund 60 percent of operating 19 school districts. The rest is funded through local property taxes.
Delaware’s spending is among the top 15 states, averaging $15,837 per pupil. The national average is slightly more than $12,400.
Statewide, teachers earn an average of $59,349, principals average $113,772 and other administrators, such as superintendents, average $161,017 per year.
While spending has increased, the proportion going to fund classroom instruction has decreased in the past two years and administrator pay has gone up, according to data from the nonprofit Rodel Foundation.
For 2011-12, Rodel reports 60 cents of each education dollar went to teacher salaries and 5 cents went to administrator pay. By 2013-14, 56 cents went to teachers and 6 cents to administrators.
Higher salaries for administrators or teachers don’t necessarily translate to better student performance. At the end of the day, it all boils down to leadership, according to Paul Herdman, Rodel Foundation president.
SUPERINTENDENT PAY BY DISTRICT (Aug. 2015)
For 11 years, he has heard most of the arguments for more or less spending on education. But real results, he said, come from individuals who, no matter how much they are making, show commitment to their students and districts.
Herdman pointed to the Indian River School District, where student performance is above average.
At Indian River, the teacher salaries are about $2,000 below the state average. Principals average second lowest salaries in the state ($102,177). District superintendent Susan Bunting is paid $171, 529, making her the sixth-highest paid in the state.
AVERAGE TEACHER PAY
Corrected to include Capital School District
Yet Smarter Balanced Assessment scores were higher than state average for English and math, with 58 points and 43 points respectively – beating students in the Brandywine School District, where teachers and administrators are the highest paid.
Indian River’s high school graduation rate in 2013-14 was 89 percent – again, higher than Brandywine’s 85 percent.
“If you look at the superintendents they’ve had at Indian River, they’ve been very strong,” Herdman said. “So, I want to marry any discussion about compensation and funding with strong leadership. More dollars doesn’t mean it would lead to better outcomes.”
Appoquinimink School District is thriving though teacher salaries and administrative pay are comparatively modest.
Average teacher pay is $57,634. That is $1,927 below state average and just a few hundred dollars more than at Indian River. Principals average $113,906 (state average is $113,772).Superintendent Matthew Burrows is paid $168,000 per year – the state’s seventh highest.
But the performance of students attending Appoquinimink schools surpasses all the state averages for test scores, graduation rates and SAT scores.
In Smarter Balanced Assessment tests, Appoquinimink students scored an average of 62 points in English – the fifth highest in the state – and 48 points in math, the second best and just behind Cape Henlopen School District.
Graduation rates at the two high schools are the third highest at 95 percent. Polytech and Sussex Tech, both at 97 percent, top the state.
Brandywine pays best
Generally, downstate districts pay educators less than their counterparts upstate, with a few exceptions. Public employee pay is public record, and a Freedom of Information Act request resulted in a list of exact salaries as of August 2015.
Brandywine School District in New Castle County pays teachers the most, an average $68,656 annually. It has the highest-paid superintendent, Mark Holodick, making $195,197. Its principals are the eighth best paid, an average of $114,567 per year.
On the 2014-15 Smarter Balanced Assessment test, Brandywine students scored an average of 54 points in English Language Arts (No. 10) and 42 in math (No. 5).
SMARTER BALANCED ASSESSMENT SCORES
The averages statewide are 52 and 39 respectively. Polytech students had the highest English score, 78 points, and Cape Henlopen School District were the highest in math with 52 points.
Polytech Superintendent Deborah Hannah is the 12th highest paid, earning $159,376. Cape Henlopen Superintendent Robert S. Fulton is at No. 10, paid $161,166.
Brandywine high schoolers average 1,342 on the SAT versus 1,292 statewide. The best SAT scores were in Red Clay School District (average of 1,446). The superintendent at Red Clay is Mervin Daugherty, ranking No. 5, making $172,933.
Brandywine’s graduation rate is in the middle of the pack, 85 percent, against 84 percent statewide. The highest rates are at Polytech and Sussex Tech, where 97 percent of the seniors obtain a diploma.
Woodbridge pays least
Woodbridge School District serves students in both Kent and Sussex counties. The students had close to the lowest Smarter Balanced Assessment English and math scores, 34 and 29 points respectively.
Its teacher salaries are lowest in the state –$53,226. Woodbridge principals rank 16of 19, paid an average of $106,017. Superintendent Heath Chasanov is No. 16, earning $139, 391.
Laurel School District had the overall lowest SBA English score with 33 points. Superintendent Shawn Larrimore is 17th among top administrators at $136,000.
Lowest SBA math scores came from New Castle County Vo-Tech, where the average was 15 points. NCC Vo-Tech has Delaware’s third-highest paid superintendent, Victoria Gehrt, paid $184,747.
On the SAT, Woodbridge high school students averaged 1,156 – placing it 15th of 19 districts.
Seaford School District turned in the lowest SATs, an average 1,116. Superintendent David Paul Perrington ranked No. 13, at $155,500.
Woodbridge’s 2013-14 graduation rate was 83 percent.
The worst graduation rate is among Christina School District high schools, with only 75 percent of seniors graduating. Despite this, Christina has the state’s second-highest paid superintendent, William Freeman, making $189,112.
There is another source of pressure on administrative pay. Herdman said salaries must be competitive with neighboring states to attract the best managers.
“I think the issue is that you’re trying from a school board perspective to be competitive with surrounding districts,” he said. “In the southern part of the state you’re competing with Maryland, if you’re in the northern part of the state you’re competing with Pennsylvania. So, you’re not in a vacuum when it comes to the salaries that superintendents are making and you want to have really good ones. The larger question is if there are too many.”