DOE seeks pay raises

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HILO — Members of the state Board of Education want more information before deciding whether to increase salaries for some of Hawaii’s top-ranking education administrators.

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HILO — Members of the state Board of Education want more information before deciding whether to increase salaries for some of Hawaii’s top-ranking education administrators.

That decision came Tuesday after the state Department of Education asked the board’s Human Resources committee for approval to hike salaries across the board by 4.5 percent for 23 employees. Those employees are: the deputy superintendent, 16 complex area superintendents and six assistant superintendents. The BOE is the governing board for the DOE.

Those 23 positions are not part of any collective bargaining unit, DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said in a memo to the board, and require board approval to receive any salary adjustments. The department requested that the increase take effect retroactively starting July 1 — the first day of the fiscal year and the date when other unionized DOE employees received raises.

The increases would cost $143,247 using money already available, according to Matayoshi’s memo. The 23 positions received a 4 percent increase last year, which coincided with salary increases for other employees who are unionized.

“I feel that our executive team has really come together over the last couple years with the right kind of focus, the right skill set and the right experience,” Matayoshi told the board’s human resources committee, adding some of the positions had been difficult to fill and faced high turnover. “They’re doing incredibly hard work to move what is a very large ship and turn it in the right direction.”

Increases weren’t popular among everyone. Several people — including Waiakea High School teacher Mireille Ellsworth — submitted testimony opposing the idea.

Ellsworth called the raises a “horrific public relations move” and said public perception of the department’s leadership was “abysmal.”

“The justification given that these positions are in any way ‘hard to fill’ is insulting to the hardworking teachers and administrators in the schools,” Ellsworth’s testimony read. ” … For Sup. Matayoshi to admit that there is money for these salary increases makes teachers, like me, upset when we are the lowest paid teachers in the nation when taking into consideration the cost of living.”

Board members also had questions, ultimately deferring the topic until September. For example, they questioned whether increases should be tied to employee performance evaluations rather than what unionized employees are getting. They said increases might also be better determined on a case-by-case basis rather than 4.5 percent across the board.

Board members also said the DOE should provide the public with more information. For example, 13 principals statewide earn more than the deputy superintendent, board member Jim Williams said at the meeting, citing salary information he’d been provided.

Statewide, 30 principals earned more than the state’s highest-paid complex area superintendent, he added, and 70 principals earned more than an assistant superintendent.

“I think it’s important to have some perspective of where we are here,” Williams said at the meeting. ” … It’s not like what you hear in the private sector where top management makes 10 times what everyone else makes … I’d really encourage (general salary information) to be made public so that everyone could see what we’re seeing.”

DOE salary information provided to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald shows complex area superintendents earn between $125,000 and $145,000. The deputy superintendent can earn between $140,000 and $180,000, and assistant superintendents are paid between $120,000 and $160,000. Principals earn $102,000 to $179,000.

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“The board sometimes has to do the right thing even though it may not be something that garners full public support,” BOE vice chairman Brian De Lima said at the meeting. “However, why aren’t we getting full public support? Why is there criticism? The reason there’s criticism is the information being provided to the public is not complete.”

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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