School Salary Divide Grows

WHEELING – School superintendents’ salaries in all six Northern Panhandle counties increased during the same two-year period in which teachers’ salaries in five of those counties declined.

According to data from the West Virginia Department of Education, Brooke County teachers earned more in 2010-11 than they did in 2008-09, while teachers in Hancock, Marshall, Ohio, Tyler and Wetzel counties’ school systems made less, on average. Data for the current school year has not been made available.

Brooke County teachers earned an average of about $45,800 during the 2010-11 school year, only about $300 more than they made two years prior.

Marshall County teachers made the most in the state in 2008-09, earning an average of slightly more than $48,000. They earned just under $46,000 in 2010-11, ranking second highest in West Virginia.

Tyler County teachers earned an average of about $44,650 in 2008-09 and $44,150 in 2010-11, declining by $500, while the average Wetzel County teacher made $47,475 in 2008-09 compared to $45,000 in 2010-11, a decline of nearly the same amount.

Meanwhile, all Northern Panhandle superintendents will make more this school year than they, or their predecessor, did when the economic downturn began in 2008-09.

Hancock County Superintendent Suzan Smith said the increase in the pay scale has coincided with an increase in the position’s work load and requirements.

“It’s a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job,” Smith said. Superintendents “are in charge of many employees at several schools. They’re overseeing a major operation. There are tremendous responsibilities.”

Smith is the highest paid of the Northern Panhandle superintendents, set to make $129,990 this year. She earned $112,290 in 2008-09, meaning her pay has increased by $17,700.

The average Hancock County teacher’s salary has decreased from just above $45,000 in 2008-09 to just under $44,000 last school year.

Smith pointed to increased retirement rates among experienced teachers as a reason for the decrease in average salary. A rookie teacher filling a position left vacant by a teacher making a salary commensurate with decades of experience will have an adverse effect on a district’s average salary.

Ohio County Superintendent George Krelis echoed Smith’s assessment of retiring teachers’ effect on annual salaries.

Ohio County teachers earned an average of about $46,400 in 2008-09, fifth highest in the state, before earning just more than $45,300 last school year. Krelis noted, however, teachers are able to receive additional pay outside of their contracts.

Krelis said some Ohio County teachers receive supplemental pay for serving in additional roles within the school system, such as department chair, curriculum coordinator or coach.

Krelis will earn $120,000 this school year. He made $110,000 in 2009-10, his first year on the job. Annual pay increases were stipulated in the contract Krelis signed prior to the 2009-10 school year. He will retire on June 30.

Smith and Krelis stressed their teachers were not forced to take pay cuts and pointed to a statewide increase in teachers’ salaries beginning this school year. The nearly $1,500 pay hike is the first for teachers in three years.

Marshall County Superintendent Fred Renzella will make $118,500 this year, compared to $102,000 in 2008-09.

Wetzel County Superintendent Diane Watt will earn $95,500 this year, her first year on the job. The former superintendent was paid $92,700 in 2008-09.

Brooke County Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson will receive a $1,500 raise next year after earning $96,500 during this school year.

Tyler County Superintendent Robin Daquilante will make the least of all panhandle superintendents with $93,000 this year, a $4,000 increase from last year.