Connections: Apples for Teachers

The difference is between $212,614 and $230,726

Do you know what the difference is between $212,614 and $230,726? I don’t mean the figure you get if you subtract the first dollar amount from the second. I refer to the difference between what the chancellor of the New York City Department of Education earns annually and the salary the Bridgehampton School District superintendent, Lois Favre, will make next year.

Carmen Farina, who is in charge of 1,800 schools with about 1.1 million students, makes the lower amount. There are some 166 students in Bridgehampton, which has two portable classrooms in addition to a main building. According to the New York Post, however, Ms. Farina makes more than the president of the United States! (Of course, to come to that conclusion, you have to add the $199,579 pension Ms. Farina receives annually after 30 years as a teacher, and you have to ignore the perks the president receives.)

In 2011, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo suggested that school superintendents’ salaries be capped in much the same way that the state has capped increases in the amount of money school districts raise by taxes. He proposed $179,000 as the cap, and it’s easy to see how he arrived at that: The governor’s salary has been set by state law since 1999 at exactly $179,000, although Mr. Cuomo voluntarily returns 5 percent.

Comparing figures, I must admit, is something of a flawed exercise. You would need much more information and statistical expertise to be sure you weren’t comparing apples and oranges. But you’ve got to start somewhere if you want to decide whether the governor was right.

It seems that Jack Perna, superintendent of the Montauk School, would stand to earn $6,862 more if the governor got his way, and Mr. Perna is the principal of the school as well as the district superintendent. The current part-time Springs superintendent, John Finello, is to take home $174,167 next year; someone else is the Springs School principal.

Among those who would have to take a pay cut if the governor got his way is the superintendent of the East Hampton School District, Richard Burns, who will make $195,000 in the coming academic year. Sag Harbor recently hired a new superintendent, Katy Graves, putting her down for $215,000; that district also has an elementary and a middle school-high school principal. And in Amagansett, where an interim principal is being paid $300 a day, the superintendent, Eleanor Tritt, is to receive $188,000 next year. If we were going to make our calculations according to the logic applied by the New York Post, any other monetary benefits each of these administrators receives would have to be added.

One supposes that these salaries are governed by all sorts of variables, including educational degrees, training, and experience, but there has to be more to the story. Because the money schools spend comes primarily from property taxes, and because communities here contain some of the most expensive real estate in the country, our districts are rich and residents are quiescent. There have been no taxpayer revolts in recent years, but you never know.