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.

 

more money fewer problems

Detroit teachers will finally get paid for their years of experience if agreement holds up with district

Ally Duncan, an elementary school teacher in Lake County, works with students on sentence structure. (Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat)

Good news for Detroit district teachers stuck at a low pay level: The finance committee of the school board Friday recommended an agreement with the city’s largest teachers union to raise the pay of veteran teachers — and to bring in experienced teachers at higher salaries.

“This is a major step for the district to fully recognize experience,” Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said. “A lot of the adult issues have been put aside to focus on children.”

The changes will be for members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the city’s largest teachers union.

For years, Detroit teachers have bargained for contracts that severely restricted the pay of experienced teachers who wanted to come into the district. As a result, new teachers can currently only get credit for two years of experience, regardless of how many years they’ve taught in other cities or in charter schools.

Vitti has called that restriction a major reason why it’s difficult to attract new teachers and keep existing ones. And with fewer teachers, classroom sizes start to balloon.

Detroit currently has 190 teacher vacancies, down from 275 at this point last year.

The committee also recommended giving a one-time bonus to teachers at the top of the salary scale, to recognize outside experience for current and future teachers, and to repay the Termination Incentive Plan as soon as this September.

The incentive plan took $250 from teachers’ biweekly paycheck and held it to pay them when they left the district when emergency managers were in control, but the money was never given back to teachers, said Ivy Bailey, the president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

Teachers who have paid into the incentive plan from the beginning will receive $9,000. The teachers union made a contract with the district last year that stipulated the money be paid by 2020, but the new agreement would move the payment to this September.

Finally, a bonus — $1,373.60 — for more than 2,000 teachers at the top of the pay scale would be paid in December.

Potentially, some teachers receiving bonuses and who are eligible for the incentive plan payment would receive in excess of $10,000,

“The bonus for teachers on the top is focused on ensuring that we retain our most veteran teachers as we work on an agreement in the third year to increase, once again, teachers at the top step so they can be made whole after emergency manager reductions,” Vitti said.  “We can do that once our enrollment settles or increases.”

In all, the district proposes to spend a combined $5.7 million to pay current and future teachers for how long they’ve worked, $3.2 million on bonuses for veteran teachers, and $22 million on the incentive plan.

“This is something none of us were expecting,” Bailey said. “This is good for everyone. We already ratified a contract, so this is just extra.”

It’s a tentative agreement between the district and the Detroit Federation of Teachers, Bailey said.

If an agreement is reached and the school board approves it, the changes could give the district a new tool in trying to reduce the teacher shortage. It’s a major change for district teachers who saw their pay slashed by 10 percent in 2011. The new contract ratified by the union members last summer promised to increase teacher pay by 7 percent over three years but many teachers grumbled that it wasn’t enough to bring them back to where they were in 2011. 

The two groups are still in talks to “iron out the details,” Bailey said. Specifically, the union wants to make sure that district employees like counselors, therapists and college support staff also receive higher salaries commensurate with experience.

Detroit's future

Despite top scores in quality standards, Michigan’s early education programs neglect English language learners

PHOTO: Jamie Cotten, Special to The Denver Post
Josiah Berg, 4, paints a picture at Mile High Montessori, one of more than 250 Denver preschools that are part of the Denver Preschool Program.

Michigan’s 4-year-olds receive some of the highest quality education and care available in the country — that is, if your child can speak English.

Michigan was one of only three states to meet all 10 quality benchmarks designed by a national advocacy organization that released its annual State of Preschool Report this week. However, the state met only one out of 10 benchmarks for English language learners.

Four-year-olds enrolled in privately funded programs are not included in this data.

Enrollment and state spending per pupil stayed largely constant from the same report last year. About 30 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled — some 38,371 children — while state spending was steady at $6,356 per pupil.

Compared to the rest of the country, Michigan ranks 16th out of 43 states and Washington, D.C., in enrollment for 4-year-olds and allocates about $1,000 more dollars on per pupil spending than the average state.

These findings come from the State of Preschool 2017 report published by the National Institute for Early Education Research, or NIEER, at Rutgers University.

Three states — Alabama, Michigan, and Rhode Island — met all 10 of the institute’s benchmarks for minimum state preschool quality standards. Benchmarks included things like student-to-teacher ratios, teacher training, and quality of curriculum.

But the only benchmark the state met for English learners is permitting bilingual instruction in the state-funded preschool program. Michigan did not meet benchmarks for assessing children in their home language, allocating more money for English learners, or making sure staff are trained in working with students learning English.

Authors of the new report say supporting English learners is important, especially early in life.

“For all children, the preschool years are a critical time for language development.” said Steve Barnett, senior co-director of the institute. “We know that dual-language learners are a group that makes the largest gains from attending high-quality preschool. At the same time, they’re at elevated risk for school failure.”

About a quarter of early education students nationwide are English learners. Michigan does not collect data on the number of early education students who are English learners, so it’s unclear how many students the low quality of instruction impacts.

Chalkbeat Colorado’s Ann Schimke contributed to this report.