Alberta eyes pay grid, ceiling to rein in rising pay for school superintendents

Report raises questions about salaries of Alberta school board superintendents
WATCH ABOVE: A new report shows school board superintendents have bucked the salary trend in Alberta over the past few years. While many Albertans have seen their pay drop, superintendents have seen a sharp increase. Tom Vernon reports.

Alberta’s education minister says salaries for school superintendents are too high and need to be reined in.

David Eggen says he’s looking at a number of options, including a pay cap and a salary grid.

“We certainly know that superintendent salaries have been rising precipitously over the last number of years and I’m very concerned about that. The public is too,” Eggen said Tuesday at the legislature.

“It’s out of line with the public expectations and it’s out of line with our attempts to have restraint for salaries in general in the government.”

Eggen wouldn’t give a timeline for any changes, but said he is working quickly and has recently stopped approving superintendent salaries, which are negotiated and set by school boards.

He said he has not signed off on the $430,000 annual package for Alberta’s highest-paid superintendent, Joan Carr of the Edmonton Catholic School Board.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Alberta teachers, principals, superintendents agree to new standards 

A consultant’s report prepared for the Alberta School Boards Association found that superintendent pay has risen by 10 per cent in recent years, while pay in other public sectors has been flat or reduced.

The report said Alberta superintendents are getting more than $200,000 a year on average in base pay alone — higher than in Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia.

The Alberta government has already passed rules to reduce and regulate pay at agencies, boards and commissions. There is also a wage freeze in place for public-sector managers and non-unionized employees.

Teachers agreed to a salary freeze in their current contract as Alberta deals with multibillion-dollar budget deficits.

WATCH: Alberta Education Minister David Eggen discusses goals for 2018 

Barry Litun, executive director of the College of Alberta School Superintendents, said he questions the numbers in the report, specifically whether the pay increase is as high as 10 per cent.

Litun said he expects superintendent salaries in Alberta are probably higher than other jurisdictions, but added that “the reality is the salaries in Alberta for virtually every sector, I believe, would be higher.”

He said there are other factors to consider.

Story continues below advertisement

He noted that since Ontario and B.C. capped superintendent and other senior salaries, there have been problems filling those jobs because pay for principals and teachers has continued to rise.

“In many jurisdictions, the principals are earning a higher salary than those in the leadership positions at the district level,” he said.

“(So) if I’m a principal and I’m perhaps considering a position as an assistant superintendent, if I’m successful, the results are that I will take a reduction in salary and I will now be working on a 12-month schedule instead of a 10-month schedule.

“They’re finding that has been a real challenge.”

The chair of the Calgary Board of Education said the provincial report did show superintendent salaries over the past few years have been going up across the province.

“But, in our system, ever since we hired our current chief superintendent, he has never received a raise,” Trina Hurdman said.

“So, it’s not an issue in our system. I hope that the minister would not be looking at us when making those comments.”

Keeping pay in check while hoping to attract the best staff will be a challenge, especially when the CBE has to replace its outgoing chief superintendent, Hurdman said.

Story continues below advertisement

“That’s what’s key: being able to attract high-quality people for the positions that we have. This is a $1.4-billion organization, with over 14,000 employees. We serve 122,000 students. It’s a huge organization and I think the minister recognizes anyone leading this organization would need to be appropriately compensated.”

— With files from Global News Radio’s John Himpe