DOE leaders seek pay raises
State Superintendent Hamamoto says some principals earn more than their supervisors
Nearly one-third of Hawaii public school principals now earn more than their supervisors at the district level under a new 12-month contract system for principals implemented last summer, state Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said.
Hamamoto raised the discrepancy yesterday in asking the Board of Education to approve pay increases for the state's 15 district superintendents -- who oversee principals -- and other top administrators, saying the imbalance is making it harder to find willing recruits to upper management.
She asked for their salaries to be raised to $115,000 a year from $110,000.
"The intent is to bring some degree of pay equity with the principals they supervise," Hamamoto told members of a BOE committee.
Since 2003 the state has paid salaries of $110,000 per year to the district superintendents who oversee regional groupings of schools statewide, and to the four assistant superintendents directly under Hamamoto, whose salaries also would rise.
Hamamoto's sole deputy superintendent, Clayton Fujie, makes $115,000. She asked the board to raise his salary to $120,000.
Hamamoto said 80 school principals, or 29 percent of the state total, now make more than $110,000 each, and at least a dozen principals make $120,000 or more, she added.
"And those numbers are expected to grow," she said, noting that principals will get further pay raises later this year.
The 12-month contracts for principals are part of the 2004 Reinventing Education Act, or Act 51, which increases principals' control over their school, but also their accountability. Previously, principals earned less money while working on a 10-month schedule.
Fujie said the pay issue was a disincentive for accomplished principals to bring their expertise to the state level and that such leaders were getting harder to find, though he could provide no specifics and said the situation has not affected personnel or hiring decisions.
"We're trying to find people with the drive to move up and give back to the state as a whole," he said.
Hamamoto also proposed a new performance-based salary review system for superintendents similar to one soon to be implemented for principals.
Though most board members voiced support for the pay increases, several expressed reservations, saying they remain unclear on what exactly the district superintendents do.
Their comments echoed an outside audit of the Department of Education last year, which said the role of the district superintendents was poorly understood throughout the state, leading to confusion on decision-making authority and reporting lines.
"What do they really do? What is their area of responsibility? We need to know what they get paid for," said board member Mary Cochran.
Hamamoto responded that the superintendents perform a wide range of duties in support of the schools under their jurisdiction and are critical to schools' success.
However, board members withheld support for the idea until Hamamoto devises clear suggestions for how she would measure district superintendent performance.
The proposed superintendent salary raises would be retroactive to Jan. 1 and would comply with a state law limiting the salaries to no more than 80 percent of Hamamoto's own pay of $150,000.