Who makes what

The six-figure bosses, the schools with the highest (and lowest) pay —  and other facts about who’s making what in Detroit schools

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit schools superintendent Nikolai Vitti leads a meeting in a conference room adjacent to his office in Detroit's Fisher Building in August, 2017.

Detroit’s main school district has undergone dramatic change in recent months. A new superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, took over in May and has been shaking up the district — sending longtime administrators packing, recruiting high-level advisors he knew from his years running schools in Florida and moving educators out of the central office and into classrooms.

To get a sense of how the district’s staff has shifted since Vitti’s arrival, Chalkbeat requested, under the Freedom of Information Act, the full district payrolls for June 1 and October 1.

The two lists are both based on budgets that predate Vitti but they reflect changes he implemented as well as other factors like the 11 schools that returned to the main district following the dissolution in July of the state-run recovery district.

Here’s some of the things we found when we compared the two salary lists:

 

1. The return of the Education Achievement Authority added hundreds of teachers and administrators to the district payroll.

Number of employees, June: 6,125

Number of employees, October: 6,348

 

2. There were more people making $125,000 or more on October 1 than there were in June.

Number making more than $125,000, June: 29

Number making more than $125,000, October: 36

 

3. These were the five people making the highest salaries in June:

Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent, $295,000

Alycia Meriweather, Deputy Superintendent, $202,500

Marios Demetriou, Deputy Superintendent, Finance, $185,000

James Baker, Deputy Superintendent, Operations, $180,000

Carol Weaver, Executive Director, Office of Community Schools, $160,000

To read the full list of people making $125,000 or more in June and October, click here.

 

4. These five were making the highest salaries in October:

Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent, $295,000

Luis Solano, Chief Operating Officer, $195,000

Iranetta Wright, Deputy Superintendent, $190,000

Jenice Mitchell Ford, Lead General Counsel, $185,000

Alycia Meriweather, Deputy Superintendent, $180,000

To read the full list of people making $125,000 or more in June and October, click here.

 

 

5. There are fewer people in the Central office.

We made a list of all salaried employees on the payroll who were not assigned to a specific school and removed people like social workers and psychologists who work in multiple schools. Here’s how June and October compare:

Number of salaried district employees not assigned to a school, June: 237

Number of salaried district employees not assigned to a school, October: 197

Click HERE for a side-by-side comparison of employees by department in June and October.

 

6. As the number of teachers went up, average teacher salary went down.

A new contract negotiated with the city’s teachers union will give most Detroit teachers a pay raise in January so average teacher salaries could be on the way up soon. Over the summer, however, the influx of teachers from the Education Achievement Authority — and the retirements of highly-paid senior teachers — meant average teacher salaries went down overall between June and October. Former EAA teachers came into the main district with lower salaries because they were given no more than two years of experience credit when their schools returned to the main district. (Some took major pay cuts — others chose to leave).The current contract pays teachers between $35,682 and $66,264 based on experience and credentials. Heres how average teacher salaries changed between June and October: (Note: averages are based on people with the job title “teacher.” Educators or specialists with other titles were not included in the analysis). 

Average teacher salary, June: $58,473 (2,317 teachers)

Average teacher salary, October: $56,885 (2,595 teachers)

 

7. The schools that had the highest and lowest average teacher salaries changed between June and October.

Click here to see average teacher salary in each building in June and October, side by side.

 

8. These schools had the district’s highest average teacher salaries in June and October:

June highest average teacher salaries  Average salary October highest average teacher salaries   Average salary
Nichols Elementary School $63,532 Bennett Elementary School $64,357
Bennett Elementary School $62,980 Davis Aerospace $63,449
Golightly Career/Tech Center $62,920 Nichols Elementary $63,293

 

9. These schools had the district’s lowest average teacher salaries in June and October (Note: the four schools with the lowest salaries in October were all in the EAA):

June lowest average teacher salaries Average salary October lowest average teacher salaries   Average salary
Ben Carson HS of Sci&Med $51,081 Diann Banks Williamson Education Center $45,510
Detroit Lions Academy $50,938 Law Elementary $44,098
Mason Elementary School $48,537 Brenda Scott MS $43,867
Diann Banks Williamson Education Center $46,579 Bethune Academy  $41,480
Ofc College & Careers $46,175 Central High School $40,142

10. There’s a lot to learn by looking at the full (sortable) list of what everyone — from principals to bus drivers to lunch aides  — are making. We left off the names to protect employee privacy.

Read the full DPSCD payroll in June. Sort by salary, job title or job location.

Here’s the full DPSCD payroll in October. Sort by salary, job title or job location.

 

Making ends meet

Detroit teachers who get second jobs to supplement low salaries might soon have to disclose those gigs

PHOTO: Photo courtesy of Dawn McFarlin
Dawn McFarlin, shown here wearing a shirt from her T-shirt company, is one of many Michigan teachers with a second job.

Teachers in Detroit’s main school district could soon have to tell their supervisors if they are supplementing their salaries with a side job.

The school board’s policy committee last week approved a new policy that says the district  “expects employees to disclose outside employment” and bars employees from working a second job while on any kind of leave.

The policy, which will get more review, including a minimum of two reads before the full school board, before being adopted and put into practice, comes amid a wholesale overhaul of district rules. The school board is reviewing and implementing a host of new policies as part of the ongoing transition from the old Detroit Public Schools district to the new one, the Detroit Public Schools Community District.  

Frequent changes to district policies under the five emergency managers who ran the Detroit district in recent years means that it’s unclear whether the employment disclosure policy is new, although the rules for outside employment under the current employee code of ethics do not require employees to disclose their second jobs. It’s also unclear how many teachers and district staffers the policy might affect, whether any kinds of second jobs might be prohibited, and how the district might use information about teachers’ side gigs.

What is clear is that educators say intervening in teachers’ outside employment does not make sense, given how hard it is to make ends meet as a Detroit educator right now.

“The bottom line is until you start paying teachers enough money, until then, people have to do what they have to do to make ends meet,” said Ivy Bailey, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. “It’s really none of their business about what teachers do on their off time unless it’s a conflict of interest.”

Such conflicts, in which a teacher’s second job might interfere with his or her ability to fulfill responsibilities to the district, are exactly why the policy is needed, said Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

“As we’re rebuilding the district, we really want to avoid as many conflict of interests as possible,” Vitti said. “We’ve seen instances where there are conflicts of interest at the district level at the school level with all employees, so we’re just trying to be proactive with the culture of the district.”

Vitti said the step is intended to “prevent some of the ills of the past,” though he did not offer any specific examples.

But the district’s history is littered with costly and embarrassing scandals that might have been averted if closer attention were being paid to employees’ outside jobs. In one extreme example, a district official created tutoring companies, then billed for services she never delivered.

Vitti also pointed out that many other districts require full disclosure of outside employment. His former district, Duval County Public Schools in Florida, is not one of them, according to an employee handbook posted online. There, employees are not expected to disclose their outside employment, nor are they barred from working other jobs while on leave. But they are not allowed to sell anything to other teachers nor to parents of their students.

If implemented, the policy in Detroit could affect large numbers of teachers. About 19 percent of Michigan teachers reported having a second job as of 2014, according to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics.

In Detroit, where teacher pay is especially low, that number could be even higher. Vitti has vowed to increase teacher pay, and a new contract ratified last summer gave teachers their first real raise in several years. But that was not enough to bring teachers back to where they were when they took a 10 percent pay cut in 2011.

Dawn McFarlin, a former Detroit Public Schools teacher, launched her T-shirt company as a side gig as a way make extra money. After years without a pay increase in the city’s schools, she’s now working in another district, but she’s still hawking shirts to her former colleagues. Her top tee says “I Teach in the D” on the front.

So far, she’s sold about 500 shirts at $25 each, mainly to friends and through her Facebook page. She said she uses the profits to pay bills and fund her children’s travel expenses for sports.

“As a teacher, I know how it feels to be in the grocery store, trying to make ends meet,” McFarlin  said. “I was thinking of the struggle teachers go through, and that’s how the shirt came about.”

Here’s the complete policy that the school board is considering. Board members will review the policy next at the full school board meeting in February, where the public can address the board.

“Outside employment is regarded as employment for compensation that is not within the duties and responsibilities of the employee’s regular position with the school system. Employees shall not be prohibited from holding employment outside the District as long as such employment does not result in a conflict of interest nor interfere with assigned duties as determined by the District.

The Board expects employees to disclose outside employment. The Board expects employees to devote maximum effort to the position in which employed. An employee will not perform any duties related to an outside job during regular working hours or for professional employees during the additional time that the responsibilities of the District’s position require; nor will an employee use any District facilities, equipment or materials in performing outside work.

When the periods of work are such that certain evenings, days or vacation periods are duty free, the employee may use such off-duty time for the purposes of non-school employment.

This policy prohibits outside supplemental employment while on any type of leave.”

What do you think?

Detroiters react with praise — and fury — as district changes how it will decide who gets into Cass Tech and Renaissance

PHOTO: DPSCD
A student wearing a Renaissance High School t-shirt competes in a robotics competition.

Reaction was swift and strong last week when Chalkbeat reported that Detroit’s main school district is changing the way students are admitted to Cass Technical High School, Renaissance High School and two other selective schools.

Some parents, teachers, students and members of the schools’ devoted alumni associations praised the district’s decision to reduce the role of testing in admissions decisions. But others expressed anger and concern about how the changes will affect the schools and how decisions about the changes were made.

Instead of basing admissions decisions primarily on the results of a single exam, the district will this year turn the process over to an admissions team comprised of teachers and staff from the schools, as well as administrators in the district’s central office. They will use a score card to decide admissions with just 40 percent of a student’s score coming from the high school placement exam. The rest of the points will come from grades, essays and letters of recommendations. Students currently enrolled in the district will get 10 bonus points that will give them an edge over students applying from charter and suburban schools.

The news turned into one of the most talked about stories on our site this year — and readers’ reactions ran the gamut. Read some of what our readers had to say below.

Some thought the change was problematic:


Others applauded the changes:




A current Cass Tech teacher said she agreed the admissions process needed to change, but was concerned that the district did not ask for her input on the new system:

How do you feel about the new admissions process? Tell us below in the comments or weigh on on Facebook or Twitter.