St. Albert school boards stood by superintendent pay hikes this week after a province-wide report found that their wages rose 10 per cent in three years – a time during which teacher wages stagnated.
The Alberta School Boards Association released a report earlier this month that looked at trends in superintendent pay in Alberta from 2012 to 2016.
The study found that superintendents saw, on average, a 10 per cent hike in their base pay between 2012-2013 and 2015-2016. Teacher pay rose three per cent over that same period, while many Albertans saw a pay cut.
Alberta’s teachers were upset by this news, given that they saw five years of zero increases in the last six years, said Alberta Teachers’ Association president Greg Jeffery.
“A double-digit increase for superintendents, especially when teachers were taking zeros, in our mind, is unfair,” he said.
“The government asked us to do our part and we did our part. It’s sort of disheartening to hear superintendents didn’t get that memo.”
Education Minister David Eggen, who has to sign off on all superintendent contracts, said he was considering pay caps and salary grids as ways to rein in superintendent pay.
“It’s out of line with what I think the public expects and it’s out of line with our attempts to have restraint for salaries in the government,” he told a media scrum.
“We’ve worked hard to look for reductions and very careful spending, and for superintendent salaries to continue to rise so dramatically, that’s a problem.”
Eggen said he would not approve any new superintendent contracts until new controls were in place, and had yet to approve the contract of Edmonton Catholic’s Joan Carr, the highest-paid superintendent in the province ($357,404 a year, the study found).
Boards defend raises
St. Albert’s school superintendents saw significant pay hikes between 2012-2013 and 2015-2016 (the period covered by the board association study), board financial documents show.
St. Albert Public’s Barry Wowk took home $214,400 in base pay in 2015-2016, or 9.1 per cent more than he did in 2012-2013.
St. Albert Catholic’s David Keohane’s base pay rose 6.8 per cent between 2013 and 2016 to $193,790. Sturgeon Public School’s Michèle Dick saw a 13.7 per cent increase in her base pay over that same period from $175,740 to $199,750.
Dick’s base pay has actually been static since 2016, noted Sturgeon School board chair Terry Jewell, who questioned the study’s conclusions.
“She’s wondering why she’s not getting a 10 per cent raise!” he joked.
When asked why the board hadn’t given her such a hike, Jewell said it was because they run their board like a business.
“Our superintendent is fairly paid, but there have not been gigantic raises all over the place.”
Superintendent pay depends on many factors including pay in comparable jurisdictions, said Catholic board chair Serena Shaw.
“In order for us to be able to have the best leaders, we have to make sure we’re compensating them fairly.”
Public board chair Kim Armstrong said her board gave Wowk raises to account for the rapid growth in student population and to delay his retirement.
“We’re over 90 per cent on our occupancy (rates) and we’re running out of classrooms,” she said.
“There’s a significant responsibility (here).”
Armstrong and Jewell said they had asked the minister’s office to clarify what he meant when he said he wouldn’t approve any new superintendent contracts, as their boards were among the six or seven that were set to hire new superintendents this year.
“If he means that literally, then I guess six or seven school boards in Alberta won’t have a superintendent,” Jewell said.
The report is available at www.asba.ab.ca/advocacy/research-papers.