The Hawaii Department of Education plans to carve out $100,000 in its budget to boost executive-level compensation for the deputy superintendent, assistant superintendents and complex area superintendents.

The 19 affected positions are appointed and not union-represented, so the salary changes must be approved by the Board of Education, which is expected to vote on them Thursday.

DOE requests to increase executive-level pay have not met with much public objection in previous years. This year’s proposed pay increase starts at 2.5 percent for those who “fully meet expectations,” going up to 3.5 percent for those who showed “exceptional performance” based on evaluations from the 2017-18 school year.

DOE Dept of Education adminstrators during joint house/senate hearing at the Capitol.
From left, Deputy Superintendent Phyllis Unebasami; Rodney Luke, assistant superintendent of the Office of Strategy, Innovation and Performance; and Brook Conner, assistant superintendent and chief information officer. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“To attract and retain skilled executive leaders to carry out the mission and vision of the department, fair and competitive salaries are essential,” a DOE memo to the board states. “Pay increases need to keep pace with inflation as well as be differentiated based on performance.”

Overall, the executive-level increases would shift the salary range for complex area superintendents to $135,000-$170,000 from $125,000-$163,589. Pay for the seven assistant superintendents would increase to $145,000-$175,000 from $143,023-$167,353. The annual salary for the deputy superintendent — who is second in command to the school superintendent — would increase to a range of $155,000-$180,000 from $143,023-$167,353.

Hawaii school Superintendent Christina Kishimoto makes $240,000 annually under her three-year contract. It’s not clear whether she is eligible for an annual increase within those three years. The superintendent is evaluated by the board.

The highest compensated principals in Hawaii can command a salary ranging from $133,597 to $189,119, according to a public database of state employee pay maintained by Civil Beat.

Principals, vice principals and athletic directors are covered under a collective bargaining agreement through their union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association. The latest agreement for the 973 individuals in these DOE positions covers a four-year period from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2021, and provides for an average 3.7 percent annual pay increase.

The largest subset of DOE employees — the state’s roughly 13,700 teachers — are represented by the Hawaii State Teachers Association. Under a contract covering years 2017 to 2021, annual salaries for 12-month employees start from $42,561 and go up to $104,186, with an annual average pay increase of 3.4 percent.

The current deputy superintendent is Phyllis Unebasami, while there are seven assistant superintendents in charge of specific divisions, including curriculum, fiscal matters and facilities. There are 15 complex area superintendents that oversee geographic regions carved up for particular high schools plus its feeder elementary and middle schools.

Civil Beat reached out to the DOE to request the 2017-18 performance evaluations of those executives impacted by this year’s pay increase. The department declined to release any information, citing privacy interests.

The individuals’ performance evaluations are based on such criteria as strategic planning ability, leadership and management skills, creative thinking and innovation and ability to develop a successful team and build partnerships.

Salary increases that are tied to individual performance rather than across-the-board raises is a relatively new methodology the DOE first proposed to the board in 2016.

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