Double Standards in Hiring: They Wouldn’t Come For Less

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It would seem that the school system currently has two sets of hiring policies: one for senior administration and a second one for basically everyone else.

This is wrong.

Back in June when the board announced that they had reached a decision and agreement with Dr. Wardynski concerning his contract, I asked two of the board members (two of the three who voted for him), how they could justify paying a man with 11 months experience a salary that was $55,000 over the minimum salary of $120,000 when teachers’ salaries were set at the state minimum. According to the 2010 Superintendent Salaries, Dr. Wardynski is the fourth highest paid superintendent in the state.

Both of these board members separately said the same thing to me: “He’s the best man for the job, and he wouldn’t come for anything less.”

When Dr. Wardynski offered a defense of Mr. Spinelli’s contract, he stated that it was a salary that was “competitive with what it would take to bring in an individual from out of state as well.” Again, when I asked board members about the salary afterwards, I was told, “He’s the best man for the job, and he wouldn’t come for anything less.”

This week when I contacted a board member about the extra $7,000 above the maximum salary being offered to Dr. Cooper, I was, once again, told “she is the best person for the job and she would not have come for less.”

So three new hires from Aurora, Colorado (where the cost of living is estimated to be approximately 11.5% higher than in Huntsville) who collectively earn at least $446,600 a year are all “the best person for the job, and they wouldn’t come for anything less.”

This is an interesting standard, isn’t it? The policy for hiring the three top earning individuals in Huntsville City Schools is two-fold:

  • They are the best person for the job.
  • They wouldn’t come for anything less.

No one can or would argue with hiring the best person for the job. This is always the goal of every hiring process. A bad hire, according to some HR calculators, can easily cost a 25% premium over the cost of the salary. A bad hire who is offered a multi-year contract is clearly even worse.

My point here is that every new hire for every position at every level needs to always be “the best person for the job.” No one ever sets out to hire the second, third or worst person for the job, right?

So that qualification is universal. (Although it is interesting that the best person for all three jobs in nation-wide searches all came from the same Aurora, Colorado school system, isn’t it?)

However, it’s the second policy that’s truly troubling, for it implies that for some, for a few, all that is required to receive even more than the maximum posted salary is for the board to believe that they will not come for less than a certain amount.

This is not an option for our teachers who are now required to make the state minimum salary. In other words, our teachers’ salaries are competitive with teachers’ salaries in Linden City Schools, a system with 472 students in 2010. (I’m sure that Linden is a fine place, but we have nearly as many students in one of our elementary schools, as they have in their entire system.) It is not an option for our support staff. It is not an option for our Instructional Assistants who are making less than the $10,000 that they made last year.

I wonder what would be said to a teacher who after the interview process were over explained to the HR person seeking to hire her that she just simply could not come for less than seven thousand more than the maximum posted salary?

In fact we don’t have to really wonder, do we?

Neither Madison County Schools, nor Madison City Schools hold their teachers’ salaries to the state minimum.

Oh, and for the record, Madison City’s Superintendent made a mere eight thousand more than our deputy superintendent in 2010. ($149,000.00). Madison County’s Superintendent, who’s system has approximately 4,000 fewer students than Huntsville City’s, made $123,050.00 in 2010.

Huntsville City’s senior administrative personnel have effectively set their own salaries. Our teachers’ salaries are set at the state minimum. As I wrote to the board member who defended the salaries, our hiring practices for our administrators should not be different from the hiring practices for our teachers.

Sadly, it would seem my opinion was not shared by that board member.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. As always, the BEST education reporting in the area. I am proud to run your articles on Rocket City Mom.

    BTW – I think you mean the COL in Aurora is 11.5% lower rather than higher. Right?

    1. Nevermind. I’m tired this morning. You are right, of course. COL is lower in HSV which means you could make less here and have same standard of living. 🙂

    2. Thanks Jen. 🙂

      I think I worded it correctly. The cost of living is higher in Aurora than Huntsville by 11.5%. So all three of them received a 11.5% raise by moving here.

  2. Why “apply” for the job knowing the pay range if they would not come for any less? What is wrong with Huntsville that more than the range is needed? The COL is lower. The climate has to be warmer.

    I had hopes for the new leadership of HCS–now I am not so sure.

      1. Now my hope is that my son’s resource room at Challenger does not lose one of the three IA’s it currently has.

        1. If there’s one certainty in all this it’s that if there’s a way to cut special education, they will. Right now, my son’s resource room has 12 kids in it. That’s a far cry from the 6-8 that Amy Sledge promised back in April.

          More on this soon.

  3. I find your writings to be right on target. I was wondering if HCS paid relocation expenses for all the new hires from Colorado. Do you have any information about that?

    1. Yes, we paid moving expenses for all three Wardynski and Cooper. We did not pay (according to his contract, anyway, moving expenses on Spinelli. The moving expenses for Wardynski and Cooper are $15,000.00 a piece for a total of $30,000 (or three Instructional Aides, if you prefer to think of it that way.) I’ll dig out the actual numbers a little later. Good question.

      Also, it seems that according to the contracts that Wardynski and Spinelli are eligible for performance bonuses. I do not see one in Cooper’s contract, though.

      Thanks for the excellent question.

  4. I am appalled that the best people for the job are all from one school system in Colorado. This screams of cronyism. Yet no one seems to raise an eyebrow.

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