Education

Scandalous Salaries, New Times at Hippie High, and, Yes, Another Strip Club

June 25, 2004 4 min read
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Teacher Magazine’s take on education news from around the Web, June 14-25.

A new survey of school salaries has confirmed what many teachers probably already suspected: They’re holding the short end of the stick. Data collected by the Educational Research Service from 527 nationally representative public school districts reveal that while the average salary of school superintendents has increased by more than 12 percent and principals have seen a 4 percent boost over the past decade, the average teacher salary has actually declined by nearly 2 percent. In cost-of-living-adjusted dollars, the drop amounted to $871 since 1993. Researchers speculated that some of the decline might be accounted for by attrition among experienced teachers at the high end of the pay scale. Others said it reflects an abiding—and not particularly wise—lack of respect for the profession.

In light of these numbers, teachers may be forgiven if they don’t take too kindly to the news coming out of the upscale Roslyn school district on Long Island, New York. Officials there are looking into records showing that the district’s longtime superintendent, Frank A. Tassone, used $56,645 in school funds during the past 10 years to pay for the services of a personal weight loss expert. (It worked: A 1995 newspaper story on Tassone revealed he had lost 40 pounds.) Other suspicious expenses billed to the district include $33,141 paid to a dry cleaner near Tassone’s apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and more than $800,000 in payments to a company apparently owned by his roommate. Tassone’s recent resignation amid scrutiny is only part of a widening financial scandal in the Roslyn district. Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted the district’s former assistant superintendent for business, Pamela Gluckin, on charges of stealing more than $1 million from school coffers. Prosecutors allege that the money was used to pay for mortgages on three homes, luxury cars, and credit card expenses. Gluckin’s attorney says she is innocent.

In other school scandal news, Antoinette Brady, an elementary school principal in Boston, was recently put on leave after being accused of directing a class of 4th graders to rewrite their essay responses on the Massachusetts standardized assessment test. The class’s teacher, Jennifer Day, who says Brady ordered her out of the room during the exam, reported the alleged incident after the students told her their version of what had happened. Need further evidence that the lot of the conscientious teacher can be a hard one? Soon after blowing the whistle, Day was pink-slipped—though she acknowledged that she isn’t sure whether it was in retaliation. Brady will continue to collect her salary of $87,273 plus benefits pending the outcome of an investigation.

Not that all the recent press about school administrators is negative. Take the case of John Kriekard, superintendent of the Paradise Valley district in Phoenix. In a stirring example of populist-style leadership, Kriekard recently declined a $15,000 performance bonus awarded by the school board, saying he couldn’t accept the money at a time of budgetary uncertainty. “When we turn that around and give larger raises to everyone, that’s a time when we all will share in the harvest of those efforts,” he responded gallantly.

Meanwhile, students and teachers at H-B Woodlawn, an alternative middle and high school in Arlington, Virginia, are lamenting the retirement of their own ultra-egalitarian principal, Ray Anderson. A product of the 1960s counterculture—he got the idea for starting an open-curriculum school in 1970 while on a road trip in a Volkswagen camper—Anderson has been lauded for blurring the hierarchical divisions between administrators, teachers, and students. (When he first started the job, he even eschewed the title “principal” for the more democratic “head teacher.”) The school—affectionately known as Hippie High—holds town meetings during which every student and teacher gets a vote on policy matters. And all administrators are required to serve as student advisers and teach at least one course a year. Such communal ideals could easily be made light of if not for Woodlawn’s reputation as one of the country’s most academically challenging schools.

Finally, in a more questionable example of executive largesse, Jack Moreland, a superintendent in Covington, Kentucky, recently doled out $420 to send 20 of his female staffers to a strip club. (For those of you keeping score at home, this makes the second time in its short history that Web Watch has had occasion to write about a strip club—which has to mean something.) While an anonymous letter sent to state education officials accused Moreland of using district funds to pay for the outing, he claims he has submitted personal credit card records to prove he spent his own money. “I did it for fun, and they went in fun, and I don’t think there was any harm done,” Moreland said. The women who went to the Chippendales performance apparently enjoyed themselves. “We just laughed and laughed,” said Jena Meehan, Moreland’s secretary.

—Anthony Rebora

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