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Third in a series
By Sarah Campbell
scampbell@salisburypost.com
The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education gave a resounding “no” when one member suggested adding an employee salary database to the school system’s website.
“It’s already available and anyone who wants it can get it,” board member Kay Wright Norman said.
But a database of school salaries can be found on the Salisbury Post’s website now — provided by the schools following the Post’s public information request — and it shows local salaries in line with other school systems in surrounding counties or of comparable size.
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom is the highest-paid employee in the system, making $193,826 this year. Other administrators comprise the top tier of salaries, with teachers in the middle and food service workers and custodians paid the least
The Post asked the school system for the title, education, salary, supplement amount and hire date of every employee. The school system compiled the information and shared it.
The searchable database can be viewed at http://www.salisburypost.com/schoolsdata/.
The Post requested the same information for administrators — including central office staff and school principals — in Kannapolis City Schools, Cabarrus County Schools, Alamance-Burlington School System, Davidson County Schools and Iredell-Statesville Schools.
Each school system responded promptly and without complaint, but the amount of time it took to get the requested information varied from three to 23 days.
The Post also requested each superintendent’s supplement history dating back five years, along with a copy of their contract.
Each school system responded promptly and without question, except Rowan-Salisbury.
The day a Post reporter e-mailed the request to Public Information Officer Rita Foil, Grissom responded, saying the Post was “trying to dig up something that is not there to sensationalize.”
“If you will just tell me what you are searching for with all the questions on my salary and contract, I will be glad to help you,” Grissom said in an e-mail.
After another request for the document, the school system provided the contract within two days.
When the reporter sought clarification on portions of the contract Friday, school officials declined, saying the contract speaks for itself.
“On the advice of our attorney, we will not attempt to interpret it for you,” Foil said.
Friday afternoon Grissom sent another e-mail to the Post.
“Once again I am not sure what you are trying to accomplish with the continual questions about my contract and salary,” she wrote.
A look at the numbers
As Rowan-Salisbury schools’ top leader, Grissom receives $129,660 from the state and $64,166 from local funds, for a total of $193,826.
Grissom, who has been with the district since 2005, is the second longest-serving and second highest-paid superintendent among those from Rowan and surrounding counties.
Davidson’s Fred Mock is the highest-paid and longest-serving, earning $204,339, with $129,660 from the state and $74,679 local. Mock has been Davidson’s top official since 1997.
Superintendents in Iredell-Statesville, Cabarrus and Alamance-Burlington (included because it is comparable in size) make between $175,100 and $189,300. In Kannapolis, a smaller school system, Pam Cain brings in $135,000.
Every school system polled except Kannapolis has more than 20,000 students and at least 33 schools. Kannapolis has eight schools with more than 5,100 students.
The salaries of other top employees were also in line with Rowan-Salisbury Schools.
Rebecca Smith, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, earns $117,825, with $103,068 from the state and $14,757 local. Her counterparts in the surrounding counties make between $108,965 and $126,000.
Delores Morris, Rowan-Salisbury assistant superintendent for human resources, brings in $117,825, with $101,544 from state and $16,288 local. She is on par with counterparts who earn between $92,856 and $134,640.
The lowest paid employees in Rowan-Salisbury schools are school food service workers and custodians at $10.58 per hour.
The base salary each employee receives from the state is determined by a salary schedule that sets minimum pay based on years of experience and education level. National Board Certified Teachers receive additional compensation.
New teachers with a bachelor’s degree earn $30,430 annually, while teachers with 33 plus years of experience make $52,550.
Beginning teachers with a master’s degree start out making $33,470 and can earn $57,810 with 33 plus years experience.
Principals can make between $50,916 and $106,080.
School districts can approve additional funds to be paid locally to account for variances such as geographic location, market conditions or school demographics.
Local supplements range from $410 to $4,136 for teachers in Rowan-Salisbury schools. Principals receive a supplement between $5,000 and $9,000.
State benefits
The state covers the insurance premiums of employees under the state health plan. Employees pay additional premiums for dependent coverage.
School boards in Rowan-Salisbury, Cabarrus, Alamance-Burlington and Davidson have agreed to pay the premiums of dependents of the superintendent.
Employees pay the entire cost of dental and life insurance.
Full time state employes pay 6 percent to the state’s retirement system.
Superintendent bonus
According to contracts received through the public records request, Rowan-Salisbury is the only school board of surrounding counties that provides an automatic annual raise to the superintendent.
Grissom receives a minimum 2.5 percent raise each year.
She can receive an additional 3 percent performance-based raise, which she has turned down the past two years despite meeting goals.
Davidson caps Mock’s annual performance-based bonus at $2,000 and Alamance Burlington has a $5,000 limit based on evaluation.
Kannapolis, Cabarrus and Iredell-Statesville can provide an annual bonus through a board vote.
Grissom’s salary has grown by more than $28,000 since 2006-07, an average of about $5,600 per year. School board members say that competitive salary has earned them a top-notch superintendent.
“She’s been well worth her weight as far as salary is concerned,” board chairman Jim Emerson said. “The one thing that I can point out is that literally millions of dollars of grants that she has gotten because of her efforts and knowledge to obtain them.”
School board member Bryce Beard said Grissom has been accomplishing what she was recruited to come here to do, citing her focus on technology as a positive form for students engagement.
“We are very lucky we pursued her,” he said. “You won’t see this kind of growth in learning opportunities and options for our kids having taken place under any other superintendent.”
Norman said she does not feel the board has overpaid Grissom and the automatic bonus was the right decision.
“Was the board too generous … I don’t think so. (She) is good for our system and the expectations have been met and, in many ways, beyond what some people expected.”

Search the entire online database including school, county and city of Salisbury salaries by clicking here.

Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.

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