Fayette school chief’s pay 55% more than governor

Last year, I personally called the office of Fayette County School District Superintendent John DeCotis to determine if he would be affected by the 4.5 percent across-the-board pay cut that he imposed on all teachers, secretaries and other school district employees for 2009.

His secretary assured me that he would be equally affected but, as evidenced by his 2009 income, this is clearly not the case.

Instead, DeCotis’ exorbitant salary actually increased from $214,651.34 in 2008 to $216,582.81 in 2009 (plus $670.00 in expenses). This obviously represents a salary increase rather than a decrease.

While it’s possible that he was slated for a 5.5 percent pay raise this past year and simply had it reduced by 4.5 percent, it’s hardly noble to claim that you’re sharing in the sacrifice after accepting a pay raise that more than offsets the pay cut.

Even if this pay raise was contractual, DeCotis could have done the right thing by simply refusing it. And just ask our hard-working teachers how they feel about his sacrifice as compared to theirs.

John DeCotis has hardly felt the sting of this economy like so many around him, considering that he continues to earn over 55 percent more than our governor. Incredibly, even one of his assistants, Lyn Wenzel, out-earned our governor in 2009 with assistants Sam Sweat and Fred Oliver close behind.

(Somehow, across the nation, the average taxpayer-funded job now earns almost double that of a private sector job, bearing in mind that the latter produce tax revenue rather than take from it. The steep climb in school district administrative salaries is clear evidence of this fact.)

DeCotis’s and other school district superintendents’ salaries have risen insidiously to obscene levels, all masked by the past economic boom.

Times have changed and many Fayette families are now struggling to survive. With roughly 83 percent of non-exempt property tax dollars going to the school district and with 46 school district administrators earning over $100,000 per year, there are rumors of a millage rate increase not only to compensate for our school district’s fiscal mismanagement but also to sustain these ridiculous administrative salaries.

It is convoluted to think that any employee at a county-level school district should earn more than the highest ranking state-level school official. This position is currently held by Kathy Cox, the superintendent of all Georgia schools, who earned $129,000 in 2009.

Doing the math, she would require an immediate 67 percent pay raise to equal the salary of county-level superintendent John DeCotis.

DeCotis will retire this summer to a very cushy pension and we must seek his replacement. I have every confidence that we can find an adroit and capable individual who doesn’t out-earn the state superintendent.

The time to set a new standard for administrative salaries is now, and certainly before the county considers burdening its struggling citizenry with higher taxes.

If you agree, contact our school board members directly and take action now by signing an electronic petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/fixfcboe (you can do this anonymously).

If not, then be prepared to pay higher taxes to help fund multiple six-figure school district administrative salaries.

Ralph P. Trapaga
Peachtree City, Ga.

relevant123's picture
Joined: 03/17/2010
Use Extreme Caution Here

Georgia taxpayer’s money bank rolls the state budget which includes the elected Governor’s salary, expenses, and numerous other perks. In addition to the salary in 2009, we paid for the governor’s travel expenses which were $38,212.(source :OpenGeorgia). Our governor receives a wonderful all-expense paid residence- the $7.6 million mansion at 391 W. Paces Ferry Road (source:fultonassessor.org) complete with a full staff-even a private chef-that's really nice. We are comparing apple and oranges here. As a longtime tax-paying homeowner and registered voter in Fayette County, it is vital to my/our children who are in Fayette County schools that we hire a new superintendent that will continue to ensure that Fayette County continues to be recognized for its great academic achievements not only in Georgia but nationally as well which has truly been the case during Dr. DeCotis' tenure.
Hiring a qualified and experienced candidate is contingent with a salary comparable with other school systems of equal size and budgets. Mr.Trapaga's letter here is quite distorted and the misinformation machine goes into overdrive in his petition blog. Yes, Dr. DeCotis initiated, by his example , to be the first one to take a hit of 5 days furlough pay in 2009 and subsequently, Dr. DeCotis took a 4.5% pay cut along with 3 more furlough days. Mr. Trapaga's letter and blog mentions the salary of former Deputy Assistant Supt. Lynn Wenzel who left in June 2009 and her position was NOT filled which saved us taxpayers that salary amount. In his petition blog, Mr.Trapaga states" High salaries have also permeated down to school-level administrators where principals earn over $100,000 for less than a year's work". This is quite a fabrication considering a principal is a hired 12 month employee not only working regular school hours but they ( and assistant principals) work countless hours after normal school hours covering student events like ballgames,chorus/band concerts,etc, making sure that our children are watched after and ensuring that our children have rides home from the event. Mr. Trapaga's threatening petition is deplorable and his debasing of Dr. DeCotis and our principals is unacceptable. Mr.Trapaga's petition blog states , " I've never heard of a Captain making more than a General", yet petition threat #2 endorses wholesale decimation of ALL administrator salaries thus INCREASING the number of present "captains"(teachers) making more than "generals/lieutenant generals"(administrators) located IN the schools. Mr. Trapaga's logic is flawed as Mrs. McBride's comments accurately described- I strongly oppose any plan to raise taxes but Mr.Trapaga's search and destroy mentality is clearly the WRONG approach.
I hope that you'll join me as a fellow parent who wants the best for our kids and not place cuts with the administrators who directly benefit our children and our children's teachers.(By the way, I am NOT a FCBOE Administrator or one of our great teachers). Extreme caution should be used when dealing with the rants and raves of an overzealous individual like Mr. Trapaga.

PollyMcBride's picture
Joined: 03/09/2010
Flaws in Trapaga's logic...Flaws in his facts...

The salaries of elected officials like the governor and state superintendent DO NOT relate to that of a hired local superintendent. Let's pretend for a minute there is a correlation.
1. Neither Sonny Perdue nor Kathy Cox has 32 years of experience in their fields.
2. Sonny Perdue is a veterinarian. I don't know how that qualifies him to be governor, but he couldn't get hired as a school superintendent.
3. Kathy Cox doesn't have a doctorate in education (or veterinary medicine for that matter). She'd never be "hired" as a local school superintendent before she was "elected" as a state school superintendent.

Regarding the current superintendent's salary,

1. Last year, all employees were given a state required raise, but Veterinarian Perdue and his loyal band of followers failed to appropriate the funds to pay for the raise. In December 2009, Dr. DeCotis was the first to take a pay cut by VOLUNTARILY taking five furlough days. Following his example, 88% of administrators also took five furlough days.
2. Last year, all 12 month classified employees took two furlough days.
3. Teachers and all employees working 190 days took NO pay cuts during the 2009 - 2010 school year.
4. This year, Dr. DeCotis, all administrators, and all other employees took a 4.5% pay cut and three furlough days.

Mr. Trapaga, you missed the mark on this one. Your examples are from the WRONG YEAR. Let's see if you correct your mistake by retracting this letter or your asinine petition.

normal's picture
Joined: 08/11/2009
Not his fault

DeCotis just takes what is paid to him. The huckleberry dumb asses that approve his pay are the ones you should be after. Another typical government screw up. With many more to come

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