Alberta cuts school superintendent pay, review finds high salaries, big perks

EDMONTON — Alberta is reducing almost all salaries paid to school superintendents after a review found they were earning too much and revealed that $10,000 a year in college tuition costs are being covered for one superintendent’s children.

Other perks found in the review of 74 contracts included a $1,200 annual gym membership and benefits ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 for superintendents to essentially spend as they saw fit.

Also, 17 contracts had retirement allowances or severance payments that included up to a year’s full salary.

Education Minister David Eggen said those benefits will not be allowed under new salary rules. The changes are fair and brings Alberta in line with provinces such as British Columbia and Ontario, he said.

“We had salaries that were running away from the standard of the rest of the country,” Eggen said Friday.

“We saw some individual circumstances where people maybe weren’t thinking of the big picture. They were so focused on perhaps trying to get a person (for the job) or trying to get a person to stay that they weren’t taking two steps back.

“This is taking two big steps back and looking at the public interest.”

The changes will only affect new contracts, and existing ones will be honoured.

Education Department officials said the changes will reduce 67 of the 74 contracts the next time around. No one is getting a pay increase as a result.

Future contracts under a new grid will pay a minimum of $60,000 to a maximum of $260,000 for the biggest school boards in Edmonton and Calgary. The boards can increase that top figure to $275,000 but only with the minister’s approval.

Eggen announced the review in March following reports of widely varying contracts, including a pending offer of $430,000 to Joan Carr of the Edmonton Catholic School Board. That deal included more than $362,000 in base pay.

Eggen refused to sign off on Carr’s contract pending the review and any deal Carr signs now will be subject to the salary cap.

Terry Harris, chairman of the Edmonton Catholic Board, said in a statement that Carr reaffirmed an earlier decision to stay on until August 2020.

“The board looks forward to continue working with superintendent Carr to serve the students and families of the district.”

There will be a big pay cut for a number of other superintendents, particularly in charter schools.

The Calgary Girls’ School Society superintendent job is part time, but still pays almost $133,000 a year. That salary will be cut in half. The Boyle Street Education Centre pays over $75,000 for one day of work a week. That will now be cut by more than two-thirds.

Christopher MacPhee, president of the College of Alberta School Superintendents, responded to the changes in a news release but did not address the salary cuts or the perks red-flagged in the review.

“We will work with the government to ensure the new structure is properly implemented across the province and that our collective energy remains focused on our students,” said MacPhee.

He said the group would not be commenting further.

The contracts are negotiated by the individual school boards. Mary Martin, president of the Alberta School Boards Association, could not be immediately reached for comment.

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