Philly school district broke, but the pay is good

Part 71 of 71 in the series Educating America

STILL MAKING IT: Even in financial distress, Philadelphia school district employees pull in six-figure salaries.

By Maura Pennington |

PHILADELPHIA — Salaries for employees in the Philadelphia school district are staggering.

The district has 10 superintendents who make a combined $1.64 million annually. Superintendent William Hite tops the list at $270,000, and his deputy makes $210,000. Eight assistant superintendents each make $145,000.

For the sake of comparison, Gov. Tom Corbett makes $175,000 annually.

And while the district’s budget director makes $128,724, Philadelphia is operating so deeply and persistently in a deficit that students are underserved by actual school personnel.

Department heads with titles such as “chief talent officer” and “chief of strategic partnerships” pull in six-figure salaries from the school district, but so do 13 deputy department chiefs.

In total, 395 employees on the district payrolls make more than $100,000, although not a single one is a teacher or a staff member who spends the majority of his or her time in the classroom.

The list, however, includes 218 principals and 60 assistant principals. The average base salary for a principal is $137,919.

But those numbers soon may change. The principals’ union, the Commonwealth of School Administrators, struck a tentative deal this month with the district that features a 15 percent pay cut. Even with that, most senior administrators would still earn six-figure salaries.

A 12-year-old girl died this past fall after a medical emergency at a West Philadelphia elementary school, which had one nurse on duty several days each week. The district, however, employs a full-time Special Education Medical Consultant at a salary of $101,080.

In January, several schools had to close temporarily because of heating and plumbing failures, yet the district’s senior vice president of facilities management earns $107,920.

When it looked as if the district might not have the resources to open schools this fall, Hite expressed concern about the thousands of layoffs made last spring.

“These layoffs affected significant numbers of our school-based staff, including assistant principals, teachers, counselors, recess and lunch aides, secretaries, supportive services assistants and teacher assistants,” Hite said in August.

The central administrative staff has seen a 40 percent reduction of in the past three years — from more than 1,000 employees to about 650, according to district spokesman Fernando Gallard.

“The cuts to administration have been deep, they have been substantial, and they have been detrimental to the running of our schools,” said Gallard.

The Communications Office dropped from 21 workers to four, for instance.

But paychecks still aren’t getting trimmed.

Recently, the district received private grants to hire “school design leaders” with salaries of more than $100,000 to oversee the development of three new high schools.

Philadelphia students underperformed compared to other urban districts on the latest Nation’s Report Card. Yet, thanks to federal dollars, the district employs 13 consulting teachers and three academic coaches earning six-figure salaries.

“The trend toward administrative bloat has been going on for decades in American schools. We’re spending more and more money on personnel outside the classroom and haven’t seemed to get any returns in student achievement. It’s time to try something else,” said Ben Scafidi, senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Contact Maura Pennington at and follower her on Twitter @whatsthefracas.

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