Baltimore County Average Teacher Salary is Lowest Among Large Systems

… But superintendent and deputy are some of the highest paid …

By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

6:54 PM EDT, October 10, 2011

Baltimore County’s average teacher salary is the lowest among large school systems in Maryland, but its two top officials are some of the highest-paid, according to data collected by the state.

On average, teachers in the county earn $60,272 — less than the averages for Montgomery, Howard, Anne Arundel, Frederick and Prince George’s counties. The highest average teacher pay in the state is $75,000 in Montgomery and the lowest is $52,594 in Dorchester County.

“Not only are we behind the large suburban counties, we are behind many other counties,” said Abby Beytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County. The county’s teachers fall ninth in the state for average salaries out of the 24 school districts.

Salaries of professionals from assistant principals to guidance counselors in Baltimore County schools mostly fall in the top third among the state’s systems, except for top administrators, who earn higher-than-average salaries. The superintendent, Joe A. Hairston, is in his 12th year on the job but doesn’t plan to seek a new contract when his deal ends in June. He is one of the longest-serving superintendents in the state and made $303,000 last year, the highest pay for anyone at that level and $43,000 more than Baltimore schools chief Andrés Alonso.

The deputy superintendent, Renee Foose, has the second highest salary for that post in the state, behind the Charles County deputy. Foose was hired in April and earns $219,000, according to a searchable database of salaries on The Baltimore Sun’s website that was compiled using information supplied by the county school district.

The Maryland State Department of Education collects the salary data for all school districts.

Over a 30-year career, teachers with a master’s degree in Baltimore County earn less than their peers in other large school districts in Maryland, according to a report done in 2010 by the National Council on Teacher Quality. A Baltimore County teacher would earn $1.79 million compared with $1.9 million in Baltimore City and $2.1 million in Howard, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel.

Teacher pay in Baltimore County is structured in a way that rewards those who get advanced degrees quickly and who stay in the system a long time, according to Donald A. Peccia, head of human resources.

“Teachers who stay in the county are rewarded,” Peccia said. “That is the philosophy that meets the needs of the school district.”

Baltimore County teachers start at $43,000 if they have a bachelor’s degree and no experience, but they can earn up to $90,400 after 30 years of service and a doctorate. Last year, there were 49 teachers with a doctorate, but 30 percent of teachers had a master’s plus 30 additional hours of graduate courses. Only teachers in Montgomery and Charles counties and Baltimore City can earn more than $100,000.

Peccia said the largest percentage of county teachers have been in the school system a long time or are young, new teachers. The county has had a wealth of candidates for teaching positions; in one case this year the county had 1,000 applicants for four teaching jobs. And Peccia said the candidates are more qualified and have teaching experience.

“We are hiring more people with advanced degrees, people with teaching and business experience,” Peccia said. “The candidates today have been better prepared to work in schools than candidates prior. They are very skilled, more enthused.”

Teachers have not gotten many salary increases in the past several years, but the county did give all its employees the “step” increases specified under the contract.

“My people are pleased that Baltimore County has managed to give them the step increases, and no furloughs and no layoffs. They are very appreciative of that,” Beytin said.

But county teachers still earn less than many other professionals with as much training, she said. The growth between starting salary and what teachers can earn after decades isn’t much, Beytin said, so the health benefits and pension become important incentives to keeping teachers in the profession.

Teachers in Baltimore County, like most in the nation, are not rewarded on the basis of performance. However, a new state-mandated evaluation system is coming in two years, so the county could begin to tie student performance to teacher pay.

“There are 14,000 school districts that look a lot like it. We are at the cusp of a whole new approach toward compensating teachers,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality and a Maryland state school board member.

Walsh said research shows teachers get much better in the first several years of teaching, but in general, teachers don’t improve significantly between their fifth and 15th years on the job. By year 15, she said, most teachers have gotten more efficient at their work and very good at their job, but they have less energy for it.

In the legal and medical professions, Walsh said, employees get to a higher pay scale much more quickly than teachers, generally within 10 or 11 years. It’s a model that she thinks should be extended to teachers.

“Most professions allow talented people to rise to the top quickly,” she said. “If you have a good evaluation system in place and you are using multiple measures of performance, you can come up with a good way to compensate teachers.”

Principals in Baltimore County can earn between $95,652 and $157,000, the highest salary ranges in the Baltimore area, including Howard and Anne Arundel counties and the city, with maximum salaries between $140,000 and $149,000.

But Peccia said the salary structure for principals was recently redone in the county and no principal is earning the top pay. The highest-paid principals in the system earn between $128,000 and $136,000.

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

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