Superintendent’s pay out of line with needs


From Monday’s Sun News:

Times are tough in Horry County. Parents are worried public schools will be hit hard by the budget crisis. Jim Rex, the state’s education superintendent, has warned of possible job cuts for teachers or a shortened school week to save bus fuel. Horry County’s own superintendent, Cynthia Elsberry, has talked about the need to “do less with more.”

Lawmakers recently met in Columbia to determine just how much state funding needs to be tightened. Longtime Horry County 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 S.C. Budget and Control Board’s analysis of district spending shows that just 40 cents per dollar is allocated for “instruction,” with the rest of the money spent on administration, debt service, facilities and “other” expenses.

One obvious source of frustration for parents and teachers is the disproportionately high salary of Horry Superintendent Cynthia Elsberry. Her generous compensation package includes a $205,000 base salary; familywide coverage of medical; dental and disability insurance; choice of tax sheltered annuities; $100,000 in term life insurance; a minimum $850 per month in-district travel reimbursement and limitless out-of-district travel; and a golden parachute: If fired for any reason, Elsberry receives full payment for the rest of the school year.

In contrast to $205,000 made by Elsberry, the median family income in Horry County 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-fifth of Elsberry’s. Perhaps most shocking to parents is how Elsberry’s compensation compares with her superior, Rex. Rex earns $92,007 according to the state salary database.

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

Mr. Page is president of South Carolinians for Responsible Government.

6 responses to “Superintendent’s pay out of line with needs

  1. I agree completely with your piece this morning. One area you did not touch on is the terry program, this is a gross abuse of taxpayers money you need to investigate the worth of this program, you will bsurprised at how many people are getting paid larg sums 60000 + to work 3 day weeks, with little qualification other than time served in the district, the reason for hiring Elsberry as superintendant is quite simple, she was the most unqualified and non threatening to the board, i.e they can manipulate her completely, this is already beginning to happen. there are already many examples of this behavior.

  2. Rather tha cut state employees salary; Why not begin to step down on the Terry program? Reduce it by 50% in 2009-2010 and the put a salary cap of $55,000.oo per year to be elegible to participate in the program. -OR- elimiate it completely. Other businesses are able to retain employees just by paying them a paycheck and offer benefits.

    Superintendents are given large raises in districts that are failing as well as blatently denying kids a FREE AN APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION. When the school denies a child an education, State and Federal funds do not have to be returned.

    The amount of money spent paying high salaried administrators to coast in luxery, would more than keep State employees earning their full paycheck as well as pay for needed educational services.

    An audit of legal fees (using educational funding) paid out to large law firms is long over due.

    It sounds like cuts are being made everywhere but the areas in which wasteful spending is an issue.

  3. How does a superintendent of a failing school district getting a raise?

    Karen Woodward is on the Terry program and just got a 5.8% pay raise. How much of our tax dollars need to be allocated to Dr. Woodward?

    Has the board seen the test scores? Is the board aware of the liability that school district leaders choose to offer them?

  4. Certain players on the board bamboozled the public by not allowing a vote they knew they could not win in the case of a strong Superintendent from Philly (who happened to be independently minded and a black) and all the so-called safe guard organizations sat on the sidelines and gave them a pass. The only board member who tried to call them to account was a fellow named DeFeo. The people on the board he thought would help him were to weak in the spine to stand tall.

  5. Pingback: South Carolina public school funding 2009-2010 « The Voice for School Choice

  6. Thomas Anderson

    Eliminate the free ride for Administrators – and the frills. Their vehicles – Gas Cards and travel expenses. This is about educating children. Most of us drive to and from work and in cases where we must travel we are reimbursed. Why do administrators need company vehicles and the rest. Want to trim the budget start here and save hundreds of thousands.

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