“(McGrath) is managing one of the largest school districts in the area,” he said. “She inherited a school district with a lot of challenges — two years of extremely contentious contract negotiations. We are trying to really impact an entire culture of the school district. It’s not an issue of whether she’s overpaid, it’s an issue of value.”
He said McGrath has done a “better job of managing budgets, ending with a surplus last year and a surplus this year.”
“Basically, she is the CEO of the schools, managing a $76 million budget, of which $69 million is appropriated, plus grants. She has 800-plus employees,” Forgue said. “It’s a very challenging environment where there is a very long-term, ingrained culture.”
Town manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski, meanwhile, defended the high rate of pay for the town’s police and fire officials, saying overtime in public safety is just a normal part of the job and can be easier on municipal budgets than hiring new police or firefighters.
“The concern is retirement benefits, and other post-employment benefits,” Stapczynski said. “The analysis we’ve done is that oftentimes, it’s less expensive to have the overtime for positions.”
McGrath wasn’t the only superintendent in the top 10. Haverhill Superintendent James Scully earned $176,615 last year.
And Pathiakis certainly wasn’t the only high-paid public safety official in the area.
He was joined in the top 10 list by police and fire officials from Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen, all of whom cracked the $150,000 mark.
Additionally, some towns require their officials, or at least managers, to live in town. Andover is one such community, and Stapczynski said that requirement means the town has to pay officials enough to afford housing.
Superintendents also must have advanced degrees, and districts often demand experience for their municipal managers who oversee hundreds of employees and thousands of students.