The committee deferred similar pay adjustments for other top executive positions.

The state Board of Education on Thursday unanimously agreed to increase the salary range for 15 complex area superintendents but deferred a decision on raises for deputy and assistant superintendents.

In doing so, the board also asked the Department of Education to return to the next meeting with a proposed formula for how each complex area superintendent would be paid based on their performance, experience and responsibilities.

Complex area superintendents, who supervise their school principals, currently receive a salary between $152,250 to $183,750.

That range will jump to $165,000 to $205,000, depending on their experience. 

What was supposed to be a straightforward board meeting, turned into a complicated discussion over what the department was supposed to have provided to the board to support the hikes.

BOE Chair Bruce Voss deferred a decision on salary increases for deputy and assistant superintendents.
(Viola Gaskell/Civil Beat/2022)

BOE Chair Bruce Voss said there is an apparent pay inequity where principals sometimes make more than the complex area superintendents but noted that in November, “the board did not ask (DOE) for an increased range of compensation for the deputy superintendents and assistant superintendents.”

“You saw in the testimony how that angered the people (in the education system),” Voss said to Superintendent Keith Hayashi. “Why did the department propose something that the board didn’t ask for?”

Hayashi responded that there was a misunderstanding at the November board meeting, adding that “we stand corrected in the official minutes that the request was for the complex area superintendents.”

“This was a misstep, a serious misstep,” Voss replied. 

Although the DOE originally proposed increasing salary adjustments that included deputy superintendents and assistant superintendents, testimony Thursday opposed the idea citing pay inequity and confusion.

Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, said in written testimony that public schools “are suffering from massive shortages.” 

“The proposed salary increase for the deputy superintendent alone would pay for the annual salary of an educational assistant who works directly with our most vulnerable students,” Perreira wrote. “lt’s time for the department to get its priorities in order. Now is not the time to increase executive pay.” 

Deputy superintendents earn between $162,750 to $194,250 a year, while assistant superintendents make between $157,500 and $189,000 a year.

If the board approved the DOE’s original proposal, deputy superintendents would have earned between $185,000 and $225,000, while assistant superintendents would have earned between $170,000 and $210,000.

That pay hike would put the education department’s top officials on par with the City and County of Honolulu’s proposed pay increases, which were advanced by the Honolulu Salary Commission on Tuesday.

In a memo advocating for the pay adjustments, Hayashi wrote that the proposed salaries are in step with the increase principals are expected to receive in two years. The average salary of a principal is $139,017 a year, but that would increase to $153,399 in 2025. 

The proposed DOE increases would not include the superintendent’s salary, which is currently $240,000 a year.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the superintendent’s salary was $250,000.

At Thursday’s meeting, Hayashi cited a 2020 National Association of State Boards of Education survey that found compensation was the most significant factor in recruiting and retaining education agency leaders.

Cheri Nakamura of He‘e Coalition said in written testimony that DOE’s proposal didn’t address the board’s request.

“Instead, DOE lumped goals and performance in the initial salary placement and left the performance evaluation criteria vague,” Nakamura said.

Over 9,000 teachers, or more than 70% of the teacher workforce, received adjustments to their salaries in November, using an allocation approved by then-Gov. David Ige.

Civil Beat’s education reporting is supported by a grant from Chamberlin Family Philanthropy.

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