Alexandria has a new superintendent, Gregory Hutchings, but with six months before he officially takes over at Alexandria City Public Schools, the School Board voted to give a raise to current interim superintendent Lois Berlin for staying on past her contract. It was part of the consent calendar at the Jan. 25 School Board meeting, but School Board member Karen Graf pulled it out for public comment to raise some concerns.
“The position of superintendent is one of the most difficult and fulfilling positions,” said Graf. “My colleagues wanted to make sure you were appreciated for wanting to stay on another six months before [Hutchings] arrives. However, this is a difficult financial climate for ACPS and the City and is why I’m fundamentally opposed to voting for this just as I would object to a board raise or a staff member raise outside of a normal budget process. I hope you understand that it is not a commentary on your service; but commitment to stewardship of taxpayer funds.“
Graf was alone on the board with her concerns, however, with School Board member Veronica Nolan speaking a moment later to use the commentary on the item to praise Berlin.
“I do have concerns with this contract,” said Nolan. “I believe it’s below market value. You’re being paid below what your predecessor and successor are.”
Yet, a Freedom of Information Act request of school superintendent contracts showed Alvin Crawley received a base salary of $215,000 per year in 2014 with an annual $25,400 contribution to a retirement fund. That rose to $224,782.50 in 2016 with $31,100 per year towards retirement. Gregory Hutchings will receive a base salary of $236,000 per year, with $27,000 annually contributed to a retirement fund.
When Lois Berlin was brought on as interim superintendent in 2017, her salary was $20,000 per month. Berlin’s contract ran from July 24 to Jan. 31, accumulating $80,000. The contract also stipulates a monthly $2,000 contribution to Berlin’s retirement fund. At the Jan. 25 School Board meeting, Berlin’s pay was elevated to $22,000 per month for the period of Feb. 1 to June 30, with a $2,500 retirement contribution.
If calculated monthly, Crawley’s initial salary would have been $17,916.67 per month in 2014, then $18,731.93 when it rose in 2016. Calculated monthly Hutchings’ base pay would be $19,666.67. Even factoring in retirement plans, Berlin’s pay was above the superintendents before or after her even before the raise.
But Nolan also noted that it is not uncommon for interim superintendents to make more for stepping into a temporary role. Nolan laid out the challenges that superintendents deal with every day, from a macro-school management level to dealing with micro-personnel issues. Nolan suggested that institutional sexism played a role in Berlin’s salary being undervalued.
“I am embarrassed that a seasoned person such as yourself, a female, is being paid less than the male counterparts before and after,” said Nolan. “You were only asked to be here for six months, and you’re being here after. I think you’re worth this and more.”