District administrators not overpaid, Mehlville committee concludes


Mehlville School District administrators are not overpaid when compared to their counterparts in surrounding school districts, a committee studying administrative salaries and staffing levels has concluded.

Members of Mehlville’s Administrative Review Committee presented the results of their study to the Board of Education last week.

Besides concluding that Mehlville administrators are not overpaid, committee members also determined that Mehlville is not overstaffed with administrators when compared to surrounding school districts.

Board of Education member Micheal Ocello, who had asked that the panel be established, explained the purpose of the re-view before committee members made their presentation April 19.

“… The purpose of the Administrative Review Committee was to answer questions that the community has been asking us and that we’ve all heard,” he said. “One of the questions was: Do we have too many administrators? Are they paid too much? … People have come down both sides of the aisle, and ultimately when we formed this group, we said very clearly: We just want to know the facts. Do we have too many?

“How do we compare to other school districts? How are they paid? Is it appropriate? Is it inappropriate? Do we meet the necessary standards as required by the state of Missouri?”

Ocello emphasized that committee members were not “directed,” but analyzed the data and came to their own conclusions.

The Administrative Review Committee included retired administrators Roy Harrell, Jerry Langsdorf, Jack Jordan, Jim Schibig and Tom Blades; retired teachers Judy Burnette, Sandy Applegate and Judy Compton; and residents Joe Moore, Bob Lauer, Marvin Breitenfeld and Marea Kluth-Hoppe, a former board member. The committee began meeting in January and later divided into subcommittees to examine salaries, administrative responsibilities and the ratio of students to administrators.

In analyzing administrators’ salaries, Burnette told the board her subcommittee had a difficult time initially because so many variables existed in school districts, including experience, enrollment and responsibilities.

To find the cost per student, the salary of superintendents in six districts was divided by enrollment. Mehlville’s cost per student was $13.84. Only Fox at $13.27 was lower. Bayless at $77.28 was the highest, followed by Hancock at $72.82.

The subcommittee did the same for the total number of assistant and/or associate superintendents in the central offices of Mehlville and surrounding districts.

Mehlville’s per-student cost was the lowest at $8.99. Fox’s cost was $10.45. Bayless again was the highest at $70.47, followed by Hancock at $61.32.

Last, the subcommittee totaled the salaries of all central office employees, including directors and coordinators, and divided the average salary by enrollment.

Once again, Mehlville had the lowest per-student cost at $8.15. Fox’s cost was $8.97. Affton’s cost was the highest at $53.54, followed by Hancock at $53.40.

At the time of the calculation, Mehlville’s post of assistant superintendent for human resources was vacant.

“This data seems to support the fact that Mehlville is not overpaying their Central Of-fice staff if compared with surrounding districts,” the subcommittee’s report stated. “In addition, DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) reports that Mehlville does not meet the minimum standards for number of associates/assistants to the superintendent — 0.6 short.”

Also reviewed by the subcommittee were the salaries of high school principals. Dividing the salaries of principals by the number of students found Mehlville’s per-student costs to be the lowest — $55.58 and $54.66 — of surrounding districts. Han-cock’s per-student cost of $193.39 was the highest, followed by Bayless at $180.54.

Adding the total salaries for assistant principals and dividing the average salary by enrollment, the subcommittee found that Mehlville’s per-student costs were the lowest at $47.62 and $44.36. Lindbergh’s cost was $48.45. Hancock had the highest per-student cost at $158.96, followed by Bayless at $139.32.

“The number of principals and assistant principals at the high schools meet DESE’s minimum standards and compare favorably with neighboring districts,” the subcommittee’s report stated. “Our subcommittee thus concludes that the number of administrators in the high schools only meet minimum DESE standards with the total cost per student being the lowest in the area.”

Regarding the ratio of students to administrators, another subcommittee determined that 26 of 27 school districts re-viewed with 299.2 students per administrator. Only Fox was lower with 336.3 students per administrator. Of the districts reviewed, Wellston was ranked No. 1 with 88.8 students per administrator.

“Mehlville and Fox would be spread thinner administratively, which might have an impact in the time of emergency or crisis … That’s what the numbers show,” Moore told the board.

Ocello told the Call he was pleased with the committee’s presentation and conclusions.

“I thought that the points they made were very much to the point, and what I really feel good about is that it was a mixture of retired people who have been involved with the district and people outside the district,” he said.

Asked if he hoped the committee’s report would help change public perception, Ocello replied, “It’s my sincere hope that it is a good start. We went into this with the idea of let’s let the facts tell the story. We didn’t have any preconceived notions of where we wanted this to go, and there was no pressure to direct it one way or the other. The charge was let’s get there and find out what the truth is, and I think that they’ve done that. I think that the numbers are something that you just can’t argue with and clearly this ought to show people — at least I would like to believe that it’s going to show people — that our administrators are not overpaid and that clearly we don’t have too many of them.

“I think that we’ve been a good steward of the money and to my knowledge, there’s no recommendation from the administration to increase what we have. But, you know, we’re at the most efficient point I think we can be at at this moment.”

Ocello added, “… People have criticisms and that’s fair. We all want the best value for our dollar. We don’t want to see money wasted. But there comes a point where it seems that there’s a lot of people making statements and half-truths, and once we go through the process and bring in people from the community and get the answers, my hope is the rest of the community will look at that and realize: OK, maybe I was mistaken on that …”