Antagonists who thought the outgoing superintendent of Franklin County Schools had things too cushy may have been taken aback to read that her successor will get virtually the same deal.
Assistant Superintendent Chrissy Jones, poised to take the top spot July 1, will have the same initial pay and travel allowances as Harrie Buecker. When she completes her doctoral degree she’ll earn $5,000 a year more for that accomplishment, just as Buecker did.
Like her predecessor, Jones will enjoy additional perks that raised eyebrows. The school system will again reimburse its chief administrator for her contributions to the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System, meaning the pension for her years as superintendent in Franklin County will have been covered by taxpayers’ money. Teachers generally make their own pension contributions. Jones also will have membership dues paid for civic and professional affiliations, with reimbursement for attending at least one national convention each year.
The State Journal’s Katheran Wasson checked with districts in neighboring counties last year and learned such fringes for superintendents are not unusual. Rank has its privilege. Perhaps the benefits also underline how much the education game has changed – top to bottom – over the decades.
Classroom teachers and high-level administrators alike have made big gains in pay and benefits since passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act; a lifetime vow of poverty is no longer required of educators. Gone are the days when impecunious old pedagogues kept doddering into the classroom to make ends meet in their not-so-golden years. Teachers now can afford to raise families, buy nice homes and cars, take luxury vacations in their summers off and retire securely before they’re too old to enjoy the rewards. Experienced educators even have a measure of protection from the economic distress that’s swept other workplaces since 2007. While the Franklin County Board of Education decided it couldn’t afford to give employees an across-the-board raise in 2012-2013, the district did budget $661,706 for “step increases” which teachers automatically receive as they gain experience and training.
Superintendents and other administrators can expect to do better still – provided they have the political moxie to survive the inevitable incoming fire. Buecker had her ups and downs, but finally came to the conclusion she should move on. She’s departing on relatively civil terms despite a somewhat rocky relationship with certain board members. Her final evaluation was short and sweet, awarding predominantly high marks – “excellent” in eight categories and “good” in the other. Her ratings peaked before anonymous tips led to investigations by the state Office of Education Accountability that required the superintendent to take refresher courses on administrative procedures. The biggest knock against her was that she exceeded her authority in luring associates from her former district to jobs in the local system.
As is the case with many high positions, the perks of the superintendent’s office look more inviting from the outside. The last two occupants have had their rough spots, partly self-inflicted. The new superintendent should gird herself for the work ahead with a mixture of humility and determination to avoid the mistakes her predecessors made.