IPS increases pay for principals, other school leaders

Indianapolis Public Schools is raising salaries for principals and other school administrators in a bid to compete with neighboring districts that often pay more.

The change is expected to cost the district about $2 million a year and affect about 140 people, said Mindy Schlegel, who runs human resources for the district. The decision, which was approved unanimously by the board Thursday, is the latest move by the state’s largest district to boost pay following a successful referendum to increase school funding.

Starting pay for elementary and middle school principals in the district increased to nearly $112,000 a year, about $27,000 higher than the previous pay scale. For assistant principals the minimum salary will increase almost as much to reach about $90,000. In both cases, the pay scale is now higher for high school administrators then for elementary and middle school leaders. The minimum pay for school deans and coordinators is now about $64,000 for a 10-month year.

The goal is to make salaries for school leaders in Indianapolis Public Schools competitive with surrounding districts, Schlegel said. “We also really struggle … to recruit experienced administrators, and we have a really hard time retaining folks,” she said.

Before the bump in pay, principals and assistant principals in Indianapolis Public Schools were paid significantly less than their peers in the surrounding township districts of Lawrence, Pike, Washington, Wayne, and Perry, according to an analysis by Policy Analytics, a consulting firm working with the district.

On average, elementary school principals in the district were paid about $85,000 in 2018. In the township districts, the average pay for elementary school principals was consistently above $110,000 per year. A large gap also exists for assistant principals in high schools and elementary schools. High school principal pay, which averaged $129,000, lags behind the township districts, but it is slightly above the pay in Fort Wayne, a comparable urban district.

The decision to boost principal pay in Indianapolis Public Schools is also part of a broader district strategy to give school principals more freedom over how they run buildings, said interim Superintendent Aleesia Johnson. If the district is relying on principals to take on more responsibility, it should not have the lowest pay in the region, she said.
“You can’t expect to have your most talented educators in those positions if you’re not compensating them at the appropriate level,” Johnson said. “It’s really about making sure that our compensation strategy matches our talent strategy.”

The decision comes on the heels of two big raises for other district staff members. After voters approved a referendum last year to give the district an influx of cash, it negotiated a significant raise for teachers. And earlier this year, the board gave raises to administrators and support staff, such as custodians and food service workers.

The district’s efforts to increase pay aren’t over yet. Schlegel also highlighted relatively low pay for district administrators from staff in positions such as human resources and information technology to educational administrators who work in areas such as special education. In the coming months, Schlegel is expected to propose an overhaul of the pay scales for non-unionized staff.

“We really feel like we’re the training ground for a lot of our neighbors and building future leaders for other systems,” she said. “There’s no real incentive for long-term commitment.”

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