Critics of Carroll County's school system won't find much comfort in The Sun's recent survey of high-paid administrators in other Baltimore-area systems. Contrary to popular belief, Carroll's education bureaucracy is not overstaffed with overpaid bureaucrats.
Compared to other jurisdictions, Carroll falls in just about the middle in terms of the number of school administrators earning upper-level pay, which the paper determined to be an annual salary of $60,000 or more. Only Harford County and Baltimore City had a smaller percentage of high-paid administrators.
This finding coincides with a slightly different analysis -- which compared the number of administrators to instructional personnel -- the Carroll education department released earlier this summer. When compared to most of Maryland's other jurisdictions, that survey showed that Carroll has a relatively larger proportion of its total staff instructing students. The county ranks 14th out of 24 in the proportion of school officials who are administrators -- from directors to assistant principals -- and 18th in the proportion of assistant superintendents or superintendents.
While there may be some comfort in knowing that Carroll is not top-heavy with high-paid bureaucrats, the more appropriate question is whether these people are effective education
administrators. Are they developing and carrying out instructional programs that improve student learning and performance?
Determining the effectiveness of an administrator is largely a subjective exercise. Nevertheless, judgments can be made. An administrator who clearly articulates policy and goals and motivates subordinates to carry them out is preferable to one who generates reams of memos that sit on desks collecting dust. Also, an effective, high-priced administrator is preferable to dozens of low-paid, ineffective administrators.
Voters want more of their tax dollars spent in the classroom and less on central office staff. During the series of budget briefings held this spring, a number of people criticized the education department for its supposedly large bureaucracy. At present, their concerns may be unfounded, but such concerns should serve as a warning to the school board to keep a tight rein on the bureaucracy's growth.