In the realm of education, the best place to be from a financial standpoint is in an administrative role.
According to information gathered from SeeThroughNY, superintendents are the highest paid employees in 15 of 18 Chautauqua County school districts as of this year - with other high-ranking positions rounding out the rest.
In each district, superintendent salaries are in the six-figure range. ranging from $110,242 to $161,357. During times of transition in leadership, the position of high school principal was the best compensated. This was the case in Clymer Central School and Bemus Point Central School, where Edward Bailey and Edward Turkasz, who recently retired, were the highest paid officials in their respective districts. At Southwestern Central School, the highest paid official was Shelly O'Boyle, director of curriculum and instruction, though no information was made available for Maureen Donahue, who took over the district reins in January.
According to Tim Mains, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools, administrative and teacher salaries are determined in each and every district through the process of collective bargaining. Regardless of position, he said, starting salaries are almost always negotiated through unions, while the salaries' annual percentage increase is determined on an individual basis.
"All salaries, for literally every employee of the district, are the result of collective bargaining," Mains said, noting that seven bargaining units currently exist in the city of Jamestown. "The administration sits down with each of the unions and bargains a whole bunch of issues. Some of them deal with terms of employment, but the core and most important part, certainly from the union's point of view, is salary."
Mains said JPS, along with the majority of other area districts, employs a "stepladder chart" - in which an individual's educational background and work experience will dictate the salary and subsequent increases they will receive - when negotiating contracts. He said increases can occur on an annual or biennial basis, depending on how the contract is bargained per district.
"Every district has a slightly different chart, but this kind of step process is in there," Mains said. "And the balance that you have is that you're trying to be fair to the employees. People want to feel like they're being paid fairly, and aren't being paid less than everybody else is getting paid. So the unions go and compare themselves to what everybody else is making in terms of starting salaries in other districts.
"At the same time, the single biggest expense that I have is my employees," he added.
"In a high human service like education, the overwhelming bulk of the expense is paying your employees, and making sure you have their salaries and benefits covered. So, you're walking the line between making sure people feel fairly treated and making sure that you can afford to have them," he continued.
Mains said another issue impacting employment negotiations between districts and unions is a depressed economy that has spanned the past five years. He said the recession has put tremendous amounts of stress on districts that had set contracts with guaranteed increases in place during 2008, and are now unable to fulfill the amounts agreed upon due to the statewide defunding of schools.
"The tension between being fair yet affordable has led to some contracts needing to be renegotiated midterm. I certainly know that the size of increases has shrunk dramatically in the last several years," Mains said, indicating that he accepted a 1 percent annual salary increase while negotiating his own contract with JPS.
Several methods have been made by districts in order to achieve the balance of fairness and affordability, the most prevalent of which is the freezing of employment salaries. Mains said a textbook example of this occurred at Cassadaga Valley Central School, where Superintendent Thomas Schmidt reached an agreement with employees in which salaries were frozen but each employee will receive a flat annual cash payment to cover some of the missed increases.
"I think it helps in the discussion when you see other districts doing that," Mains said. "There are lots of different models that can be sold. And, in every case, what you come down to is going to depend on that perpetual balance of trying to be fair and affordable. And right now, it's hard to be affordable because of slim resources."
All salary amounts were obtained from SeeThroughNY, and can be found in the payroll section at www.seethroughny.net. Calls placed to Sherman, Randolph and the Jamestown-based division of New York State United Teachers were not returned prior to press time.
HIGHEST PAID EMPLOYEE, PER DISTRICT, IN 2013
Bemus Point: Edward Turkasz, retired high school principal - $137,932
Brocton: John Hertlein, superintendent - $120,000
Cassadaga Valley: Scott Smith, former superintendent - $131,500
Chautauqua Lake: Benjamin Spitzer, superintendent - $122,675
Clymer: Edward Bailey, high school principal - $104,836
Dunkirk: Gary Cerne, superintendent - $161,357
Falconer: Stephen Penhollow, superintendent - $120,100
Forestville: Charles Leichner, superintendent - $110,242
Fredonia: Paul DiFonzo, superintendent - $142,974
Frewsburg: Danielle O'Connor, superintendent - $117,000
Jamestown: Daniel Kathman, retired superintendent - $170,646
Panama: Bert Lictus, superintendent - $117,320
Pine Valley: Peter Morgante, superintendent - $125,565
Ripley: Karen Krause, outgoing superintendent - $127,308
Sherman: Kaine Kelly, superintendent - $121,264
Silver Creek: Daniel Ljiljanich, superintendent - $138,000
Southwestern: Shelly O'Boyle, coordinator of curriculum and instruction - $100,274
Westfield: David Davison, superintendent - $119,659
Cattaraugus-Little Valley: Jon Peterson, superintendent - $137,724
Ellicottville: Mark Ward, superintendent - $161,953
Randolph: Kimberly Moritz, superintendent - $144,000
Salamanca: Robert Breidenstein, superintendent - $142,708