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School salary hikes outstrip inflation

June 7, 2010

Business First of Buffalo – by G. Scott Thomas


The Sweet Home Central School District is on the hunt for a new superintendent, and Carol Nowak is of two minds about the process.

Nowak, the president of Sweet Home’s school board, is seeking a highly qualified replacement for Geoffrey Hicks, who recently left for a new position in the Hudson Valley. But she’s also eager to strike the best financial deal for her district.

“Containing costs is critical. It’s always a concern,” she says. “How do you balance hiring the right person for the job with your responsibility to the taxpayers? That’s the big question that everyone faces.”

It’s an especially important question this year, considering the twin threats of state-aid reductions and an economic recession that has pushed local unemployment to the highest levels in more than a decade.

But it won’t be easy for Sweet Home — or any other district seeking a new chief executive — to contain costs. The median pay for Western New York school superintendents has soared 55 percent since 1998, easily outstripping the inflation rate of 34 percent for the same 12-year period, according to a new analysis by Business First.

The typical superintendent in the eight-county region was paid $88,750 a dozen years ago, based on salary allocations reported by Western New York’s 98 school districts to the New York State Education Department. The median salary for that same group shot up to $137,917 by 2010. (A median is a midpoint, with half of all officials earning more and half earning less.)

The breakdown of superintendents’ salaries is part of a broader Business First study of pay levels at local public schools. These are among the other findings:

• A total of 546 administrators and teachers in the 98 districts were paid $100,000 or more during the 2008-2009 academic year. The largest number (75) worked for the region’s largest district, Buffalo.

• Another 4,663 employees of public school districts earned between $75,000 and $99,999 a year ago.

• Sweet Home pays the highest salaries for teachers in Western New York, as indicated by Business First’s analysis of pay levels at five different points in the typical teacher’s career. Williamsville and Niagara Falls are the runners-up.

Follow these links for further results from Business First’s study of salary levels at Western New York’s public schools:

13 districts hiked superintendents’ pay by more than 80% since 1998

546 employees of Western New York districts earn six-figure salaries

Sweet Home tops the pay ratings for Western New York teachers

And click here for access to databases with salary and pension figures for 55,432 Western New York educators.

Read more: School salary hikes outstrip inflation – Business First of Buffalo


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