"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Disaster Capitalism Paying Off Big for Charter School CEOs in New Orleans

The Times-Picayune has a great piece of reporting on the Wall Street school model coming to maturity in New Orleans. Huge CEO salaries, secrecy, and no oversight. Paul Vallas must be as proud as the corporate stooge, Paul Pastorek, who runs the exploded state school system. New LEAP test numbers are due next week, and the charter EMOs will have whole new set of targets for next year.
by Brian Thevenot, The Times-Picayune
Saturday May 16, 2009, 9:54 PM

Now in control of their own budgets, many New Orleans charter school boards have invested heavily in school leaders, with a few paying well into the six-figure range, doubling or tripling the salaries that principals earned under the old regime.

Atop the pay range sits veteran Kathy Riedlinger, head of Lusher Charter School, who earns $203,556, including a $5,000 yearly car allowance. Lafayette Charter School's Mickey Landry, recruited from a prep school in a national search, is No.¤2 at $186,000.

At Ben Franklin High School, Principal Timothy Rusnak, also recruited nationally, earns $150,000 annually. And Jay Altman, chief executive of FirstLine Schools, earns $132,000 to oversee both S.J. Green and Arthur Ashe charter schools.

. . . .

Riedlinger's $203,556 compensation package, for instance, approaches that of Recovery District Superintendent Paul Vallas and exceeds the $160,000 earned by Orleans Parish School Board Superintendent Darryl Kilbert. Brian Riedlinger, who until recently served as superintendent of the nine-school Algiers Charter School Association, earned $190,000 yearly. Brian Riedlinger is Kathy Riedlinger's ex-husband.

The pay increases have gone mostly unnoticed, in large part because of the difficulty in tracking spending under the system's diffuse governance structure.

As a result, key school leaders, including the principals themselves; superintendents Vallas and Kilbert; Orleans Parish School Board President Woody Koppel; and Louella Givens, New Orleans' only representative on the state board of education, were all surprised to learn of the top salaries.

Givens said she recently asked a colleague on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about principal salary information, but was rebuffed.

"I was essentially told that, because charters are independent, they have freedom to set salaries however they want," she said. "When I find out that some of these places are operating like little kingdoms, I think this kind of information should be readily available to the public. You assume there's oversight, but apparently there isn't." . . . .

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