Principal pay hikes raise eyebrows - Some feel the climate is not right, but the board wants to keep the salaries competitive.

Ann Strosnider
Bremerton Sun Staff

October 1, 2003

Bremerton principals will see their salaries rise by an average of 6 percent over the next two years, but not everyone in the district is happy about it.
"The timing is not right," Bremerton School Board Vice President Michelle White said. "Not when we had to cut a million dollars out of the budget this year, and classified employees had their hours cut and were even laid off in some cases. I think that money needs to stay in the classroom."

The board, by a vote of 3-2, approved a three-year contract with the Association of Bremerton Administrators on Sept. 12.

Members of the association, which includes building principals and assistant principals but not central office administrators, will receive an average raise of 2.42 percent this year, 3.58 percent next year and nothing the following year.

White and board member Lonnie Dawson, both of whom are up for re-election in November, voted against the pay increase. Margaret Kirk, Leonard Anderson and DeWayne Boyd voted in favor.

Personnel Director Denise Zaske said the raises were carefully calculated to bring the principals' pay closer to the average of surrounding districts. A first-year high school principal will now receive $86,025 for 225 days of work; a beginning middle school or junior high principal $80,931 for 225 days and a beginning elementary principal $75,565 for 215 days.

It's difficult to make exact comparisons with other districts, Zaske said, because the number of days worked vary. But Bremerton's pay for principals lagged behind other districts and needed to be adjusted, she said. For the purpose of comparison, pay rates were calculated on a daily basis, she said.

Pay increases also were needed to retain outstanding principals, Zaske said.

"We have schools, such as West Hills Elementary, with high numbers of students eligible for free and reduced price lunches that have found ways to raise student achievement levels significantly," she said. "Principals at those schools are going to be some of the most desirable in the whole country."

North Kitsap, Central Kitsap and North Mason principals received no cost-of-living increases this year. South Kitsap and Bainbridge Island are negotiating with their principals' associations.

Bremerton Education Association President Laurie Helm said Bremerton teacher pay also lags behind neighboring districts. Bremerton is on the state salary schedule, so its basic salary rates are similar to many other districts. First-year teachers in Bremerton, South Kitsap, North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island all earn $29,149; teachers in those districts at the top of the salary scale who do not have a doctorate earn $56,588.

The differences stem from what is known as TRI money (time, responsibility and incentive pay), which is paid in addition to teachers' normal salaries. A Washington Education Association comparison of 11 school districts shows Bremerton the lowest in TRI money. Bremerton's minimum is $1,273, compared to $2,393 for Bainbridge Island, $1,602 for North Kitsap and $2,247 for South Kitsap. Bremerton's maximum is $2,178, compared to $4,503 for Bainbridge, $3,109 for NK and $5,534 for SK.

In addition, Helm said, school supply money of about $300 per teacher was cut, and insurance premium costs rose.

"My take-home pay this year is lower than it was last year," Helm said.

Zaske said the average pay for teachers in Bremerton this year is $48,800. While the Legislature did not fund an across-the-board cost-of-living increase for teachers this year, it did adjust the salary schedule to provide more money for beginning teachers, Zaske said.

School board member Dawson said he understands the district's logic in wanting to give the principals a raise, but felt the climate was wrong.

"I'm a representative of the public," he said. "I don't think the public would support it."

Board President Margaret Kirk, who is stepping down this year after eight years on the board, said the timing is not the best, "but then it never is -- there's always something."

In a perfect world, she said, she would give everyone in the district a raise because the work they do is so important.

The district negotiator had direction from the school board in negotiating with the building administrators group, Kirk said, "and I felt it was important we honor that commitment."


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