Paying the price

Published 1:17 pm Friday, August 21, 2009

By Staff
Beaufort County Board of Education Chairman Robert Belcher’s statement this week that the minimum annual salary for the new schools superintendent, when that person is hired, could be $150,000 likely will draw some fire from people who will say that’s too much to pay an administrator for a school system that’s in a county that’s mostly rural in nature.
You get what you pay for, the old adage goes.
Belcher’s statement is probably right on target. People say they want a superintendent that’s qualified and well-equipped to do the job. If that’s what they want, they should be prepared to pay for it. If other school systems that are capable of paying a minimum annual salary of $150,000 for a superintendent are seeking that qualified person who’s well-equipped to do the job, then Beaufort County must at least put itself in the running to hire such a person.
The school board should get the best-qualified person it can afford to become the school system’s next superintendent. But can the school board afford to be, for lack of a better word, cheap when it comes to hiring someone to oversee the education the county’s children will receive in the coming years?
Some people raised a fuss when County Manager Paul Spruill was given a new contract that increased his annual salary to $135,000. A county manager of Spruill’s caliber easily commands that type of salary in today’s market because he’s proved himself more than just an average administrator.
And as Belcher noted, in a time when high-school principals are making about $100,000 a year in salary, it’s to be expected that a superintendent will make significantly more.
The school board should not go overboard when it comes to deciding the annual salary for the new superintendent. The school system does not need a Mercedes-Benz when it comes to the new superintendent, but neither does it need a clunker that will need to be traded in a year or two.
If the county wants to do the best it can when it comes to providing its children with a sound education, that’s going to take a quality superintendent. Quality does not come cheap.
It’s a free-market economy out there, and top-grade superintendents don’t come cheap.
The school board is not buying a piece of equipment. It’s making an investment in the education of the county’s children.
The county cannot afford to scrimp on that investment.