Washington Post writers warned of high D.C. charter school administrator salaries in 2015

Last Tuesday, former DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson reminded us through Facebook that almost exactly three years ago the Washington Post’s Emma Brown and Michael Allison Chandler called out certain local charter school leaders for salaries that exceeded hers while she was in office although they oversaw a much smaller population of students.

The article included this observation by Carrie Irwin, co-founder and chief executive officer of Charter Board Partners:

“Carrie Irvin . . . an organization that works to strengthen charter school boards, said that in her experience, many boards aren’t doing a good job evaluating and compensating leaders according to their ability to meet concrete goals, including student achievement goals.

‘We’re talking about allocating taxpayer money to hire and retain a leader who can ensure that kids are getting a great education, and that’s a really big decision,’ Irvin said. “That’s why it’s so important to have strong boards.’”

The piece talked about Friendship PCS’s board of directors setting its pay for then CEO Donald Hense through a compensation committee, a perfectly appropriate manner for setting his salary. When I was at Washington Latin PCS, the board looked at market rates when deciding the salary of its head of school.

Ms. Brown and Chandler go on to comment:

“Competition for strong leaders and the size of schools are two of many factors that drive decisions about executive compensation at charter schools, according to charter school board members. Boards also survey executive compensation at other charter school networks around the country or other local nonprofit groups for comparison.”

All of this seems like the right way to go. It is when schools operate outside of these parameters that they can get in trouble when salary decisions around senior leadership become public knowledge.

Individuals involved with charter schools in the nation’s capital love to talk about the wide areas of responsibility that they as part of their jobs that includes finances, personnel, curriculum, academic results, student and staff recruitment, and real estate. These people should be paid fairly for the work that they do which also includes extremely long hours behind their desks.

As D.C. Council education committee chairman David Grosso stated in the Post article, almost all charter schools reimburse their administrators appropriately for what they do. It is the outliers that I worry about concerning the future of our movement.

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