The D.C. Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a 3 percent pay raise for Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, increasing her salary to $284,000, the first increase Henderson has received since she took the job in 2011.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) cited “dramatic improvements” in the 47,000-student school system “under the steady leadership of Chancellor Henderson” in a letter to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) prior to the vote.
D.C. Council member David Grosso said in an interview that Henderson does not have specific performance goals written into her contract, something he prefers to see for the city’s executive-level employees. But he highlighted multiple school system achievements during her tenure, including improvements in enrollment, academic performance and attendance rates.
“I figure you pay people what they are worth,” Grosso (I-At Large) said. “How many people out there in the world are qualified to do this job?”
The chancellor is one of the highest-paid executives in the city. She earns more than Bowser ($200,000) and more than Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier ($230,743), according to salary data released in January.
James E. Lyons Sr., interim president of the University of the District of Columbia, is paid $303,850, and city administrator Rashad M. Young earns $295,000 annually.
A Washington Post analysis of executive pay at the city’s charter schools showed that at least two charter executives also earned salaries about the same or higher than Henderson’s despite leading far smaller organizations. More than 20 charter leaders earned less than the average D.C. public school principal.
In some cases, though, top salaries among charter executives are unknown, if they are employed by a private management company that contracts with the school.
Grosso introduced a bill during Tuesday’s legislative meeting that would give the D.C. Public Charter School Board greater authority to see financial records of such private management organizations, allowing the board to be a more effective watchdog of public funds.
The law would apply to organizations that receive 10 percent or more of a charter school’s annual revenue or those that derive at least a quarter of total revenue from a charter school. The bill would help to give the board “the tools it needs to head off problems before they rise to the level of an attorney general’s investigation,” said D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), who co-introduced the bill.
The legislation comes in response to two pending lawsuits that allege that District charter officials diverted millions of taxpayer dollars from schools to private management companies they created, money that allegedly was for personal gain.
The charter board voted in February to revoke the charter of Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter School for fiscal mismanagement. According to court documents, the school’s founder, Kent Amos, paid himself a salary of more than $1 million annually through a private management company to run the school. Attorneys for the school and for Amos say that the contracts were legal and that Amos did nothing wrong.
The D.C. Council also passed emergency legislation Tuesday that facilitates a plan that will allow the 1,600 children enrolled in Community Academy’s three campuses to stay in their current school building next year.
The legislation gave the charter schools taking on Community Academy’s assets — DC Bilingual and Friendship public charter schools — the ability to give first preference to Community Academy students who applied to the school through the citywide enrollment lottery by the Tuesday deadline. Preferences in the lottery are already given to siblings of current students, or, in some charter schools, to children of staff members.
D.C. Public Schools is taking over the third Community Academy campus, and the school system also plans to give priority to the students currently enrolled at that school.