"Throwing money at a problem doesn't always resolve it," is a commonly held axiom that, in most cases, proves to be true.
But not this time.
At least that's not a judgment call that can be made purely on what transpired late last month at the Mason City Schools Board of Education meeting.
Board members voted to approve a new compensation matrix for the 2019-20 school year that gave immediate boosts in pay to some district administrators ranging from $2,022 to $21,746. The total cost of the pay boost is $170,405.
By comparison, the district's board also recently approved the teachers' contract, which included an increase of $360.
At first blush, these seem to be an equally unfair and outrageous comparison.
But here are some more facts that may help broaden the perspective of people who've called, emailed and commented online about the new matrix. This information is based on 2017-18 school district salary data:
- 16 teachers in Mason City schools earned more than $80,000.
- 2 teachers earned $86,375, the most possible.
- 5 of the highest paid teachers earned more than 8 of the 14 principals who work in the district.
- 72 teachers earned more than the district's associate principals.
- The district's average salary and benefits package for teachers is in the top 20 in the state.
- The district's average salary and benefits package for principals is in the bottom third in the state.
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In addition, there are many teachers in the district who have the educational credentials to become administrators. And yet, according to Superintendent Dave Versteeg, they haven't because as the pay structure was set, it would've been a pay cut for many of them.
If that's the case for internal candidates, imagine the difficulty in recruiting and retaining quality administrators outside of the district.
The new matrix -- which will have to be re-approved every year -- is actually based on teacher compensation. It sets a starting principal's pay at the 85th percentile of a teacher on a per diem basis.
We aren't suggesting teacher are overcompensated. Far from it. But we are suggesting administrators should, as a rule, make more. That encourages commitment to the district, which is a benefit to both the teachers and the kids who attend.
We also acknowledge that administrators' pay has been -- to put it mildly -- a thorn in the side of this district for many years. It has sparked passionate debate annually. It's the cornerstone of a lawsuit that's still ongoing, in fact.
And yes, it's expensive at nearly $200,000.
But a clearly defined system that uses a standard formula equally applied can only help guide the board in its decision-making. There is a built-in check to the system in that it must be re-approved every year. Plus, it's better to absorb the one-time expense of an adjustment rather than drag it out over a number of years.
We'll be watching to make sure it is money well spent.