Editorial: Barrington superintendent pay would be unprecedented in R.I.

Posted 2/7/24

The woman who oversees 36 Rhode Island school districts, 4 state-operated schools, 23 charter schools and 136,514 students could walk away from all that stress, take the superintendent’s job in …

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Editorial: Barrington superintendent pay would be unprecedented in R.I.

Posted

The woman who oversees 36 Rhode Island school districts, 4 state-operated schools, 23 charter schools and 136,514 students could walk away from all that stress, take the superintendent’s job in Barrington, and get a pay raise.

That’s how high Barrington has set the compensation bar for its next school leader.

As Commissioner of Education for the entire public school system in Rhode Island, Angélica Infante-Green has a salary less than $261,000 per year.

Barrington is planning to hire a new superintendent to replace the retiring Mike Messore at a compensation range that starts at Infante-Green’s annual salary and could settle at nearly $300,000. The new superintendent will have six school buildings and 3,309 students under her watch.

The hubris shown here by the Barrington School Committee is startling.

Desiring to build a school system that measures up to the best in the country, Barrington is setting its superintendent’s pay among the best in the country. The thinking is, to be the best, you must hire the best. Per a consultant’s recommendation, the committee has set its new superintendent’s salary to be competitive with some of the top school districts in America – which happen to be within some of the wealthiest communities in America.

Here are five reasons why the committee should step back, take a breath of fresh perspective, and reconsider its decision:

1. The ambition to be the best is laudable, but Barrington need not employ the highest-paid educator in all of Rhode Island to be the best. The inputs here are already so high – household wealth, educational heritage, family involvement – that this district could remain among the best without having the highest-paid leader in all the land. An energetic, talented team leader can do great things without receiving top dollar.

2. Once the district increases the salary for its superintendent 40% to 50%, won’t there be pressure to increase all other salaries comparably? The district will be hiring a new assistant superintendent. It employs a dozen other top administrators. Won’t they all expect a comparable leveling-up? And what about the union representing hundreds of educators? Will they be content with a 2% raise while top leadership is leaping to never-before-seen levels? There is strong likelihood this one salary ripples through the district.

3. This move cannot create goodwill with the retiring superintendent – the guy who has overseen Blue Ribbons and national acclaim for more than a decade – to know his replacement will be earning a boatload more than him before she works even a day in this district.

4. Just three months ago, the Barrington community took an unprecedented leap of faith with this district, overwhelmingly approving the largest expenditure of public funds in the history of the town. On the heels of a $250 million school bond, this salary largesse feels gratuitous.

5. This represents a major fiscal decision that took place outside the normal budgeting process. Yes, the full committee unanimously approved the new salary range, but this is not how government operates. This warranted more inputs and review.

The search process is in its infancy. There is still time to change course.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.