High dollar Orangeburg Superintendent safe from budget cuts

$7,743 in travel reimbursements for “conferences?”

Just icing on the cake for Orangeburg 5’s $129,000+ superintendent!

Budget cuts may be imminent for South Carolina’s public education system, but no one would know it judging from the personal spending of some school district superintendents.

In recent days, news of lavish travel reimbursements of tens of thousands of dollars and outlandish contract perks enjoyed by superintendents already earning over $100,000.00 have caused parents to question claims that schools lack money for teacher salaries and bus fuel.

The financial worries are particularly acute in low-income districts.

Case-in-point, Orangeburg District Five: The median income for a family in Orangeburg County is just $36,165. Poverty is chronic and 89.7% of the students are categorized as “low-income” by the Education Oversight Committee.

Orangeburg 5 public schools are not working to break the community’s cycle of poverty. In fact, the average SAT score in 2008 for Orangeburg 5 was 889, nearly 130 points below the national average, despite the fact that a mere 111 students in the district took the test. Proficiency in reading and math is also low, with only 22.3% of students in the district proficient at grade level in reading and writing, and a horrifying 17.5% of students proficient in math.

The sustained failure doesn’t bother District superintendent Melvin Smoak, and he has no qualms about saying so.

In a 2006 Times and Democrat article, Smoak is quoted as saying  “When students leave this district, they can compete nationally, and there is an 89 percent minority student population in Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five.”

Smoak’s assertion, that minority children ought to be held to a lowered standard, is offensive. More troubling is his willingness to accept ever greater sums in personal compensation from the district, despite the fact that children in his schools lack the skills needed for competitive jobs and higher education.

Since the signing of his initial $97,000 a year contract in 1999, Smoak has received annual pay increases and bonuses. In fact, Smoak is now making over $32,000 more a year than when he started in 1997. Even the growing economic crisis has not kept him from getting another “performance based” raise for 2008-2009. This year his total salary will exceed $129,000 and a district financed automobile.

Not satisfied with the level of luxury afforded to him as a “public servant” in a poverty-stricken area, Smoak spent an additional $7,743.21 of the taxpayers’ money traveling around to “conferences” in 2007-2008.

Details of this spending are hard to come by. Smoak recently demanded $5,000  to answer a simple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for copies of receipts from his “conference travel.”

If the plight of the poor students in Orangeburg has not moved Smoak to fiscal moderation, it is doubtful that stress over budget cuts will.  His spending shows a total lack of restraint and accountability to the families in his district. Students in Orangeburg and throughout South Carolina deserve better.

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10 responses to “High dollar Orangeburg Superintendent safe from budget cuts

  1. No one in their right mind could say that about kids graduating from one of the lowest performing districts in a low performing state. Who are they competitive with nationally? They would have to overcome receiving a sub-standard education and an apathetic superintendent for starters. He should not be allowed to remain in a position where his obvious lack of concern can ruin the lives of more children. He most know it too, or else he wouldn’t be trying to charge 5 grand for a freedom of information act request. Where’s the ‘free’ in freedom. He has something to hide and needs to go! I am emailing this around to everyone I know, and will be printing off copies to give out to other parents around town.

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  3. I noted your article about the Orangeburg supt. making $129,000 plus extras. Hell, he’s not even in the same league with some of the others. The supt in Charleston makes more than David Petraeus and close to what G. W. makes. Check the others out.

  4. Have you looked at Beaufort County School District and it’s high priced Superintendent? After one year
    she is given a bonus of $17,500 for meeting five of the six goals she was given., Doesn’t anyone work for the paycheck they receive and not hold the government for an additional bonus if they simply do the job required of them. Lackluster academic student performance (reduce by 20 percent gap between the county and the state on 43 indicators measuring performance on state-mandated tests and other areas such as graduation and dropout rates) held her back from setting the highest possible performance-based bonus –$20,000. Her salary was only $198,000 to perform as a Superintendent.

    Her contract was renewed until June 2011, her annual pay will increase from $198,000 to $205,600,
    Extra week of vacation bringing the total to four weeks and an increase in travel reimbursements from $750 per month $800.00.

    Don’t the jobs have a job description that would define what is required from the employee for the agreed paycheck?

    BONUS checks for performance should be outlawed and performance should be required for the paycheck given

  5. Greg Cranford

    I wish you would support our public schools!

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