In City Schools, 44 Employees Earn More than Governor

In City Schools, 44 Employees Earn More than Governor

BALTIMORE (WBFF) - Can you put a price on a good teacher, principal or school superintendent? Baltimore City Schools has, to the tune of six-figure salaries.

Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises oversees 82,000 students and a $1.3 billion budget. It may not surprise you, that at $317,000, she was the District’s highest paid employee last year. But what Project Baltimore found in a 2017 City Schools employee salary database may surprise you.

“I would encourage you to ask parents what they think the worth is of a great teacher or a school leader,” says Jeremy Grant-Skinner, Chief Human Capital Officer for Baltimore City Schools.

The database, obtained through a public records request, includes all 9,400 full-time school employees. When we sorted through the data, a few things jumped out at us. In a city where the average household earns $44,000 a year, we found 767 employees who made at least $100,000 last year.

“I hate to say it, I'm not surprised,” says Jennifer Butler from the Maryland Public Policy Institute. “There is a history of mismanagement, poor judgment, excessive spending.”

“We made decisions about how we compensate our employees that I don’t think present a problem for us today,” says Grant-Skinner.

City and school leaders have blamed underfunding for many of the District’s problems. In looking through the database, we found the highest paid teacher, hired eight years ago, cashed in $136,400. And we found a principal, at Lakewood Elementary, who makes $155,202 overseeing a school of 113 students. Her salary is $5,202 more than the chief executive who oversees our state of 6 million.

“I’m not complaining about my salary,” says Governor Larry Hogan. “I’m happy to get whatever they’re willing to pay me to do it. I don’t like that comparison. But people shouldn’t be paid too much when we got a school system that’s struggling.”

Project Baltimore found a total of 44 city school employees who made more than the governor’s salary of $150,000.

“We’re talking about a school system that can’t seem to put heat in their schools in the winter and air conditioning in their schools during the summer,” explains Hogan.

As Project Baltimore reported last fall, City Schools, according to a 2017 U.S. Census report, has the highest administration costs per student in the nation when comparing America’s 100 largest school systems. That is money that doesn’t get to the classroom.

"Leadership is about results," says Butler, who feels the salaries are too high for what taxpayers get in return. “I would ask, where are the results?"

Grant-Skinner points to the challenges of teaching in Baltimore City. “We serve a population of students that have significant needs,” he says. “That means we have to work harder than a lot of our surrounding districts to attract the best teachers, the best school leaders, the best staff.”

And working harder, means offering competitive salaries which Grant-Skinner says are in line with neighboring Districts. In recent years, City Schools has created a career ladder for teachers and administrators, which Grant-Skinner says allows for the highest-rated educators to earn higher salaries, encouraging them to stay in Baltimore.

“Primarily they are our school leaders who are essentially the CEOs of individual schools in our district,” he says, “and they have an opportunity to make tremendous impact on our students.”

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