BURLINGTON, N.C. –The superintendent of the Alamance-Burlington School System has a higher salary than any other superintendent in the state — $330,000 a year.
And now, the Board of Education, who set that salary, is getting heat.
Board Chair Pamela Thompson said that she believes Dr. Bill Harrison is worth every penny.
“It is a lot of money,” Thompson said. “But he is an amazing superintendent. And you can’t really put a price on this quality of leadership.”
But critics say the BOE did just that — and a high price.
The previous superintendent of ABSS was making close to $200,000. Some worry that this sets a precedent for high pay that ABSS won’t be able to fulfill year after year. Thompson disagrees.
“We are not trying to set a precedent when it comes to salary,” Thompson said. “We are really setting a precedent when it comes to education. We’re in a spot where we don’t need a superintendent. We need a phenomenal leader.”
Thompson said another reason the salary for Harrison was higher than his predecessors is because the board received $85,000 in donations to supplement his salary, from Elon University, nonprofit Impact Alamance and company Glen Raven.
Board of Education member Mark Payne said that he believes wholeheartedly that Dr. Harrison was the best fit for the job regardless of the price tag.
“The salary that Dr. H has been contracted to is, I think, reasonable when you consider the immense wisdom and experience he brings to this job.”
Payne was a teacher 31 years before joining the Board of Education. He said teachers should understand the pay differential between themselves and the superintendent.
“For 31 years, everyone that was over me made more money than I did. Whomever is head of an organization is invariably going to make more money.”
Dr. Harrison was at the center of controversy before. Former North Carolina governor Bev Perdue appointed him the first CEO of the state school system while she was in office, and gave him a salary of $265,000 a year. In 2009, a state superior court judge said Perdue had overstepped her authority in creating the position and ruled that it be eliminated.
Perdue hired Harrison again the following year, paying him $90,000 as an education adviser.
Thompson said the Board of Education did not discuss that controversy when deciding to hire Harrison.