Given the state of our government’s budget situation, and the sense of urgency that our legislators are trying to display with their current round of budget freezes, it was eye-opening to see Brad Shannon’s report earlier this week that newly minted Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn had made an appearance in front of the citizen salary commission to, let’s be honest, whine about his salary.
Dorn gets paid $121,618 each year in his new post, and he told the commission that ranks him below his chief of staff, below the state Department of Early Learning head, and even below 121 district superintendents here in the state.
Adding some perspective, the 122nd largest school district in the state according to the 2000 census is located in lovely Coupeville, and a few other comparable in size include Elma, Naches Valley and Chimacum. Some of my favorite places all of them, but nothing one would equate with educational or cultural dominance.
It really begs the question, is Dorn grossly underpaid, or are these superintendents overpaid?
To be fair, Dorn didn’t ask for a raise, and he did acknowledge that he chose to run for the office knowing the pay grade in advance, but he basically made an official proclamation that, as the kids these days might put it, I’m just sayin’, is all.
Dorn added, according to Shannon, that he was more concerned that the most qualified administrators might not seek the post when they can make at least twice as much in any of the major school districts in the state.
Meanwhile, Dorn himself benefited from the lack of credible candidates in the race. When early favorite Richard Semler, the Richland superintendent, dropped out of the race because of a family health issue, it essentially became a two-person race between Dorn and incumbent Terry Bergeson, who obstinately stood by the WASL even when she couldn’t answer some of the test questions herself.
Still, to call attention to his comparatively low pay at a time when state salaries are frozen, unemployment is rising pretty much everywhere but Pittsburgh, and even just four days before the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passes in the U.S. Senate shows a galling lack of tact.
Especially since this isn’t Dorn’s first money grab. Recall that back in May of last year, he tried to boost his pension by getting his old colleagues in the legislature to make his retirement benefits based on his cushy $137,705 salary as the head of the Public School Employees Union instead of the $57,720 he earned as principal of Eatonville High School.
Dorn came to the office by way of Eatonville, a small Pierce County town that is best known to some of us as the home of former national prep football record holder Bobby Lucht, but this recent meeting smacks of an entirely different former Northwest athletic hero.
But hey, at least he is taking on the WASL, and most of us can agree that is far, far more important than a few thousand bucks here or there for a government job.