Balto. Co. schools chief gets $45,000 raise

Board OKs four-year pact for Hairston, $47 million in increases for staff salaries

February 26, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County school board gave Superintendent Joe A. Hairston a four-year contract and a $45,000 raise last night, boosting his salary to $230,000 a year.

The raise will go into effect July 1, when the new contract - approved unanimously by the board - begins.

Also last night, the board approved a $923 million operating budget for next school year that includes $47 million for increases in staff salaries, benefits and other compensation. The budget will go to County Executive James T. Smith Jr., who can make changes before sending it to the County Council for final adoption.

The budget does not specify how much of a raise any employee would receive. The school system and its five unions, the largest of which represents teachers, would negotiate distribution of the $47 million.

Unanimously renewing Hairston's contract through June 2008, board members gave glowing reviews of the superintendent's performance since he took the helm of the 108,000- student school district four years ago.

The new contract allows the school board to give Hairston raises if he receives positive annual evaluations.

"Joe Hairston definitely is one of the golden threads that binds us together as a family in Baltimore County," said school board President James R. Sasiadek.

Hairston said in response, "Every now and then you lose yourself in humility, and I think tonight is one of those nights."

If all other superintendents' salaries stayed the same next school year, Hairston's raise would boost his base salary from the seventh- to the third-highest in Maryland, according to state Department of Education figures. Sasiadek said that's appropriate, since Baltimore County's school system is the third-largest in the state. In Maryland's largest system, Montgomery County, Superintendent Jerry D. Weast earns $264,890 a year. In the second-largest, Prince George's County, Chief Executive Officer Andre J. Hornsby earns $250,000.

Other superintendents have total packages worth more than Hairston's. Anne Arundel County Superintendent Eric J. Smith's 2002 contract provides for a base salary of $197,000, but performance incentives and benefits bring the value of the package to $300,000.

Under his current contract, Hairston's $185,400 base salary is less than schools chiefs in Baltimore City and Howard and Charles counties.

State law requires school boards to reappoint incumbent superintendents between Feb. 1 and March 1 of the year in which a contract expires.

Board members began talking about renewing Hairston's contract in February of last year, when his name was mentioned as a possible candidate to lead Prince George's County schools.

The board came under criticism after deciding in a closed-door meeting in May to renew Hairston's contract. The state's Open Meetings Compliance Board ruled that the board had violated Maryland's Open Meetings Act for failure to give public notice, take minutes and publish a record of the session at its next meeting.

In approving the budget last night, board members made few changes to the proposal Hairston made last month. They instructed staff to restore a $2.5 million cut from the gifted-and-talented enrichment program as soon as possible.

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