Education minister vows to take action on Alberta superintendent salaries

Education Minister David Eggen is vowing to take action after a report showed base salaries for Alberta school superintendents rose by 10 per cent between 2015 and 2016, while pay for teachers remained flat and compensation for equivalent positions within the provincial government dropped by 14 per cent.

The survey, compiled for the Alberta School Boards Association, also found Alberta superintendents are paid “significantly higher” salaries than their counterparts in Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

“We need to take a look at it,” Eggen said before a cabinet meeting Tuesday morning.

“I think that it’s out of line with the public expectations and it’s out of line with our attempts to have restraint for salaries in general in the government.”

“For superintendent salaries to continue to rise so dramatically, that’s a problem.”

According to the report, completed by Western Management Consultants, base salaries for superintendents ranged from $229,448 to $357,404.

Joan Carr of Edmonton Catholic Schools was Alberta’s highest paid school superintendent last year, earning $426,824 in total compensation. Edmonton Catholic is the fourth-largest school district in terms of student population.

In Calgary, the chief superintendent of the public system receives a base salary of $295,000 each year.

In comparison, salaries for teachers have remained flat. The Alberta Teachers Association agreed to a wage freeze in a two-year deal reached last year.

Salaries for assistant deputy ministers and deputy ministers dropped by nearly 14 per cent between 2015 and 2016. The Alberta government enacted a freeze on all public service management and non-union positions in 2016, which has been extended to Sept. 30, 2019.

Edmonton Catholic pays highest salary 

Mary Martin, president of the Alberta School Boards Association, was reluctant to address the issue of a potential salary grid until she could speak with Eggen. 

She said school boards should retain the ability to set salaries, since they know their districts and the challenges they pose. 

“I think that boards need to have the authority and the autonomy to use whatever tools they can to bring in the individuals who are going to lead that district well,” she said.

The education minister signs off on contracts reached between school boards and superintendents. Eggen said some of the hefty salaries have concerned him, but seeing the “cumulative effect” outlined in the report has convinced him to take action. 

Eggen wouldn’t disclose what measures are under consideration, but did not rule out a salary cap or pay grid, similar to what the government uses to reign in salaries at the province’s agencies, boards and commissions.

Carr announced her retirement last fall, then reconsidered over the Christmas holidays. Eggen said he isn’t signing off on new contracts, including hers, until the government completes a review.

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