School chief's 10% raise angers parents, teachers

November 08, 1992|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Calling it a "slap in the face," many Howard County teachers and parents are outraged at news that Superintendent Michael E. Hickey received a 10 percent raise this year.

Mr. Hickey will be paid $109,106 this year, up from the $99,106 he earned in the 1990-'91 school year. The raise took effect July 1, and was included in the Office of the Superintendent's salaries and wages of the fiscal 1993 operating budget.

"I think it's fiscally irresponsible to award such a large increase," said Lou Brzezinski, an eighth-grade reading and math teacher at Harper's Choice Middle School. "Ten percent is a slap in the face to teachers in Howard County."

And James R. Swab, president of the Howard County Education Association, said he may pursue a 10 percent raise for teachers when contract negotiations begin Dec. 7.

"We believe teachers and support personnel are as valuable as the superintendent and deserve a 10 percent raise," Mr. Swab said.

Mr. Hickey, who was attending an out-of-state conference, was unavailable for comment. He was not scheduled to return until tomorrow, said Lois Hamilton, executive assistant to the superintendent.

Schools' spokeswoman Patti Caplan said information about the superintendent's salary was and is available to anyone who requests it.

"I don't want anyone to think that we're being secretive about it," she said. "But nobody asked. We generally don't send out a release on the superintendent's salary."

No school employees, including the superintendent, received pay raises during fiscal year 1992, even though the teachers' contract promised a 6 percent increase. In June, the school board approved 2.5 percent increases for teachers, principals, supervisors, secretaries and instructional assistants.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker said the raise "appears out of line with other [Howard County school] employees."

Mr. Ecker also compared Mr. Hickey's raise with that of Howard Community College President Dwight A. Burrill, who recently received a 2 percent raise. Mr. Burrill's salary rose from $96,107 to $97,984. His raise was in keeping with a 2.5 percent pay increase for all college employees.

In light of the teachers' small raise and their heavy workload, some parents say Mr. Hickey does not deserve such a hefty increase.

"I see teachers come in at 7:30 in the morning, they're here until 5:30 at night, then they go home and grade papers," said Julie Cleveland, PTA president of Stevens Forest Elementary School.

"These teachers kill themselves for our kids," she said. "I don't think [Mr. Hickey] works any harder than anybody else in the system."

Ruth Cargo, a Stevens Forest Elementary PTA board member, agreed.

"It's frustrating when other people get salary increases that are well beyond the cost of living," said Ms. Cargo, who is worried about teachers' ebbing morale in the wake of broken contract agreements.

School board members said Mr. Hickey deserved a raise because of his outstanding performance and longevity in Howard County.

"He runs a large school district with a large budget," said school board member Ruth Hutchinson.

Board Vice Chairman Dana F. Hanna agreed.

"Mike Hickey presents a stellar performance when it comes to superintendent," he said. "He leaves everyone pleased with the outcome -- that's not a science. That's an art."

Board members also noted that Mr. Hickey's new salary is competitive with those of other superintendents in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Carroll County pays its superintendent $104,626 for heading a 23,175-student district. Baltimore County's superintendent earns $110,000 and heads a 92,655-student district. Howard County schools enroll about 32,800 students.

The board discussed Mr. Hickey's raise in early June in conjunction with his four-year contract, which will expire in 1996. The board agreed to give him a 10 percent raise during a closed executive board session, Ms. Hutchinson said.

"We talked about this very seriously, but we felt the man earned it," she said.

Early this year, Mr. Hickey was one of six finalists for

superintendent in a suburban Seattle school district. In February, he withdrew his application to head the Kent school district in Washington so his wife could enroll in the Maryland Institute College of Art.

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