Stonington gives big raise to new superintendent

Stonington - The Board of Education has agreed to a three-year contract with new Superintendent of Schools Van Riley that pays him $20,000 more per year than former superintendent Leanne Masterjoseph earned.

The contract calls for Riley to be paid $175,000. Masterjoseph was paid $154,500 before she resigned in June after 2½ years on the job.

Riley's contract also calls for him to receive 25 vacation days and 25 sick days a year and be paid for unused vacation days when he leaves the job. The school system also will provide him with a $200,000 life insurance policy and pay 80 percent of the health insurance premium for him and his wife. The benefits are the same as those Masterjoseph received.

Board of Education Chairwoman Gail MacDonald said Friday the salary increase was needed to hire someone with the required experience and who did not view the job as a jumping off point for another that pays more money.

"We don't want this to be a revolving door. It's not good for the students and the schools," she said.

MacDonald said that when the search committee began looking for Masterjoseph's replacement, interim superintendent and search consultant Paul Smotas told members that the salary the system was paying was "extremely low" compared to many communities across the state.

When the search committee told Smotas that it wanted an "experienced superintendent who could hit the ground running," she said, that just reinforced the need to raise the salary to attract qualified candidates.

MacDonald said the search committee was able to attract a number of qualified candidates.

"I knew that if we did not get someone in here with experience, that it would not have been a good thing for our students," she said.

Riley, who began work on Monday, was the superintendent of schools of the Huntington Beach, Calif., Union High School District, from 2003-11. There, he oversaw a school district of 16,000 students in 10 schools, grades 9-12. For the past year, he has been an educational consultant.

Before that, he worked as a K-12 superintendent in Ojai and Carpinteria, Calif. Those two districts have student populations slightly larger than Stonington. He also has worked as an assistant superintendent, principal, assistant principal and teacher, as well as a lecturer at University of California campuses in Santa Barbara and Irvine.

MacDonald said $175,000 looks like a "big, big salary" compared to what most people earn. But, she said, superintendents have great deal of responsibility and demands on their time, working most nights to attend meetings and school events as well as on weekends.


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