Cynthia Elsberry: Horry’s $200K educator

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Not enough money for school bus fuel?

Times are tough in Horry County. Parents are worried that public schools will be hit hard by the budget crisis.

Jim Rex, the state’s superintendent, has warned of possible job cuts for teachers or a shortened school week to save bus fuel.

Horry’s own Superintendent, Cynthia Elsberry, has talked about the need to “do less with more.”

Now lawmakers are meeting in Columbia to determine just how much state funding needs to be tightened.

Long time Horry school board member Ronald Bessant wants targeted cuts. He explained: “we don’t hurt any of the areas where we’ve had or where we need student success.”

But some parents are skeptical about educators crying wolf. They wonder if the problem is one of spending priorities.

According to the state legislature’s FY 2008-09 budget, Horry County schools received $12,811 per child in combined local, state and federal funding for this school year.

A look at the Budget and Control Board’s analysis of district spending shows that just a fraction of that $12,811 will reach the classroom. Just 40 cents per dollar is allocated for “instruction,” the rest of the money is spent on administration, debt service, facilities, and “other” expenses.

One obvious source of frustration for parents and teachers is the disproportionally high salary of Horry Superintendent Cynthia Elsberry.

Superintendent Elsberry’s generous compensation package includes:

  • $205,000.00 base salary
  • Family wide coverage of medical, dental and disability insurance
  • Choice of tax sheltered annuities
  • $100,000.00 in term life insurance
  • Minimum $850 per month in-District travel reimbursement and limitless out-of-District travel
  • Golden parachute: if fired for any reason Elsberry receives full payment for the rest of the school year

In contrast to $205,000.00 made by Elsberry, the median family income in Horry is just $42,676 -or one fifth of Elsberry’s take home before her generous benefits.

Similarly, the District reports that its average teacher salary is $46,494, just over one-fith of Elsberry’s.

Perhaps most shocking to parents in Horry is how Elsberry’s compensation compares with her superior, State Superintendent Jim Rex.

Rex earns $92,007 according to the State salary database. While Rex is paid more than twice the average public school classroom teacher, he still makes less than half of Elsberry’s pay, and is responsible for all public schools in the state.

Also frustrating for parents in the district, the Horry School Board is still unwilling to release details of how Elsberry was selected for the Superintendent’s position earlier this year, and what factors were considered in determining her enormously high salary.

If school budgets in Horry are as tight as parents have been led to believe, Dr. Elsberry should demonstrate fiscal leadership by forgoing a portion of her own salary before curtailing spending on classroom instruction or student transportation.

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3 responses to “Cynthia Elsberry: Horry’s $200K educator

  1. Horry is a big and growing district, with nine high schools but $200,000 is insane! There should be a law that no Sup. at the district makes more money than the State Superintendent. And why did my kid bring home a list of “required” school supplies for me to buy at the start of the school year if they have $12,811 allocated for them and can still afford to pay for the Superintendent?

  2. A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Such is the public education system of South Carolina and the misguided bureaucrats who are in control. Unfortunately we have a legislature that is only too glad to appropriate enormous sums of money to the failing public schools.
    Why is it so difficult for them to approve a statewide law in which the education money goes with each child to the school of the parents’ choice, whether private, parochial, public?

    It is insanity for the taxpayers to pay huge salaries and perks to district superintendents when our public schools are failing and the dropout rate of students is around 50%. Many families in Horry County are struggling to survive and this superintendent lives like a queen!

  3. 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

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