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Residents question decision to raise Mattituck superintendent’s salary

Despite a 2% annual salary hike as called for in her contract, Mattituck-Cutchogue School District superintendent Jill Gierasch saw her salary rise by 11.4% this school year — which has angered some community members.

Ms. Gierasch was hired as the district’s superintendent in June 2018. She received a base salary of $204,321 in the 2018-19 academic year, according to data from the New York State Department of Education.

As per a contract between the district and the superintendent, the superintendent was expected to obtain a 2% salary hike at the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year. However, in September 2019, the school board approved a contract amendment which increased her salary to $229,100 between July 2019 to June 2020, according to district records. The amendment states that her base salary is inclusive of the 2% annual raise. The amendment added an extra 9.4% to her salary — which increased the total to 11.4%.

The contract also provides the superintendent with an additional $4,500 as reimbursement for incidental expenses, including cell phone use and travel.

School board president Barbara Wheaton said in a statement Dec. 17 that, based on the contractual agreement between the superintendent and the school board, salary negotiations take place on an annual basis.

Ms. Wheaton said that during the 2018-19 academic year, Ms. Gierasch had one of the lowest salaries for superintendents across Long Island.

“…The superintendent’s salary was ranked 110 lowest out of the 116 superintendents serving school districts on Long Island,” she wrote. “After analyzing several factors, it was decided that the superintendent’s salary was not commensurate with the responsibilities of the position and the salary was adjusted accordingly.”

She said that the board “fully supports the efforts of the superintendent” and they stand behind the salary hike.

But the salary increase has sparked criticism from some community members who say the increase is high for a superintendent.

Lauren Gilbert, mother of two boys at Cutchogue East Elementary School, said she believes some of the frustration stems from the 2% annual increase built into the contract. She said “with the turmoil the school has been in for the past year and a half” regarding teacher suspensions as well as moving staff, she feels “it was negligent of the BOE to award a raise at this time.”

Former teacher of 24 years and former PTA president Pat Arslanian of Mattituck, who spoke at a Dec. 12 school board meeting, said the increase was “puzzling” to her since the administrator has only worked for one year.

“As a taxpayer and a former teacher, I’m concerned that after one year’s time — instead of the board just giving the 2% guaranteed contractual increase — that they felt the need to give her so much in that one year,” Ms. Arslanian said.

While she said she couldn’t speak to the actions of the administrator, she added that the district’s teachers are “the backbone of the district,” and the funds could have been directed toward them, administrators or district staff.

Mattituck-Cutchogue Teachers Association president Tom Farrell said the association is hopeful that the school board will discuss the contract with association members, but he did not provide additional comment.

Former superintendent Anne Smith was appointed in June 2014 and received $190,000 annually with a 1.75% salary increase per year. An amendment to her contract extended her term to July 2019, though she retired in July 2018. A second amendment gave her a 2% annual salary increase.

James McKenna, who was appointed superintendent of the district in January 2006, earned $143,800 in his first year of employment, according to records with the district. From July 2007 to June 2008, his base salary increased to $147,175 and to $150,634 from July 2008 to June 2009.

Ms. Gierasch began her career in 1989 as an elementary teacher in the William Floyd School District and later became an elementary teacher in the Bayport-Blue Point School District before beginning her administrative career. Prior to joining Mattituck, she served as the deputy superintendent of the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District since 2009.

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