With three weeks to go before the deadline for choosing Fairfax County's new school superintendent, the School Board has narrowed the list of contenders from 65 to four and is considering a pay package that could run as high as $110,000, sources say.
Sources close to the search would not say who the four finalists are or where they come from. But they said the Board of Supervisors met Monday in executive session to discuss its concern over high pay, particularly the ripple effect it could have on salaries of other county administrators.
It is not known whether the $110,000 figure mentioned by sources is a base salary figure or includes the 21-percent fringe benefit package.
"I'm not going to comment on anything until I'm back and aware of things that are going on," said Board of Supervisors Chairman John F. Herrity, who is recuperating from a heart attack and was not at Monday's meeting.
Board Vice Chairman Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville) had no comment, except to say supervisors "have some concerns" because of the furor that erupted last fall when the School Board proposed to pay Superintendent William J. Burkholder $157,000 a year if he would not retire. She said supervisors have asked School Board members to "not promise the moon" this time.
School Board Chairman Mary E. Collier said no pay package has been agreed upon, but confirmed that board members have been checking as a possible guideline the $87,439-a-year salary given Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert, the highest paid local government executive in the area. She said that good superintendents are expensive and that the School Board has already had to rule out candidates from California, Texas and Illinois because it cannot afford them.
For example, the Dallas system has 127,000 children, making it about the same size as Fairfax's. But the superintendent there is paid $100,045, or $20,045 more than the $79,450 Burkholder now earns. "Even in Winnetka, Ill., with only 1,354 students, the superintendent is paid $81,000," she said.
The School Board is expected to announce its choice Feb. 28.