BURLINGTON, N.C. – The Alamance-Burlington School Board is under fire after taxpayers learned members voted to pay the districts newly hired superintendent $330,000.00 a year.
The board official hired Dr. Bill Harrison on February 20th who is now the highest paid school superintendent in North Carolina and the highest in several southern states.
Many residents call the salary grossly excessive.
“Now we know where our taxes are going to,” said resident Debbie Underwood who can’t believe Harrison is the highest paid superintendent when students in the county don’t have the resources they need and teachers are forced to buy their own supplies. “It shouldn’t be that way but if this man is getting $330,000, I can see why.”
School board member Patsy Simpson was the only board member who voted against the salary saying Wednesday “it was just too much.”
$245,000 of Dr. Harrison’s salary is coming from state and local tax dollars with the rest, $85,000, coming from donations that include money from Elon University, Glen Raven and Impact Alamance, a non-profit tied to Cone Health System.
“That’s excessive; is he really worth all that?” asked resident Pamela Clapp. “Students are crowded in the classrooms!”
Harrison has been at the center of controversy before after Governor Bev Perdue appointed him the first CEO of the state school system, a job Perdue created for him with an annual salary of $265,000. A state superior court judge eliminated the position in 2009 saying Perdue overstepped her authority in creating the CEO position for Harrison. The following year Perdue hired Harrison again as an education adviser making an annual salary of $90,000.
Harrison has served as interim superintendent for Alamance-Burlington School since Lillie Cox abruptly resigned last June. Cox’s resignation came with a $200,000 severance and an agreement with the board to remain silent about her departure. Her annual salary was $175,000. “We need to know what happened there,” said Clapp.
Pamela Thompson, chairwoman of the school board said she was unavailable to talk about Harrison’s salary Wednesday evening but said in a statement, dated February 20th, that Harrison was the best person for the job. “Over the past seven months, Dr. Harrison has done a superb job moving our school system forward,” she said in the statement. “During his short time with us, our board members and many community leaders have expressed the desire to retain him as our superintendent.”
The vice-chairman of the board, Steven Van Pelt, told Fox 8 last summer that school system didn’t have the money for new computers and technology but last month voted for Harrison’s salary because of his extensive career. “He’s already made a big impact on our progress,” he said in the statement. “This is a huge win for our district.”
While board members say Harrison is a win for the school system their students, like Spencer Lee a junior at Williams High School, continue to go without resources. “I have an orchestra class and my teacher says “I’m sorry you guys can’t hear anything we listen to but I don’t have the money to buy speakers for the classroom,” said Lee.
What do other NC superintendents make?
Heath Morrison, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools $288,000
Jim Merrill, Wake County Schools $275,000
Maurice Green, Guilford County Schools $250,000
Beverly Emory, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools $190,000