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Lawrenceville Set To Launch Drive For $125 Million

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The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey was scheduled this week to announce a five-year, $125-million capital campaign that officials believe would be the largest fund-raising drive conducted to date by an independent school.

The school, a nationally prominent coeducational boarding and day institution for grades 8 through 12 near Princeton and Trenton, plans to use more than 40 percent of the proceeds from the drive, or $51.3 million, to "increase sharply'' faculty salaries and benefits, school officials said.

Administrators said their goal is to have the best-paid teachers of any independent school in the United States.

The decision to focus fund-raising on boosting teacher pay was in part market-driven and in part "moral,'' Josiah Bunting 3rd, Lawrenceville's head master, said last week.

In recent years public-school districts around Lawrenceville and elsewhere in New Jersey have raised salaries sharply, he said, noting that this fall a beginning teacher will make more than $29,000 in Lawrence Township.

Until the increased scrutiny nationwide on teacher pay, Mr. Bunting said, Lawrenceville and similar college-preparatory schools have for years "been able to balance their budgets and deliver a wonderful kind of education because of the good will and selflessness'' of their teachers.

But now, he said, "there was a very clear sense that the people that we employ deserve much better of us than we had been able to give them.''

"It's just not right,'' Mr. Bunting added, "to balance a budget on the backs of people that work as hard as these people do''--by, for example, teaching three or four courses, coaching two or three sports, and serving as housemasters.

The capital drive's name--the "Lawrenceville Leadership Campaign''--was not chosen by accident, added its director, Charles D. Brown.

"What we want to do,'' Mr. Brown said last week, "is set an example of compensating faculty the way they should be compensated,'' with the hope that other schools will follow suit.

$100-Million Hotchkiss Drive

At least one other leading independent school recently made a similar commitment to teacher pay as part of a large capital campaign.

Last November, The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., which is also a coeducational boarding and day school, announced a $100-million campaign, with about $45 million going toward faculty pay and benefits, said John R. Chandler Jr., an assistant headmaster at Hotchkiss.

Peter Lawson-Johnston, the president of Lawrenceville's board of trustees and the president of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York City, said his school's campaign was not influenced by Hotchkiss's.

"We really had been spending several years trying to sort out our priorities,'' he said.

At Lawrenceville, in addition to the 41 percent of the capital funds that will be committed to faculty support, 25 percent, or $30.7 million, will finance construction of a 100,000-volume-capacity library, a new music building, and other renovation projects. Twenty percent of the money raised, or $25 million, will underwrite financial aid; the remaining 14 percent, or $18 million, will go to unrestricted support.

Out of the $125 million, $53 million will be spent over the course of the campaign, including all of the facilities funds, Mr. Brown said. The balance--$72 million--will go to various endowment funds, including $46 million devoted to faculty support.

Lawrenceville's endowment stands at $110 million, the fifth-largest among independent schools. Its annual operating costs are $21 million.

In the two years since Lawrenceville began gearing up for the capital campaign, it has raised more than $40 million in advance donations toward the $125-million goal.

The 182-year-old school, which went coed in 1987, boasts many prominent alumni, including Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. of Connecticut, the late publisher Malcolm S. Forbes, and Michael D. Eisner, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company.

$33,000 Average Salary

Current salaries at the Lawrenceville School range from $20,000 to $62,000 a year, according to Mr. Bunting. The average salary for the school's 142 faculty members is about $33,000 a year, and the average age of the faculty is 42 years.

Faculty members are provided with housing and meals, Mr. Bunting said, and their children may attend the school tuition-free.

In 1990-91, average salaries at the nation's independent boarding-day schools ranged from $12,850 to $37,000, according to the National Association of Independent Schools.

The lowest teacher salaries at boarding-day schools that year ranged between $10,000 and $23,290, the N.A.I.S. data show, while the highest salary reported at any independent school was $69,700.

Mr. Bunting said he hopes to boost teacher salaries into a range comparable to that of U.S. Army officers. A new second lieutenant makes about $23,000 a year, and colonels are paid about $85,000, he said.

But, Mr. Bunting added, the school does not have "any final goal'' for how much it will pay.

Mr. Chandler of Hotchkiss said faculty salaries there range from $17,500 to $58,000. The average salary and average age of Hotchkiss teachers are virtually identical to Lawrenceville's.

A key part of the increased funding for faculty members at Lawrenceville is the creation of at least "distinguished teaching chairs'' endowed at $1 million each.

Mr. Bunting said he has already secured funding for eight such chairs, which automatically grant the holder a 10 percent pay raise.

However, the majority of the annual income from the endowment will be put into a pool to improve faculty pay over all, Mr. Bunting noted.

'Need Blind' Admissions

Lawrenceville, where next year's boarding tuition will run $17,500, is also aiming through the campaign to become "need blind'' in its admissions, Mr. Brown said.

Of the $25 million from the campaign designated for financial aid, $5 million will be spent over the drive's five years, and the remainder will go to the aid endowment, allowing for a "pretty dramatic increase'' in the school's ability to provide financial aid, Mr. Brown said.

Currently, about 200 of the school's 750 students receive a total of $2.3 million in financial aid.

The school is also aiming to fund two yearlong sabbaticals for teachers and to make it possible for the school to pay for faculty children to attend schools similar to Lawrenceville.

Despite Mr. Bunting's prediction last week that "most big schools, at least the ones we compete with, are going to have to launch campaigns'' that include a strong focus on faculty salaries, others in the independent-school world were less certain.

Other schools "may be inspired by this, but in the end their own goals will be based on their own potential'' to raise money, said Helen Colson, a development consultant to the N.A.I.S.

David G. Pond, the director of development at Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass., which has 570 boys and girls in a respected boarding and day program, said Lawrenceville's campaign would not have "a large bearing'' on his school's plans for another campaign.

Between 1985 and 1988, he said, Deerfield ran a $36.5-million campaign to boost faculty salaries and financial aid.

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