Most Alberta superintendents will get pay cut under new salary framework

The majority of Alberta's 74 publicly-funded school superintendents will get a pay cut under a new pay-band system introduced Friday.

Salaries grouped into five bands with minimum and maximum salaries

Education Minister David Eggen announces a review of superintendent compensation in March. (CBC)

The majority of Alberta's 74 publicly-funded school superintendents will get a pay cut under a new pay-band system introduced Friday.

The measures will lower the compensation paid to 67 superintendents who lead the province's public, separate, Francophone and charter school authorities.

No one is getting a pay raise under the framework which the government says will save $1.5 million a year, or about 10 per cent of the $14.1 million paid each year to superintendents.

"We are establishing clear guidelines that match other public sector organizations here in Alberta," said Education Minister David Eggen. "So that superintendents receive fair but not extravagant compensation for the work that they do." 

The framework comes after a report prepared for the Alberta School Boards Association earlier this year found the province's superintendents are paid "significantly higher" salaries than their counterparts in Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

The report also found base salaries for superintendents increased on average by over 10 per cent between 2011 and 2016. The information prompted Education Minister David Eggen to launch a review. 

Superintendents react

The College of Alberta School Superintendents had issues with the report, and said in a statement Friday that not all of its recommendations were adopted by the government.

"Our superintendents remain fully dedicated to overseeing and managing the schools where our children thrive," said president Christopher MacPhee.

"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," he said.

Greg Jeffery, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, said he was pleased with the new pay grid system. He noted superintendents saw their pay rise at the same time his members were accepting zero pay increases. 

"The government had financial constraints in the past few years, and teachers acknowledged that, and we did our part. Now it's maybe time for superintendents to do their part," he said. 

The new system sets out minimum, midpoint and maximum salary amounts for five different levels of school authorities, which are ranked in terms of size, budget and responsibility.

For example, the superintendents in the public and Catholic school systems in Edmonton and Calgary are classified as Band 5, with a minimum salary of $235,000 and maximum of $275,000.

The midpoint of that salary range is $260,000. Any boards that wish to pay their superintendent an amount between the midpoint and maximum level have to receive approval from the education minister.

The lowest pay range, Band 1, has a salary range of $60,000 to $130,000.

Perks eliminated

The new system also eliminates the perks seen in some contracts.

In one case, a superintendent was given $10,000 a year for their children's post-secondary education. That contract doesn't expire until December 2019. 

Another received $1,200 a year for their spouse to attend school board events. One contract had a $25,000 annual "executive compensation fund" that the superintendent could take as cash or put in an RRSP or health spending account.

Government officials declined to release the current contracts citing privacy concerns so it is not clear who was receiving these benefits.

Last year, Joan Carr, of Edmonton Catholic Schools, was Alberta's highest paid school superintendent, earning $426,824 in total compensation. Edmonton Catholic is the province's fourth-largest school district in terms of student population.

Under the new framework, Carr's base pay of $362,125 would be reduced to about $260,000, $275,000 at most if Eggen gave his approval. 

In January, Carr reversed her earlier decision to step down and asked for a contract extension. Eggen held off on signing her contract pending the salary review. 

Eggen said Carr's contract and about seven or eight others will be sent back to their respective boards for a do-over under the new rules. 

Carr plans to continue in her role, according to a statement from school board chairman Terry Harris. 

"I would like to share that the new regulation does not change Superintendent Joan Carr's commitment to students, staff or Catholic education," he said in a written statement. "Joan has reaffirmed her decision of January 23, 2018, to continue her leadership of the Edmonton Catholic School District until August 31, 2020."

Lowest band for charter schools

The pay cuts will also have significant impacts on the superintendents of charter school societies, who have been slotted into the lowest pay band. 

For example, the base salary for the full-time supertintendent of the Foundations for the Future Charter School Society in Calgary would be cut 62 per cent, dropping from $289,399 to the pay band midpoint of $174,000.

The superintendent of the Boyle Street Education Centre, who works one day a week, is paid $75,474. The new salary will be $22,000 a year. 

Under the new rules, superintendents cannot be given free gym contracts or executive health benefits.

Superintendents who work above the 57th parallel can be given a maximum northern allowance of $6,300, but they aren't allowed to receive free housing.

The government is setting guidelines for severance pay. 

The changes take effect immediately but do not apply to existing contracts.

The pay bands were developed with the Korn Ferry Hay Group, an independent human resources consulting firm.

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