Pay increases for top administrators at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School were approved this week, completing a round of raises for nonunion administrative staff in Island schools. The increases, which ranged from 3.5 to 6.5 per cent, were recommended by Vineyard schools superintendent James H. Weiss based on several factors including cost of living, performance and reaction to raises resulting from teacher contract negotiations last year.
At a high school committee meeting Monday, where the 15 pay increases were unanimously approved, discussion ranged from reluctance on the part of a few frugal committee members to more broadly drawn concerns about the ability of the school district to offer salaries that will continue to attract good teachers and administrators.
Robert Tankard of Tisbury, who rejoined the committee this week, replacing John Bacheller, pointed to the increasing price of mayonnaise on the Island and said he is concerned that teacher salaries cannot keep pace with the high cost of living here.
“There’s no place but up [for these salaries to go] or we won’t get anyone to come here,” he said.
Also at the meeting outgoing principal Margaret (Peg) Regan announced that Carlin P. Hart has been named interim assistant principal at the high school. Mr. Hart, who is currently interim principal at the Oak Bluffs school (Laurie Binney is on sabbatical this year) will temporarily fill the post vacated by Steve Nixon, who takes Mrs. Regan’s place at the end of this month.
Mr. Hart was named interim after the first choice candidate — Ryan Early of New Hampshire, dropped out, apparently citing personal reasons. There were seven short-listed candidates.
Since at this stage the other candidates had been notified that the position was filled, Mr. Weiss said he had three options:
“We could start the search again, we could go to the number two from the original job search or we could look for an interim for a year, which was my recommendation,” he said.
There are two assistant principals at the high school.
Mrs. Regan praised the selection of Mr. Hart, who is the permanent assistant principal at the Oak Bluffs School. He was in Philadelphia with the eighth grade class trip this week and could not be reached for comment.
“I don’t think we could get better wisdom, temperament or humanity,” Mrs. Regan said at the meeting Monday. “Carlin will be that student-activity, open-door, out-in-the-public kind of person,” she told the Gazette later.
“He’s wonderful,” agreed Priscilla Sylvia, a longtime teacher at the Oak Bluffs school now retired, “but you can only have him for one year.”
Mr. Hart’s salary is yet to be published, though his position was on the list of those slated for pay increases.
This will be the first year that annual raises for Island administrative school staff will be based on anything other than a flat percentage increase. This year the high school personnel committee entrusted Mr. Weiss with five per cent of the total administrative salary fund to divide using his own formula. He said he began with an across the board 3.5 per cent cost of living increase.
“Some of the salaries are way behind their position compared to their counterparts on the Cape,” said Mr. Weiss, who receives a list from of similar salaries from other state school committees.
To illustrate his point, Mr. Weiss pointed out that from 40 initial respondents for the recent principal search to replace Mrs. Regan, more than 20 never applied, a fact the superintendent puts down to the high cost of living on the Island.
“People couldn’t afford to live here,” he said. “I mean they could afford to rent an apartment but they couldn’t bring their family and make a life here.”
Mr. Weiss then looked at a perceived disparity between teacher and administrative salaries resulting from last year’s three year union-negotiated contracts.
“Teachers work 184 days and administrative staff work 260,” he said, “and yet some are being paid the same amount.”
Reward for good performance was also factored into the superintendent’s calculations, although he downplayed this element.
Speaking after Monday’s meeting committee member Leslie Baynes emphasized the importance of offering incentives to leaders who might otherwise return to teaching. “There has to be a motivation to do the job beyond ego,” he said, adding that the issue is likely to be ongoing: “More and more we’re going to have trouble attracting good leaders.”
Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter, a longtime committee member who is known as a fiscal conservative, argued that in times of economic uncertainty spending less is a priority. He noted that the salary increases add up to at least $1 million.
“It’s about doing more with less,” Mr. Manter said, adding: “When the assistant principal search fell through it would have been good to see if it was possible to get through without one. We could have survived.”
Laurie Halt, assistant to the superintendent for curriculum and instruction, disagreed.
“I don’t think we could have,” she said. “The work to run this school is enormous. It would have been disastrous, honestly.”
Committee chairman Susan Parker added that this was not a time to be experimenting at the school.
The salaries approved are as follows: Neal Weaver, assistant principal, $88,000; Laura Gliga, special education coordinator, $89,115, Mike McCarthy, guidance director, $98,724; Kate Kavanagh, Rebecca Amos Institute director, $68,740; Jim Maseda, assistant athletic director, $67.275; M. Whitmore, financial assistant, $57,000; Jeff Rothwell, vocational director, $94,685; Woody Filley, technology director, $81,101; Richard Hammond, technology coordinator, $62,646; M.L. Schroeder, treasurer, $28,810; Judy Pizelle, scheduler, $59,923; Tania Laslovich, trainer, $41.987. The new salary of Jim Novack, director of the Performing Arts Center, is $69.858 and pro-rated since he is scheduled to retire from his full-time post later this year. Mr. Nixon’s salary as principal had already been negotiated and set at $117,500.
Mr. Weiss will present recommendations for pay increases for employees at the office of the superintendent, including his own, at an all-Island committee meeting later this month.