After many months of people asking how the Archdiocese of Boston justifies paying Superintendent of Schools, Mary Grassa O’Neill, $325,000/year, an answer has finally been offered by the archdiocese.
According to an anonymous archdiocesan official responding via Ethicspoint to an anonymously submitted Ethicspoint report:
“…the Cardinal is well within his authority to make such an appointment. The compensation package offered to Ms. O’Neill is commensurate with her experience and acknowledges her departure from a much coveted position at Harvard to serve the Archdiocese.”
In other words, the Cardinal and the Archdiocese, a public charity, can do whatever they darned well want to do and pay people whatever asking price they demand.
Here is the original report, sent to BCI, followed by the full Ethicspoint response. We have edited it slightly to save space.
What is the general nature of this matter?
Poor stewardship of assets via excessive compensation of lay executives.
Mary Grassa O’Neill, Secretary for Education currently makes $325,000 from the archdiocese, on top of a state teachers’ pension worth at least $75,000 annually. No other Catholic archdiocese pays at her level. You can check with NY, Chicago, LA, and others.
In the larger public school system in Boston with 56,000 students, Carol Johnson makes $275,000.
[Superintendent Carol] Johnson told the Herald she won’t take any pay hikes or bonuses during the rest of her contract in Boston.
“I don’t think in a period where schools are cutting resources for children, any of us can expect to take raises,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s contract pays her an annual salary of $275,000 through June 30, 2012. She has also refused annual performance bonuses, a 2.5 percent pay raise each year and a $600-a-month car allowance.
“I don’t expect anyone to do what I’m doing,” said Johnson, the city’s highest-paid worker. “But in the public sector, you’re held to a higher standard of accountability with the use of public resources, and that’s how it should be.”
Public schools in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles that serve as much as 10X to 25X the number of students and where the operational responsibility is greater–namely, they have management responsibility for budgets, hiring/firing, curriculum, transportation, labor negotiations–pay their top administrators $250,000:
Joel Klein, chancellor of the NY City public schools [editorial note, the largest school system in the country], makes $250K/year. They teach 1.1 million students in 1600 schools with an annual budget of $17 billion. Ramon Cortines, the superintendent of the second-largest school system in the country, Los Angeles, also makes $250K/year. They have 694,288 students, 45,473 teachers and 38,494 other employees, and 1044 schools. The total school district budget for 2009-2010 is $7.3 billion. In her last superintendent job running the Milton Public Schools, her annual compensation was $138,000.
Supposedly, she sat on the search committee to fill this role, and then was asked to apply for the position herself. The members of the search committee have never been disclosed, except for chair, Sr. Janet Eisner.
Objectively, there is no basis for paying somebody at this level inside the Catholic Church, and her compensation is wasting donations and assets.
ARCHDIOCESAN RESPONSE VIA ETHICSPOINT:
4/5/2011 6:08 PM:
“After careful consideration and review the Cardinal is well within his authority to make such an appointment. The compensation package offered to Ms. O’Neill is commensurate with her experience and acknowledges her departure from a much coveted position at Harvard to serve the Archdiocese.
Additionally, the compensation offered to Ms. O’Neill is not in violation of any Archdiocesan policies nor is it in violation of any applicable laws or regulations governing compensation.
The Finance Committee of the Archdiocese is in the process of formulating a Compensation Committee to, among other things, review compensation of Archdiocesan employees greater than $150,000. This Committee will be provided the resources necessary to engage a private consulting firm that can aid in the assessment of current compensation levels if necessary. Ultimately, the Committee will be charged with providing a formal report with the release of the annual financial statements report each year. Ms. O’Neill’s compensation will be part of that first review.”
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The person who submitted this report and shared the response with BCI said they were “livid” with the Ethicspoint-brokered response and submitted a follow-up Ethicspoint report saying: “I am most disappointed in your response. It suggests this new Ethicspoint whistleblower process is already rigged and corrupt.”
We will publish that follow-up report next time. This is another one of the four reports sent to us where the response seems to have ignored some of the fundamental issues raised in the report. See Is Archdiocesean Anti-Corruption Effort Corrupted and Conflicted? for the first example. Needless to say, as we blogged about last Friday in “Questionable Composition of Compensation Committee,” BCI does not think the concept of a Compensation Committee is the right solution to the problem of excessive compensation, and the fact that the committee chair and several members are multi-millionaire CEOs and business executives leaves it subject to criticism from the get-go. We wrote to the committee members to share our concerns and will keep you posted if and when we heard back, but do not hold your breath waiting.
To whomever is responding to these, we are starting to see a vaguely familiar pattern of dismissiveness and defense of the status quo (with a hint of arrogance in the tone), rather than acknowledgment that the report might have merit. Is this coming from the top?
For the integrity of the new whistleblower process, BCI suggests that those behind the program adopt a perspective that instead genuinely acknowledges the merits of the claim, even if that upsets the status quo. As for the school superintendent’s salary and the explanation that $325K is what it took to lure Mary Grassa O’Neill from Harvard, we will leave that to our readers to comment on.
What do you think?