Starr’s base salary to run Montgomery schools: $250,000

Joshua P. Starr, the incoming superintendent of Montgomery County public schools, will be paid an annual base salary of $250,000, according to a contract unanimously approved Tuesday morning by the county’s Board of Education.

Starr’s base pay is higher than that of Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, who has led the 144,000-student system since 1999 and is retiring. Weast’s starting salary was about $237,800; his annual pay — tied to the state of the economy — had decreased since the economic downturn.

The difference in salary also underscores the differences between Starr and his predecessor. At 41, Starr is largely viewed as an up-and-comer with his best years ahead of him. Weast’s contract gradually became more geared toward saving money as he neared the end of his three-decade career in education administration. Weast, 63, makes about $217,000 but has a total compensation package of about $400,000.

The total amount of Starr’s compensation package is unclear because he is still choosing health and life insurance options. He also will receive $30,000 for relocation and — annually but subject to review — $35,000 in deferred compensation and $18,750 toward his retirement. He will be given access to a vehicle and get 20 sick days and 25 vacation days a year.

The contract approval represents the final step in formally naming Starr head of Maryland’s largest school system. Starr, who was previously superintendent of the 15,000-student school system in Stamford, Conn., was named the Montgomery board’s pick in April. State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick approved the selection soon after.

“Josh Starr has the vision, the experience and the passion to lead our great school system into the future,” said Board of Education President Christopher S. Barclay (Silver Spring).

In Stamford, Starr’s salary steadily increased from $180,000 with $25,000 in deferred compensation, according to his original contract. Over the next six years, Starr became the third-highest-paid city employee in Stamford, earning $217,000 last year, according to a database compiled by the Stamford Advocate.

He drew acclaim for raising test scores and shrinking the achievement gap between black and Latino students and their white and Asian counterparts, as well as crafting a universal curriculum for the schools.

The Montgomery board selected Starr in large part because his work in Stamford mirrored that of Weast’s, one of the longest-serving superintendents in the country. But they also heralded Starr as part of a new generation of schools chiefs who understand the importance of data analysis and predictability models to mold classroom experience.

“We don’t use data to answer questions,’’ Starr has said. “We use data to ask more questions.”

Starr’s new salary is higher than the average pay of $225,897 for schools chiefs in districts with more than 25,000 students, according to the nonprofit Educational Resource Services.

His starting salary is the same as Prince George’s Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., who has headed that system since 2009. Hite’s contract allows annual bonuses of up to $25,000. But it is less than that of Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale, who has headed the region’s largest school system for nearly seven years and earns $292,469 a year.

Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee was paid $275,000 a year and received a $41,250 bonus when she was hired in 2007. She resigned in October. Acting D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson also makes $275,000.

Robert Samuels writes for the Post’s social issues team. In Maryland, he focuses on issues affecting low-income children and families. He also covers life in the District.
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