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Rockville Centre School District says superintendent is not highest paid

According to a new report by the Empire Center, an independent think tank, Rockville Centre School District Superintendent Dr. William Johnson was the highest-paid school employee in New York state in 2011-12, but the president of the district’s Board of Education said that the report is not accurate.

The report, which used information from a searchable online database at www.SeeThroughNY.net, stated that Johnson was paid $567,248 last year. But according to school board President Liz Dion, Johnson’s salary was $321,000.

In 2005, Johnson negotiated a five-year contract with the district that guaranteed a 4 percent raise each year. The contract also had an “evergreen” clause, which meant that at the end of each year, another year would be added to it so it would always cover five years.

In 2009, the school board asked Johnson to forgo the annual raise, which he did, and in 2011, Dion said, the board realized that continuing the contract as it was would not be feasible. Johnson agreed to renegotiate, she said, which led to a four-year contract with his salary frozen at its 2011 level, $321,000.

Dion added that the new contract would help the district save more than $187,000 over its term as a result of the lack of salary increases, a higher contribution rate for health care benefits and the removal of Johnson’s ability to buy back unused vacation days.

As a part of the renegotiation, Johnson was allowed access to a lump sum of $300,000 in retirement funds that was agreed upon in the 2005 contract in lieu of paying him for 372 sick days he had accrued. According to a press release from the board on July 5, 2011, those funds, which had already been budgeted and accrued during the term of the 2005 contract, did not create any additional taxpayer expense and did not add to Johnson’s pension.

“He’s been with us for more than 30 years, and [salaries] accumulate over time,” Dion said. “Dr. Johnson is incredibly valuable. Our district is ranked 22nd nationwide because of his leadership.”

Johnson was hired by the school district in 1979, and has been superintendent for 25 years.

Schools on Long Island had the highest average pay by region in the state, at $73,949, according to the Empire Center report. The average pay for school employee includes teachers and administrators as well as custodians, aides and bus drivers.

“The cost of living on Long Island is possibly also the highest in the state,” Dion said. “We need to pay our teachers so they can live here. In Rockville Centre, we’ve done our best to recognize the issues of our high taxes.”


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The fact that the BOE feels it did it's job by "negotiating" a $300,000 payment for unused sick days tells us all how disconnected the whole system has become from fiscal responsibility. The notion of paying a senior manager for not taking sick days is totally foreign to the private sector and is an insult to all the working families in our district who have to pay this extraordinary sum to such a "healthy" superintendent. We all should blame ourselves, myself included, for not paying more attention to these types of abuses and we should look very hard at the people who are negotiating on our behalf and review their skill sets and motives.

Thursday, November 22, 2012 | Report this

It is unfortunate that the online database of salaries of public employees erroneously inflated the salary of Rockvile Centre's Superintendent of Schools.

On the other hand, the press release of the Rockville Centre Board of Education, on the subject, raises more questions than it answers.

1. In quoting actually salary, doesthe Board's released figure relate to the all-in cost of Dr. Johnson's position? Does it include pension costs, health care costs, automobile, and other fringes? If not, it ought be the policy of the School District to better inform residents by providing the all-in cost of each position. The figures are, otherwise, misleading.

2. It appears that, at some point, "The contract also had an 'evergreen' clause, which meant that at the end of each year, another year would be added to it so it would always cover five years." That sounds like a lifetime contract, which seems quite unusual and imprudent. The article indicates that the five year period was later renegotiated to four years, but is silent on whether it, too, is "evergreen". Historically, contracts with Superintendents of Schools have been one way contracts, i.e., In the absence of malfeasance, the Superintendent could always hold the District to the terms of the contract; however, when a superintendent wished to leave the District, for greener or different pastures, it is a rare school district that contests the superintendent's decision to do so. The net effect is that if the School District wishes to terminate the Superintendent, they would, none-the-less, be liable to pay him for the balance remaining on his contract. The folly of an "evergreen" contract is self-evident.

3. Whether it be with regard to Superintendent's contracts or other major School District decisions, there probably ought be a kind of School District Constitution that limits the power of the School Board and subjects major changes to a specific vote at the annual School District election - rather than being buried in the budget, sometimes spread over multiple categories. School Board members, who serve without compensation, can be subjected to being pressured and overwhelmed, particularly within the context of non-public "executive sessions" concerning "personnel matters" that are held outside of public view.

4. School District Employment Contracts are supposed to be matters of public record and could easily be posted as searchable pdfs on the School District website.

5. The minutes of school board meetings are, eventually, posted on the School District web site. The only minutes thus far available for the current school year are from July and August. For reasons that are not clear, the minutes are only posted in pdf graphic form, rather than pdf character form. That means they are not quickly searchable and they are not indexed by Google. There is no reason for that to be, since the original typed version of the minutes is produced at the School District office and could easily be posted as a searchable pdf. The same applies to the School District's annual proposed budget. Graphic representations are not searchable, take a long time to download, and are generally far larger in byte size than character pdfs.

6. Somewhere, in all the discussions of costs, there ought be a notation of how much Rockville Centre is paying for the education of the average, student at the elementary, middle and high school levels, i.e. a division of the total budget by the number of students at each level -- all-in, including the funds received from the State and other external sources.

7. On an unrelated point, I find it shocking that the bleachers at the High School football field have no safety backing. The bleachers are within ready view of the School District Administration building. The result is that children and adults are at risk of falling off the back of the bleachers, and sustaining severe injury or worse. This obvious hazard gives one pause for thought as to how closely risks and shortcomings are being monitored.

I do not think we should reduce the quality of education for our students and I do think that teachers and administrative staff ought be compensate on par with other professionals. Some of that compensation comes in the form of job security, financial stability and working conditions that are better than those available to other professionals. In viewing the overall school district costs, we must look both at the costs of living of school district employees AND the cost of living of school district residents. Unfortunately, each of the various taxing authorities tend to view, if at all, only the impact of their budget increases upon the residents. Someone ought be looking at the total burden of the various taxes AND fees upon the family that are in the lower half of the residents' income levels. That sort of view has been totally absent in Nassau County.

Friday, November 23, 2012 | Report this
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