When Danville Public Schools welcomes Angela Hairston into the superintendent role on Dec. 1, she will immediately become the highest-paid superintendent in the region.
A review of Hairston’s contract, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows the new leader of the school division will be paid a base salary of $190,000 per year. The contract extends through June 30, 2023.
The Danville School Board voted on Hairston’s hiring during the Oct. 15 meeting. Hairston was hired by a vote of 6-1, with board member Philip Campbell representing the lone dissenting vote.
Campbell said his vote had nothing to do with Hairston’s credentials for the position. He simply thought the base salary — and other benefits — was too much to pay an incoming superintendent.
“I want to be clear: I don’t so much have a problem with her. I have a problem with the contract in reference to the salary,” Campbell told the Register & Bee. “I think that was a little bit much.”
Part of Campbell’s unease about the salary comes from the fact that Hairston will be making more than every superintendent in the neighboring school districts — and by a wide margin.
“My issue is looking at our sister cities, and they’re nowhere close to what she will be making,” Campbell said.
Even with a base salary of $190,000, Hairston will be making less than in each of her last two jobs as superintendent. The Augusta Chronicle newspaper in Augusta, Georgia, reported in August 2019 that Hairston was making $261,152 while leading the Richmond County School System. And the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina reported upon Hairston’s resignation after just one year from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools that she made $215,000 as superintendent.
In terms of base salary, Hairston’s $190,000 will far exceed the figures found in contracts for superintendents in Martinsville, Henry County, Halifax County and Pittsylvania County, according to documents received through FOIA requests.
Pittsylvania County Schools Superintendent Mark Jones is owed $161,253 during the 2020-21 school year. According to Halifax County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Lineburg’s contract, he is to be paid $157,590 this school year. Sandy Strayer, superintendent of Henry County Public Schools, signed a contract in 2018 that pays her $135,000 annually. Zebedee Talley Jr., superintendent of Martinsville City Public Schools, is paid a base salary of $130,000 per year, according to his contract signed in March 2019.
According to data from the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, the average salary in 2019-20 was $161,173.
For the sake of further comparison, Hairston will make $15,000 more than the $175,000 Stanley Jones was due to receive annually for the final two years of his contract before he resigned in June. Jones’ original pay with DPS was $150,000, but he received a contract extension in 2018 that bumped his pay to $170,000. Upon his resignation after five years on the job, Jones was paid a full year’s salary of $175,000, $8,750 in deferred compensation, a car allowance of $7,200 and health coverage for 12 months.
Jones received all of those payments as he left despite his 2018 contract extension saying “all salary and benefits” would cease on the effective date of any voluntary resignation. A mutual separation agreement between Jones and the Danville School Board voided that clause, however, and granted him the ability to collect all of those benefits as he left.
The decision to grant those separation terms came from a Danville School Board with only four of the same members of the current seven-member board. The three others, including Campbell, were elected in May and assumed their positions after Jones had already left.
Hairston's contract uses similar language in the event of a voluntary resignation, that all salary and benefits cease on the effective date.
Jones later took a position as associate superintendent for instructional services at Stafford County Public Schools in Northern Virginia — a role that pays him $189,789 per year, or about $200 less than what DPS paid his successor.
After his resignation, the Danville School Board introduced Catherine Magouyrk to serve as interim superintendent. According to her contract, which runs from July 15 through either Dec. 31 or when a new superintendent is named, Magouyrk is described as a “part-time employee” and is not required to work more than 30 hours per week.
Magouyrk was paid a prorated salary of $7,650 for working half of July, and her contract calls for $15,300 for each full month worked after that — a figure that, if extrapolated, would be equal to an annual salary of $183,600. Magouyrk’s contract also outlines a $1,000 monthly housing and utilities allowance and a $600 car allowance each month, in addition to reimbursement for business travel outside of Danville.
Because Hairston will take over on Dec. 1, Magouyrk’s contract will end on that day, and she will not be paid a salary for the final month of the contract.
Hairston’s contract, like those of her peers elsewhere, include terms of frequency of pay raises, car allowances and other benefits, but the contracts sometimes vary in how explicitly the terms are outlined.
On the subject of raises for example, Hairston’s contract states she will receive annual pay raises on the same schedule and equal to the same percentage amount as teachers. If teachers do not receive a pay raise, neither will Hairston.
In Talley’s contract, by comparison, it says the school board can award performance bonuses in any amount and at any time “as it deems appropriate.” Lineburg’s contract states he will receive annual raises that are no less than the average increase given to teachers unless he receives an unsatisfactory performance evaluation.
Danville Public Schools also will provide Hairston with a vehicle allowance of $600 per month, the same amount Stanley Jones received in his last contract with the school system. Other superintendent contracts called for a similar provision.
Talley’s contract calls for the school system to provide him with “a late model vehicle and a credit card for gas” while employed. Strayer previously received a car allowance of $800 per month, but that was changed through a contract addendum in March to be considered a part of her base salary and not as an extra benefit. That addendum did not increase her base salary, but it did approve reimbursement for business travel outside of Henry County. Lineburg’s contract provides him with a “suitable” vehicle owned by the school board for business-related travel inside and outside of Halifax County and for personal use within a 350 mile radius of the county.
Hairston will receive monthly payments of $833.33 toward a deferred compensation plan. Stanley Jones’ contract with Danville schools was worded differently, calling for 10% of his annual salary to be contributed to a deferred compensation plan. Using his $170,000 salary during his final year as a reference point, that amounts to more than $1,400 per month.
Lineburg’s contract gives him access to a deferred compensation plan, but a contribution figure is not provided. Talley’s contract calls on Martinsville City Public Schools to purchase an annuity of $10,000 but does not explicitly describe a timetable for when or how often. Strayer’s contract reveals a $15,000 contribution to a deferred compensation plan each fiscal year.
In addition to terms regarding days off, holidays and access to various health care plans, superintendent contracts also often give the signees access to a laptop, cellphone and/or tablet for business purposes. Lineburg’s contract also provides him with a printer for home use while employed, and he can be reimbursed up to $500 in the first year of his contract for purchase of clothing with the Halifax County Public Schools logo on it.
Campbell said he had no problem being the only school board member to vote against Hairston’s contract.
He said he thought paying $190,000 to a new superintendent set a dangerous precedent for the future.
“Where do we go from there for the next superintendent?” he said rhetorically.
Messages sent to Campbell’s fellow school board members were not returned this week, save for a statement from Crystal Cobbs, the board’s chair.
“Dr. Hairston's experience as a superintendent in other divisions, along with a career that, at many times, focused on working with underperforming divisions, only adds value to the 5,500 students and 1,100 employees of Danville Public Schools,” the statement read. “The school board is confident in Dr. Hairston's ability to implement new strategies that will help chart the course for all students and employees.”
Cobbs also called Hairston the “perfect choice” to lead the city school system. Cobbs did not, however, answer questions related to Hairston’s salary.
Campbell said it was not wise to offer such a large salary — compared to her predecessor and to others in the region — without first seeing some results as a result of her hire. He said he is excited about Hairston’s plans for increasing student achievement and addressing low test scores and the division’s accreditation problems, but benchmarks should have been put in place to justify a larger salary down the line.
“All we basically could go on was what we saw on paper,” Campbell said. “Let’s get here and let's see it work in this area.”
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