OYSTER BAY, N.Y. – Should an administrator from a school district most people have never heard of make more than the President of the United States?
That may be what people in the Syosset Central School District are wondering.
Superintendent Carole Hankin – who retired October 31st – raked in $511,333 in compensation annually, according to SeeThroughNY.net, a transparency website maintained by the Empire Center.
But a review of her contract reveals the fringe benefits are equally eyebrow-raising.
The contract stipulated Hankin’s base pay for the 2012-13 school year to be $405,244.23 and it could never decrease. President Barack Obama, by the way, makes a base salary of $400,000 per year.
Additionally, Hankin received five personal business days, as well as 45 vacation days, not including legal holidays. “On days when school is not in session, such as winter recess, presidents’ week, spring recess, the Superintendent will be in the District at her discretion,” the contract reads.
Hankin was paid for her unused sick days at her daily rate upon retirement. If Hankin cashed out the maximum allowed – 60 – she would have received a check for at least $121,573.26.
But as a way to ensure her account does not go over 60 days accrued, her contract allowed her to cash out up to 25 days per year – at a potential payout of at least $50,655.52 annually.
Each year, Hankin also received a total of $52,000 to be deposited into retirement accounts, per the contract.
The district also provided her with a “late model” automobile which she can utilize for “personal and professional use.” Taxpayers picked up the tab for “insurance, gasoline, maintenance and repairs.”
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Information provided by the federal Department of Education shows the Syosset school district last reported 6,604 students enrolled in 10 schools. That’s a pretty small district for such lavish superintendent compensation.
Such generous packages are found in other Long Island school districts.
Jericho Union Free School District Superintendent Henry Grishman takes the cake for number of contractually allowed leave days – 78!
Grishman’s contract, which expires in 2016, credits the superintendent with 24 vacation days per year. He also receives an additional 54 sick days.
The second-highest paid superintendent in the state – Oceanside’s Dr. Herb Brown – made $378,905 before he retired at the end of last school year, according to SeeThroughNY.net.
According to the language of the contract, he was to receive $75,500 deposited into an annuity retirement account every year.
William Johnson, superintendent of the Rockville Centre district, contractually has a base pay of $321,712 and received a total of $323,248 in 2012-13, according to the Empire Center database.
His contract reads, “ … In order to induce the Superintendent of Schools to remain in the active employ of the District and to defer retirement, the District has agreed that the Superintendent of Schools may periodically request and receive payment … in amounts elected by him at any time during the term of this Agreement, not to exceed the total sum of $300,000.”
Johnson is apparently so beloved by his school board that they’ll throw sums of money that end in five zeros just to get him to stay.
Johnson opted for a major chunk of that sum in 2012, bringing his total compensation for 2011-12 to $567,248.
Levittown’s James Grossane is in the poorhouse compared to the others. He makes a paltry $225,000 and has the highest enrollment – 7,421 students – of the districts we reviewed.
He receives a total of 37 paid leave days.
Here is a summary of the dizzying data:
Taxpayers, the media and state officials have cried foul over the extravagant compensation packages for superintendents in relatively small-to-middle sized districts.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo led the chorus of critics when the data was initially analyzed by calling for a cap on superintendent salaries.
Fox Business reported more than 53 superintendents in New York make $300,000 or more per year.
“We have $500,000 school superintendents,” said Cuomo, who makes $179,000 annually. “Why they get paid more than the governor of the state I really don’t understand.”
He has proposed a legislative remedy several times but it has never passed. Cuomo’s reform would make a superintendent’s pay reflective of student enrollment. The maximum would be $175,000 annually.
In 2010, state auditors questioned the bounty bestowed upon Syosset’s recently departed Hankin. Auditors suggested bringing administrator pay “in line” with similarly-sized districts.
It also noted the top three administrators in the district accounted for 91 percent of the district’s fringe benefit costs, according to the Syosset Jericho Tribune.
District leaders responded by claiming those employees make more “because they’ve worked in the district for more than 20 years and consistently boost student achievement.”
So there are no administrators who would work hard to boost student achievement for $175,000 per year? There most certainly are. But why should they take so little when the spendthrift school board is willing to offer so much?