RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras eliminated 49 jobs earlier this year to save the school district $13 million.
"It is certainly with a heavy heart that I put forward these cuts to the central office," Kamras said at the time. "It is always hard to cut jobs but now this board has done its part, RPS has done its part, and now the ball is really in the city's court."
The move did not come without controversy with some on the School Board for Richmond Public Schools and in the community wanting a more thorough explanation.
"I've been pushing for a very long time to see more transparency regarding the list of cuts," Kenya Gibson, a school board member for the 3rd district, said.
And, the cuts caught the eye of at least one former school superintendent when CBS 6 investigative reporter Melissa Hipolit showed him research into the salaries of the top six earners in Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover and Petersburg schools.
"Did that really surprise you to see that?" Hipolit asked Dr. Charles Maranzano, who is a former superintendent for Dinwiddie County Schools.
"It did - it surprised me a lot when you revealed those numbers. I was actually shocked," Maranzano said.
According to numbers from all five districts, taxpayers in Richmond pay the top school administrators more than anywhere else.
Combined, the highest six earners in the city make more than $1.1 million annually.
Compare that to the top earners in Henrico and Chesterfield, for example, two far bigger districts, where, combined, the top six earners make roughly $998,000 and $988,000 per year, respectively.
"Let's be careful about throwing a lot of money at administration or the administration level for chiefs and assistants that sort of thing when the money is needed at the classroom level," Maranzano said.
Research by CBS 6 found Richmond's Superintendent makes $250,000 a year, and the other top RPS earners each make $180,547.
Compare that to Chesterfield, where the Superintendent makes $230,000 and the other top earners make between $145,000 and $159,000.
"When I see the same salary for the Chief of Staff, for people with those kinds of titles, I really become suspicious," Maranzano said.
Dr. Maranzano said he would rather see money go toward educational resources in struggling school districts like Richmond.
"Isn't there something to be said for paying someone to come in and try to turn around a struggling school system? Paying them more?" Hipolit asked Maranzano.
"That's been done and formalized and it hasn't worked very well, and the reason is, it's not about that person, it's about the whole district," Maranzano replied.
At least one Richmond taxpayer agrees with Maranzano.
"They're the top figures and, of course, things trickle down, but they're not in the classrooms, that's whose dollars I would like to see go up," Shawn H. Davis, a Richmond resident, said.
Others, however, see the value in a well-paid staff.
"I think it seems reasonable. I think Kamras has been doing a really good job and has been very transparent since it's coming into the role, so I think it seems commensurate with the challenge he's got," Sam Altman, a Richmond resident and parent said.
In fact, another former Superintendent, Dr. Stewart Roberson, who used to lead Hanover Schools, said the salaries match what he would expect.
"I'm not surprised by the prices, and I believe that those occupants of those roles are earning that pay and much much more," Roberson said.
He said even though Richmond's school division is much smaller than Henrico and Chesterfield, the city has unique challenges that could warrant higher pay.
"There are many folks that would not trade places with the school leaders in the most academically challenged school settings," Roberson said.
CBS 6 requested an interview with Kamras, but the request was declined.
However, he did say the current RPS leadership team's collective salary is $200,000 less than the previous cabinet.
Also to note, the school budget proposed by Kamras would create 10 new teaching positions and includes $6 million for teacher pay raises.
Below is a complete list of all the top earners in Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover and Petersburg schools.
City of Richmond Public Schools
- Jason Kamras, Superintendent, $250,000
- Meredith Bramble, Chief Talent Officer, $180,547
- Tracy Epp, Chief Academic Officer, $180,547
- Harry Hughes, Chief Schools Officer, $180,547,
- Michelle Hudackso, Chief of Staff, $180,547
- Darin Simmons, Chief Operating Officer, $180,547
- Total: $1,152,735, 24,000 students
Chesterfield County Public Schools
- Mervin Daugherty, Superintendent, $230,000
- Nita Mensia-Joseph, Chief Operations Officer, $158,063
- Christina Berta, Chief Finance Officer, $153,000
- Thomas Taylor, Chief of Staff, $150,858
- Joseph Tylus, Ex Dir Const Services and School Leadership, $150,361
- John Bishop Gordon III, Chief of Schools, $145,860
- Total: $988,142, 60,00 students
Henrico County Public Schools
- Dr. Amy E. Cashwell, Superintendent of Schools, $211,384.93
- Dr. Beth N. Teigen, Deputy Superintendent, $175,236.48
- Mr. Christopher A. Sorensen, Assistant Superintendent for Finance, $159,551.10
- Mr. Albert M. Ciarochi, III, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, $157,817.92
- Dr. Nyah D. Hamlett, Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Support, $150, 589.23
- Dr. Tracie A. Weston, Director of Professional Development, $143,691.43
- Total: $998,271.09, 50,000 students
City of Petersburg Schools
- Marcus Newsome, Superintendent, $239,292
- Cyndee Blount, Chief Academic Officer, $147,556
- Ann Ifekwonigwe, Director of College and Career Readiness, $121,954
- April Blunt, Director State and Fed Programs, $117,725
- Kristi D'Souza, Coordinations Innovation and Strategy, $117,276
- Yvonne Brandon, Executive Director Student Advancement, $114,240
- Total: $858,043, 4,000 students
Hanover County Public Schools
- Division Superintendent, $191,900
- Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations, $166,027
- Assistant Superintendent of HR, $153,015
- Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Leadership, $151,315
- Director of Technology Services, $133,806
- Director of Secondary Education, $130,286
- Total: $926,349, 18,000 students
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