Pay-to-pay A comparison of salaries at Warwick, Ephrata and Cocalico school districts

By on June 1, 2011

By: STAFF REPORT Lititz Record Express The Ephrata Review, Staff Writer

Money woes have put hard decisions in front of school board members across the state, and the three districts covered by this area’s two weekly newspapers are no different. While tough calls have already been made at Warwick, Ephrata and Cocalico, more may lie ahead.

Layoffs, building closures and cutbacks have all been on the table and may be for the foreseeable future.

The issue reached a boiling point in March when Republican Gov. Tom Corbett proposed cutting more than $1 billion from public schools to help close a multibillion-dollar budget gap.

Also up for discussion among lawmakers is a bill that, if passed, would make it easier for cash-strapped public schools to lay off teachers.

Senate Bill 612, which was approved May 11 in a 38-12 vote, allows struggling school districts to use layoffs of teachers and other professionals as a means of cutting costs. Such an option is currently unavailable to Pennsylvania public schools.

However, current state law allows school districts to furlough teachers if there is a multi-year declining enrollement, or as part of a school consolidation or elimination of educational programs.

In the House of Representatives, House Bill 855 is awaiting action by the House Education Committee. H.B. 855 also provides for economic furloughs and does not contain provisions that are contained in the Senate bill.

To help their districts’ cut budget deficits so it doesn’t come to that, many area teachers, administrators and school board members are being forced to make tough choices. Each has implemented a number of cost-saving measures.

For instance, Warwick’s teachers accepted a pay freeze. Members of the Warwick Education Association voted by a majority to approve the freeze, a move that is expected to save the district $575,000.

Meanwhile, the closure of elementary schools remains a potential cost-saving measure. Cocalico will shutter Schoeneck Elementary, the district’s smallest school, when classes end this month.

And Ephrata’s desire to hire replacements for retiring teachers has taken a backseat during tight times fiscally, while it focuses on more immediate concerns.

These three area school districts will all be voting on their proposed budgets later this month. Warwick is considering a 1.7 percent tax hike, Cocalico is proposing a 1.65 percent increase and Ephrata is anticipating no increase.

But since much of a district’s budget is devoted to funding federal and state mandated programs, there is a limit to what school boards can cut. The staff of the Lititz Record Express and Ephrata Review wanted to take a closer look at one area of the budget that school boards do have some control over — salaries (when not under contract).

Salaries of administrators, instructional staff and support staff account for 46.5 percent of Warwick’s total budget, Cocalico spends 42.4 percent of its total expenditures on these salaries and Ephrata pays 40.8 percent of its budget to these employees.

During the process of comparing salaries and administrative positions between the districts, officials from all three expressed concern, stating that comparisons are difficult and perhaps unfair since each community is unique, and differences (and how they are addressed) would be taken out of context by readers.

"Making comparisons between school districts is a bit like comparing apples to oranges," the Warwick administration wrote in a statement to the Record Express. "While we have many similarities with the other two districts in this article, we also have many distinct differences that define us. We are all direct reflections of our district community and school board. Each district is a partner and unique product of their own school community, shaped and molded in response to individual community needs. Therefore, no two districts will look the same or meet student and community needs in exactly the same way."

Each district does have unique challenges, and the most recent student body numbers range from 3,465 at Cocalico to 4,568 at Warwick. Ephrata falls in the middle with an enrollment of 4,090.

Superintendents, the top administrators for school districts, lead the pay scale. Ephrata’s Dr. Jerry Rosati, with 34 years of experience in education and 12 as superintendent (eight at Ephrata and four at Wattsburg in Erie), receives the highest base salary at $147,625. Next is Dr. Bruce Sensenig of Cocalico with $133,360. He has 36 years of education experience; five as superintendent. Dr. April Hershey, with 18 years in education and two as superintendent, makes $133,250 per year.

Rosati’s final salary could jump to $153,026 if he receives a bonus that is currently under consideration for him and several other eligible administrators. While Ephrata does currently award performance-based bonuses, increases at Warwick and Cocalico are worked into contracted salaries; neither of these districts offer bonuses to their administrators. At Ephrata and Cocalico, only administrators agreed to a pay freeze; teachers and support staff did not. Warwick is the only district of the three that took an across-the-board pay freeze (administration, teachers, support staff).

When asked why Rosati’s salary is significantly higher than his peers at the neighboring districts, Ephrata’s school board president Tim Stayer pointed out that in addition to his current position Rosati served four years as assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, technology and elementary education. And prior to coming to Ephrata, he served four years as a superintendent at another school district. The salary difference, he said, is about experience.

"Obviously, the student success at Ephrata is due to the contributions of all the teaching, administrative and support staff. But it is Dr. Rosati who, as the CEO of the district, leads and directs the staff to the successes the district has had and is continuing to experience. The entire board holds him accountable for the leadership of the district."

Stayer added that Dr. Hershey is in her first contract as superintendent at Warwick, and Sensenig is "fairly new in his role."

"Both are very competent in their role as superintendent," he said. "However, when comparing the three districts’ superintendents you must consider the difference in the years of experience. Drs. Hershey and Sensenig have fewer years of service and experience than does Dr. Rosati. Hence, you find the difference in salaries.

"This is no different than the practice you find within the business world. Education, knowledge, years of service and experience, along with excellent performance, leads to positive and greater salaries."

In looking at comparison questions for Warwick, school board president Dr. Timothy Quinn said he reviewed the questions and answers with Dr. Hershey and gave input to her and Lori (Zimmerman, district public relations coordinator). Warwick then responded to all questions in the form of a district statement. Warwick referred to certifications, current rates and district needs as main factors in their decision-making.

"All districts determine the starting salary of the superintendent and other staff positions at the time of hire," Warwick responded in an e-mailed statement. "It cannot be a simple comparison between districts, as it is an individual district’s decision."

Allen Dissinger, school board president for Cocalico, said his district uses a job matrix to track the salary ranges of administrative staff.

"Anytime an administrator moves from one school district to another, the starting salary in the new position may be higher at the new district. Also, salary ranges of administrators will vary between districts, even in the same county."

The three school districts pay their employees, with the exception of food service workers, from a general fund. Professional instructional staff comprises the bulk of salaries coming from this fund.

Cocalico has 254 employees designated as professional instructional staff. Those salaries total $15,123,351. The average Cocalico teacher salary is $54,000.

Ephrata has 288 employees in this category, totaling $16,455,865, with an average teacher salary of $54,844.

Warwick has 316 in this group, which totals $21,354,141 in salary. The average Warwick teacher makes $62,905.

When asked why the average teacher at Warwick makes significantly more money than those at the neighboring districts, Zimmerman said, "We can speculate that with Warwick’s larger staff, we may have more senior staff with more years of service and possibly more education (master’s degrees, doctorates, etc.) than the other districts. Again, a bargained contract is difficult to compare. Our salaries may be more, but our teachers may also be contributing more for their benefits than others. Without this information, it’s hard to compare."

Next is administrators. Cocalico has 16, which collectively make $1,443,576; Ephrata has 18 for $1,650,345; and Warwick has 19 for $1,727,308.

Support staff numbers are comparable between Cocalico and Ephrata, with 167 workers making $4,054,730 and 155 making $4,613,325 respectively. Warwick has 372 employees in this category for a salary total of $5,385,170. The big difference here, according to David Zerbe, Warwick’s business manager, is that Warwick’s numbers include athletic and extra-duty positions (approximately 190).

Meanwhile, food services is addressed in a separate fund. Cocalico has 50 food service employees that make a total of $495,117; Ephrata has 48 making $595,239; and Warwick has 47 making $620,000.

Other notable differences:

? Warwick High School has three assistant principals (Scott Galen, Eric Thompson, Tracy Weller), while Cocalico and Ephrata carry two. As a result, Warwick spends $34,969 more than Ephrata on its assistant high school principals as a whole, and $49,918 more than Cocalico.

According to Warwick, as in many cases, it boils down to the number of students. Assistant principals, according to Warwick’s statement, assist with discipline, supervision, scheduling, budgeting, student needs, etc.

Warwick currently has 1,492 students at the high school. Ephrata has 1,283 and Cocalico has 1,088.

? Even though Ephrata’s student population is less than Warwick’s, Ephrata is the only district that maintains an intermediate school dedicated to fifth and sixth graders. Having an additional building means another principal and assistant principal on the overall administrative staff for Ephrata.

"Our research showed that the fifth and sixth grade population was a unique one in which the kids were no longer elementary, but not yet middle schoolers," Stayer said. "In our county, we are seeing more districts look at the intermediate school concept, including Manheim Central, Manheim Township and Elizabethtown."

? Two positions unique to Cocalico are the director of reading and director of library services. Ephrata and Warwick do not have these administrative positions.

Cocalico officials supplied a list of duties the director of reading, Sharon Myers, is charged with carrying out. She must coordinate the district reading program, the Title I reading support program and assist with the district English as a second language program.

The director of library services, Beth Sahd, provides leadership and expertise in matters related to school library programs, information literacy, integrated instruction and instructional technology to the library program.

However, at the end this school year, Myers will be retiring from her post and there are no plans to fill the vacancy. Sensenig said the responsibilities of Myers will now fall on the shoulders of others to help compensate for her loss.

In addition to Myers’ job, Cocalico will also cut another administrative position. Since Schoeneck Elementary will be closing its doors at the end of the school year, principal Timothy Butz will return to the classroom as a teacher.

? Warwick’s business manager, David Zerbe, makes $25,983 more than Ephrata’s and $42,201 more than Cocalico’s. His current salary is $132,604.

"Mr. Zerbe has been in his position for many years," Warwick explained. "The district determined his starting salary at time of hire."

Zerbe has been in his position for 29 years, while Jean Horneburger of Ephrata has served as business manager for three years, and Sherri Stull has been in the position at Cocalico for four.

? Unlike Cocalico and Ephrata, Warwick does not currently have a director of special services (Ephrata also has an administrative assistant to this position). This position, which typically oversees special education and learning support, is handled by two supervisors (non-administrative) at Warwick. However, for the 2011-2012 school year, these supervisor roles will "collapse," according to the district, and a director of special services will replace those positions.

? Warwick considers director of buildings and grounds to be an administrative position. Ephrata and Cocalico cover this through support staff.

Ephrata and Cocalico are expected to approve their final budgets June 20, and Warwick will do so the following day, during their regularly scheduled school board meetings. Inside

? Position-by-position breakdown, page A3

? How do salaries compare statewide, page A4 More SALARY STUDY, page A3 Ephrata Area

School District Warwick School

District Cocalico School

District 3,465 4,090 4,568 Enrollment

Graduation Rate

# of Buildings

1. General Fund

A. Professional

instructional staff

Average

teacher salary

B. Administrative

C. Support Staff

2. Food Services Fund 96 95 92 6 7 6 # of

employees 2010-2011

budgeted 2010-2011

budgeted 2010-2011

budgeted # # 254 $15,123,351 288 $16,455,616 316 $21,354,141 $54,000 $54,844 $62,905 16 $1,443,576 18 $1,650,345 19 $1,727,308 167 $4,054,730 155 $4,613,325 372 $5,385,170 50 $495,117 48 $595,239 47 $620,000 Data provided by school district officials and the Pennsylvania Department of Education