Western New York's biggest school districts tend to pay the …
Updated: Tuesday, 02 Jun 2009, 2:22 PM EDT
Published : Monday, 01 Jun 2009, 4:09 AM EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Size may not always matter, but it does when paychecks are the issue.
Western New York's biggest school districts tend to pay the highest salaries to administrators and teachers, according to a Business First analysis of budgets throughout the eight-county region.
Buffalo's James Williams and Williamsville's Howard Smith are the only school superintendents to earn more than $200,000 per year. They also oversee the only districts with enrollments in excess of 10,000 students.
Ten Western New York school systems have more than 5,000 students each. Their superintendents are paid $173,680 on average, which is 32 percent above the comparable figure for superintendents of the 88 smaller districts, $131,170.
Niagara Falls and Williamsville, both among the region's five biggest school systems, offer the highest starting salaries for classroom teachers. Pay scales begin around $42,000 in those two districts.
Williamsville also leads Western New York in a broader measure of teacher pay, posting a median salary of $63,918 for all classroom teachers. (A median is a midpoint, with half of all teachers being paid more, and half being paid less.)
Business First based its study on salary data compiled by the New York State Education Department, which annually collects payroll statistics for administrators and teachers. Figures come from the 2008-2009 academic year for the former group, 2007-2008 for the latter. Both databases were the latest available at presstime.
Full details will be available in Business First's 2009-10 Guide to Western New York Schools, which hits newsstands Friday. Highlights are also available at the newspaper's website: buffalo.bizjournals.com.
Districts are required to provide the Education Department with salary breakdowns for superintendents and all other administrators who are paid at least $100,000 per year. But there's a catch: The department asks only for the title of each position and its pay level, not the name of the person who holds the job.
It's not difficult, however, to link names and salaries at the top of the scale, since the biggest paychecks go to superintendents who run high-profile districts or have extensive seniority -- or both:
Williams, who is paid $220,000 per year, has run Buffalo's public schools since 2005.
Smith, with a salary of $206,500, has been in charge of Williamsville's system since 2004.
Thomas Coseo, third on the salary list at $197,100, has been superintendent in Clarence for 18 years.
A total of 247 Western New York school administrators are paid $100,000 or more. Ninety-five of the region's 98 superintendents belong to this six-figure club, as do 152 other officials with titles ranging from associate superintendent to principal, and from chief academic officer to director of personnel.
Size is once again a key determinant. The Buffalo City School District employs 47 administrators who earn at least $100,000 a year -- nearly one-fifth of the regional total of 247.
The runners-up are Niagara Falls (with 20 salaries in six figures), Williamsville (12), Frontier (eight) and Kenmore-Tonawanda (seven).
All five of these districts have at least 5,300 pupils. Their collective enrollment is 65,200, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all students attending public schools in Western New York.
Wyoming ($92,232), West Valley ($93,964) and Belfast ($94,099) are the only districts whose superintendents fall short of the $100,000 threshold. The largest of these school systems is Belfast, with 395 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The collective enrollment in the three districts is 944 pupils.
Business First analyzed salaries at three key points in each teacher's career -- start, midpoint and peak of earning power -- as reflected by percentile data collected by the Education Department.
Percentiles indicate where a given teacher's paycheck ranks within a single district. A salary in the fifth percentile, for example, is bigger than 5 percent -- and smaller than 95 percent -- of all teachers' salaries in that specific district.
The fifth percentile, the lowest reported by the Education Department, represents salaries earned by teachers at the bottom of the pay scale, generally those with fewer than five years of experience. Business First used the fifth percentile as a measure of starting pay. The 50th and 95th percentiles, respectively, show median and peak pay levels.
The norms for all Western New York teachers, according to the Education Department, are $35,569 at the start, $52,200 at the midpoint and $83,965 at the peak of their careers. But there are substantial deviations from district to district:
Wages for beginning teachers tend to be higher in Niagara Falls than anywhere else in the region.
The Niagara Falls City School District has a fifth percentile
$42,265 for its classroom teachers, leading all Western New York school systems. Williamsville is close behind with a low-end salary of $42,059.
Seven other districts have pay scales that surpass $40,000 for their youngest teachers: Fredonia, Niagara-Wheatfield, North Tonawanda, Lewiston-Porter, West Seneca, Grand Island and Ellicottville.
At the bottom is West Valley, where the fifth percentile salary is $25,140.
The median pay for all 800 classroom teachers in the Williamsville Central School District is $63,918, which is nearly $2,000 higher than any other district in the region. Three other systems have median (or 50th percentile) salaries higher than $60,000: North Tonawanda, Grand Island and Sweet Home.
Warsaw is at the bottom, paying its classroom teachers a median salary of $40,953.
Grand Island offers the steepest peak for teachers, with a 95th percentile salary of $91,390. The only other district above $90,000 is Sweet Home at $90,893.
Rounding out the top five are Depew, Cheektowaga-Maryvale and Alden, all with peak salaries above $87,000. Paychecks at this exalted level are reserved for the most experienced teachers, generally those with at least 30 years in the classroom.
The tiniest summit is in Wyoming, which also has the smallest enrollment of any Western New York school district, 163 students. Peak pay for Wyoming's teachers is $60,434, almost $3,500 below the career midpoint in Williamsville.