Questions About School Staff

Much has been written in emails, columns, letters to the editor, and blogs over the past few weeks concerning my salary and that of some of my staff members. Concern has been expressed that there are too many staff members and that their pay is both higher than other staffs who work for Fluvanna County government and other school divisions within our region. Given that some of the information is incorrect and that some of the comparisons are misplaced, I feel that it is important to list the actual facts. I will address these issues in three segments. The concerns that school staff are paid at a higher rate than other County employees; the comparison of staffing levels and salaries with other school divisions; and my salary. First, in the comparison with other Fluvanna County employees several school employees were mentioned. These include the human services director/school board clerk/central office manager; the maintenance supervisor, the bus garage supervisor, school librarians, and the assistant superintendents. Let me clarify that the librarians’ salaries are based upon the teachers’ salary scale. These change based on years of experience and degree level. The school system’s director of human services also serves as school board clerk and central office manager. She is responsible for approximately 512 employees, providing all clerk-related functions to the school board and supervising a staff of three clerical workers. This is more than the clerk and clerical duties described in the columns and emails. Her salary is well within the range of similar County employees when you take into consideration these added duties and add the salaries of the similar positions. This person’s salary is also within the comparable range of other director level positions in Albemarle, Charlottesville, Goochland, Louisa, and Orange counties. To my knowledge, Fluvanna is the only school division of these that the director of human services is also required to be school board clerk. The other positions listed above are very close if not within the salary grade of those County employees listed. While the County employees may be paid at the lower end of these ranges, it does not mean that their grade is necessarily different. We have to remember that the study referenced in one of the columns was conducted by the Board of Supervisors because they were having trouble attracting staff and were losing personnel to other agencies due to low pay. We have worked very hard to reverse this trend with both teachers and administrators. The latest administrative salary comparison conducted by the Virginia Education Association shows that our administrator salaries rank from 36th in the state for elementary school principals down to 79th in the state for assistant superintendents. The same ranking lists our beginning teacher’s salary as ranking 10th among school divisions in Virginia. We have worked very hard to attract and retain both quality teachers and administrators. Thus, I cannot recommend that we return to the difficulties of the past by arbitrarily lowering salaries.


With regard to the comparisons with the Louisa County schools staffing and salaries, the information presented in these communications does not look at all of the staff listed. It is stated that I have 20 positions in the central office to assist with the schools. In actuality, three of these positions are part-time and thus the total is actually 18.5. One of these positions was also eliminated due to the budget cuts this spring. In addition, it is stated that the Louisa schools only have 13 similar positions. However, if one would go to both central office pages on their website, one would see that they have approximately 25 similar positions. It is recommended by the writers of these communications that the School Board conduct a study of salaries with comparable school divisions in the region. We actually compile this information on a regular basis and the latest findings are on our website under the school budget link. As mentioned above, the salaries of those listed are very comparable to the salaries of similar categories in other school divisions.


The last area to be discussed is my salary. The current salary of the superintendent is $165,804 for the 2008-2009 school year. There will not be an increase next year as others in our schools will not receive an increase for the coming school year. The annuity is $7,200. This is not the $12,000 listed by one writer or the $10,000 listed by another writer. This was increased at the last contract renewal when it was found by the School Board that the previous amount was significantly lower than other superintendents in the region. I am paid more than the Louisa superintendent because I have three times her experience. When I began as a superintendent, I was paid less than the then Louisa superintendent for the same reason. My salary ranks in the top third of superintendents in Virginia as does my years of experience. However, it is not the top salary nor even in the top 20 as listed in one of these communications. My salary is also not the highest in our region. What the children and citizens of our county receive for this money is someone who manages the equivalent of a $39 million dollar company with 512 employees. The latest ratings that I have seen from the School Matters service of Standards and Poor ranks Fluvanna higher than any of our neighboring school divisions and the state as a whole in return for the educational dollars spent. I am also someone who has received Superintendent of the Year honors by both the Curry School of Education Foundation at the University of Virginia and my fellow area superintendents through the Virginia Association for School Superintendents. I am asked to regularly consult with such school divisions as Williamsburg/James City County, Roanoke County, Stafford County, Suffolk City Schools, and Alexandria City Schools on school-related issues. I was one of three superintendents from across the nation who were asked to go to Washington, D.C. to meet with the new U.S. Secretary of Education to comment on President Obama’s educational initiatives. During my time as superintendent, we have seen test scores, graduation rates, teacher and staff salaries all increase. Finally, we have seen the beginning of a new high school and anticipate what it will mean for our children and community.


We have seen great progress in our schools over the past seven years. I am very proud to have led a team of committed professionals to achieve these results. I stress the word “team” for we all have a role to play in this effort. We still have great challenges ahead of us if our children are to gain the skills necessary to compete in what is becoming a global economy. I am confident that we can meet these challenges and prepare our children for the future.


I have no problem answering the questions posed by the writers of these emails, columns, and blogs or any citizen within our county about my experience and salary. I have been in education more than thirty years with twenty of these years spent in Fluvanna. I understand the concern and uncertainty that some face and the questions that this may bring. I also understand that some will have different views on what is important. I welcome a discussion of these views. However, I hope that in the discussion of staff salaries the information is accurate and the worth that these individuals bring to the education of our children is not forgotten.

4 thoughts on “Questions About School Staff”

  1. A wise salesman shared this with me very early in my career and I have never forgotten it. When people are humble and doing the right thing they should never need to jusitfy their worth, by who they know or who has given them awards. Their actions should speak for themselves.

    This poem is displayed on a bronze plaque attached to a building at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Henrietta New York. I don’t remember the author name.

    Sometime when you’re feeling important,
    Sometime when your ego’sin bloom,
    Sometime when you take it for granted,
    You’re the best qualified man in the room.
    Sometime when you think that your passing
    Will leave an unfillable hole,
    Just remember this simple example,
    And see how it humbles your soul.

    Take a bucket and fill it with water,
    Put your hand in up to your wrists,
    The hole that you make when you leave it,
    Is the measure of how much you’ll be missed.
    You may thrash all you want when you enter,
    You may stir up the waters galore,
    But just wait for a moment
    And it is still the same as before.

    The moral of this is quite simple,
    Just do the best that you can.
    But please always remember
    There is no irreplaceable man

  2. There use to be a link on the school website the you could go that sent you to the link of job opening the fluvanna schools had opened. I use to have it book-marked and when my computer had an internet problem all my book-marks were gone. I email Pat Higginbottom and she just gave me the fluco website that does not have the link anymore. Where is the link that use to be on the website. The webstie does not look the same as it use to. What happen to it? The link use to be some fluco\sometihng employment???? and now I can not find it. Is there a number that you have job openings listed?

  3. Gail,

    There is still an Employment link on the website. Please call or email my office if you continue to have difficulty.

    Dr. Tom Smith

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