Dozens of principals and assistant principals protested to the Baltimore school board last night - albeit silently - about newly hired "academic coaches" in their schools, some of whom are earning higher salaries than they are.
None of the principals spoke publicly, but they attended the meeting to support their union representative, Sheila Kolman, who called the pay issue "demoralizing" and "alarming."
It doesn't make sense, she said, that some of the coaches - who do not teach, but rather provide support and training to teachers - are making more in their 11-month positions than principals and assistants are making in a year.
"Principals are responsible for results and the school," said Kolman, president of the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association. "They must lead and move the school forward or they will be reassigned, demoted. They have more days, more hours, more responsibilities and are more accountable."
The meeting was tense at times, with principals and assistants in the audience openly muttering or disagreeing with the school system's human resources director, Shelia Dudley, as she tried to explain the various pay scales.
Schools Chief Executive Officer Carmen V. Russo said that pay-scale "overlap" mostly affects veteran academic coaches and new principals, particularly at elementary schools. An academic coach with a master's degree could make up to $71,365, while an elementary principal might start at $70,335. An academic coach with a doctorate could earn a maximum of $78,696.
Russo conceded that principal and assistant principal pay increases haven't kept up with those of teachers, who have enjoyed 5 percent raises for two years. But she said the school board has been discussing ways to remedy the situation.
"We certainly understand," she said. "Sometimes when you try to address one inequity, you create another tension. And we're trying to address that."
The united front of principals at last night's meeting was unusual. Normally, principals toil behind the scenes and take their complaints about district policies to system administrators, such as area academic officers.
Several principals and assistants, asked for comment last night by a reporter, declined, saying they were afraid for their jobs. Others spoke only on condition that their names not be used.
"It's degrading, it really is," said an elementary school principal, who has an academic coach making more than one of her vice principals. "It's a slap in the face."
Another elementary school principal said she is angered that her academic coaches are making the same amount she is - though she is held responsible for the school's progress.
"How would you feel?" she said. "You're the academic leader. You're supposed to be running the school."
The hiring of academic coaches was a central part of the reorganization last spring of the office of Chief Academic Officer Cassandra W. Jones. The school board originally approved hiring 346 coaches - one each in reading and math for every elementary, middle and high school in the city. The high school coaches were dropped.
Kolman said she doesn't want the academic coaches to earn less; she wants principals and assistants to make more.
"This is right now our No. 1 issue because it's such a morale problem," she said.