South Whidbey’s top three public school administrators will receive a 15 percent salary increase next school year in new contracts approved by the South Whidbey School District Board of Directors Wednesday.
Superintendent Jo Moccia’s base salary was approved for $193,000 beginning July 1 for the 2019-2020 school year under terms of a renewed three-year contact. Included in the base pay is $11,200 in stipend allowances and other benefits.
Moccia has overseen South Whidbey School District since 2011; it employs about 90 teachers and student enrollment hovers around 1,265, down from a predicted enrollment of about 1,300.
Assistant Superintendent Dan Poolman received a three-year contract with a base salary of $183,943 and subsequent annual salary increases to be based on the consumer price index, according to the contract.
Special Education Director Jeff Fankhauser received a one-year contract with an annual salary of $138,689.
Moccia has more than 30 years’ experience as a school psychologist, principal, director of special education, assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent and superintendent. Her doctorate from Seton Hall University means an additional annual stipend of $3,500.
Linda Racicot, board chairwoman, explained that the board negotiates the pay of the top administrators because they aren’t represented by unions unlike certified teachers and classified staff.
“This year, we really prioritized salaries,” she said. “The teachers received a 20 percent increase in salaries. Our administrators received the same; they didn’t get 20 percent but they did receive an increase.”
The board also looks at comparable size school districts when considering salaries, Racicot said.
“We want everyone to be valued and to be a competitive district in the area,” she said.
Included in Moccia’s salary are $11,200 worth of benefits that in the past had been listed separate from the salary, according to the contract. Those benefits include $2,400 transportation allowance, $1,200 technology allowance and a retirement benefit of about $7,000 per year.
This is Moccia’s fourth pay raise since she was hired in 2011 at an annual salary of $130,000. She received a $2,500 pay bump in 2014, followed by a $13,000 increase in 2015. In June 2016, the school board gave Moccia and Poolman both a 6.8 percent raise.
Last September, the South Whidbey Education Association threatened to strike if demands for higher teacher pay increases were not met. A two-year contract agreement reached hours before the first day of school increased minimum teacher salary to $50,827 and maximum pay to $103,000. Pay increases averaged 16.5 percent.
Teacher salaries rose sharply statewide this school year because the Legislature provided $2 billion in new funding over two years to fulfill a state Supreme Court order known as the McCleary decision.
But as salaries increase, enrollment decreases. All three Whidbey Island school districts have fewer students than they predicted this year, meaning less money than expected from the state. South Whidbey expects about $300,000 less in revenue.
Board member Andrea Downs commented that administrators’ salaries shouldn’t be viewed by the number alone. The cost of living and salaries in comparable districts has to be considered, she said.
Board member Damian Greene abstained from voting on the superintendent’s contract.
Greene, who has served for eight years on the board, routinely abstains from voting on the superintendent’s pay. Wednesday evening, after commenting “everybody does a great job,” he gave salary examples of other top government officials.
“It is a government role,” he said. “We pay $174,000 to our congressmen and governor. … I will abstain. As a penny pincher, that’s just me.”
According to Congressional Research Service, newly elected members of the U.S. Congress in both the House and Senate earn $174,000 in annual pay.
Gov. Jay Inslee earns $177,107 a year, according to Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials that sets salaries for nearly 500 elected state officials.
Recently hired superintendent of Coupeville School District, Steve King, earns an annual salary of $153,500. Its district enrollment is 917 students with three schools and 68 teachers.
Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Lance Gibbon receives an annual salary of $172,704, plus a 9 percent tax-sheltered annuity, which can be considered part of the salary, said Conor Laffey, district communication officer. Gibbon oversees 10 schools, 5,679 students and 406 teachers.
According to the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials that compared school superintendents salaries with the state’s top executives in 2017-2018, the Mount Vernon School District, with 6,200 students enrolled in nine schools, paid its superintendent $180,693, while the Anacortes School District with seven schools attended by 2,791 students paid its superintendent $178,824.
Washington’s highest paid public school superintendent earned $324,413, including benefits, overseeing the Mukilteo School District with 14,600 students and 20 schools, according to the commissions’ data.