Our View: Compensate administrators fairly | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Compensate administrators fairly

— The Steamboat Springs School Board should use the same criteria for determining pay and benefit packages for its administrators that it uses in determining pay and benefits for teachers and support staff.

After all, quality administrators are equally as important to the success of the school district as quality teachers.

Administrators’ contracts expired Saturday. The School Board will address administrator pay and benefits at a special meeting Monday.

It’s disappointing that compensation packages for principals, assistant principals and directors were not established earlier. As with teachers, administrators should be made aware of their pay and benefits early enough in the school year to factor that information into their career decisions.

But even more frustrating is that administrators learned in the final month of their contracts that the School Board may use different data in determining their pay than was used in determining teacher and support staff salaries.

Teacher and support staff salaries were compared with a mean from nine Colorado school districts. Those districts included Summit County, Aspen, Cherry Creek, Douglas County, Cheyenne Mountain, Boulder Valley, Academy 20, Thompson and Roaring Fork. All of the school districts in that list have high costs of living that are very comparable to Steamboat’s.

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But in working on administrator salaries, the board asked for administrator data on four new districts: Eagle County, Alamosa, Durango and Florence.

School Board President Denise Connelly has said the new districts are more comparable to Steamboat Springs in size and could be more appropriate to use in setting administrator salaries. She said district size is not as important in determining teacher salaries.

Connelly has said administrators can expect salary increases of at least 1 percent, and the board has not ruled out using the nine districts that were used in setting teacher pay.

But when statistics for the four new districts are considered, it’s hard not to conclude that the board is simply trying to find a way to lower administrator salaries. Routt County’s median household income is $54,000 and its median home cost is $268,000, according to U.S. Census figures. Compare that with a $31,000 median income and $88,000 home value in Alamosa County or a $35,000 median income and $105,000 median home value in Fremont County (Florence).

If there are problems with the way administrator salaries historically have been determined, the School Board should spend the next year developing a different methodology, with input from administrators. But to punish administrators financially this late in the contract year would be wrong.

In the most recent Colorado Department of Education School Accountability ratings, Steamboat’s four campuses again ranked among the best in the state, earning ratings of high or excellent. Third-grade reading scores released in April showed marked improvement from strong scores the year before.

Such performance should be rewarded. In the case of teachers, that happened, thanks in part to the mill levy override taxpayers approved last November. Voters signed off on the tax because they were told it would help attract and retain quality teachers.

But it is just as important to have quality administrators. Addressing their compensation and benefits in a fair and timely fashion would seem to be a minimal part in attracting and retaining quality principals and directors. The School Board already has stumbled on timeliness. We urge it not to make the same mistake when it comes to fairness.