An examination of cost, compensation and range fueling public education at Scottsdale Schools

The Scottsdale Unified School District top administration sit around the Governing Board at its meetings. Pictured on far left is General Counsel Michelle Marshall; with Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard, Executive Administrative coordinator Sondra Como and Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Steven Nance on far right. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

The Scottsdale Unified School District is preparing to approve salary schedules for its expansive workforce — just before annual teaching contracts are issued.

There are a reported 1,325.5 full-time equivalent certified educators within Scottsdale Schools, according to a Feb. 26 presentation by Interim Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Gadd. Mr. Gadd’s presentation was a part of a more-than-three-hour Governing Board meeting discussing proposed changes to employee contract forms and a review of 2019-20 salary schedules.

The meeting took place at Mohave District Annex, 8500 E. Jackrabbit Road.

According to Mr. Gadd’s proposed salary schedule for next year, entry-level teachers with a bachelor’s degree would earn $43,400; and a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and an accrued 84 hours of professional development, at the top of the salary schedule, would earn $76,931.

Teachers with a master’s degree, based on the proposed pay schedule, would be compensated $47,203 at the lowest available level, up to $81,117. A doctorate degree garners $56,362 up to $81,117.

In addition, the 27 employees who make up the district cabinet and leadership team, including Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard, are earning between $69,961 and $202,200, according to a recent public records request.

The administrative cabinet is made up of four assistant superintendents and Mr. Gadd, the interim CFO. The leadership team includes executive directors of different district departments, as well as department heads, general counsel and the chief systems officer.

Scottsdale Schools is comprised of 29 schools in three municipalities, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and Phoenix.

Acting Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“The salaries we are proposing for all employee groups are truly a reflection of our goals, our goal of being student-focused,” Dr. Kriekard said during the preface of the salary schedule conversation.

“It means our ability to be able to recruit and retain the best employees that we can to help those students in the classroom. It also reflects a lot of hard work to balance the budget during a time of declining enrollment, and a lot of sacrifices on the parts of some departments, some areas, being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers by not having our administrative costs go sky high, while our student enrollment is decreasing.”

Pending an affirmative vote by the Governing Board on March 7 to approve the proposed salary schedules, district officials aim to issue teaching contracts just before spring break begins, on Friday, March 8. Teachers would have 15 school days — not including spring break — to return their contracts, with a due date of Friday, April 5.

Teacher salaries

Per Mr. Gadd’s presentation, changes to the teacher and nurse salary schedules for fiscal year 2019-20 includes removing the first step of the certified salary schedule and increasing the value of each step to allow for a 5 percent salary increase for all employees.

In addition to teachers and nurses, Mr. Gadd proposed removing the first eight steps of the occupational and physical therapy salary schedule, adding a step to the bottom of each salary schedule, and implementing the required minimum wage increase of $12 per hour for hourly employees, effective July 1.

Dr. Kriekard believes the work by Mr. Gadd and other cabinet members has allowed for SUSD to give their employees a raise. He credited school principals and teachers on decreasing staffing allocations to meet the decline in enrollment as well.

“This should be a celebration, a celebration that it has been a long time in my career since we’ve been able to offer raises as we have in the past two years to teachers,” Dr. Kriekard said.

Dr. Kriekard also described the benefits package as “truly outstanding.”

Mr. Gadd echoed Dr. Kriekard’s sentiments on the strength of what they believe this salary package is, noting that he hopes the starting salary of $43,400 for a teacher with zero experience is one of the higher salaries in the Valley this year.

The teacher and nurse salary schedule presented for a bachelor’s degree begins on step 8, and eliminates steps 12-21 in the first three pay-schedule columns in an effort to encourage employees to increase their education and professional development to move up on the pay scale.

The pay scale is made up of eight columns, starting at BA+0 up to BA+84. Each additional 12 hours of professional development a teacher completes, they are eligible to horizontally move to the next column.

“We wanted the board to be aware that there are some people down there (in steps 12-21), that the district chose some time historically to eliminate in order to try to move teachers to the right of the salary schedules, move them to higher education levels, and reduce the number of steps available at the lower education levels,” Mr. Gadd explained of some employees grandfathered into the salary schedule. “That’s a fairly typical practice when you want to emphasize the obtainment of a master’s degree.”

The master’s degree pay schedule begins at $47,203 for the lowest level — step 8, MA+0 — up to $81,117 for step 27, MA+72.

The schedules reflect step increases at 2 percent and the value of steps increasing by 3 percent.

Mr. Gadd says the proposal to remove the first step, and begin the pay schedule at step 8, allows the district to look more attractive to new teachers seeking employment.

“As you remember, our goal in doing this as early as we are, is to try and get out from a marketing standpoint to do some recruiting. This schedule hopefully gives us an advantage in that area — both in terms of time and in terms of the dollar value that it allows,” he said.

A breakdown of certified salary placement for this fiscal year shows there are 190.475 full time equivalent teachers in the lowest salary range, step 7, BA+0. In total, there are 322.775 employees in the BA+0 category. On the opposite end of the salary schedule, there are 20.85 teachers in the BA+84 category.

For master’s degree holders, there are 188.95 in the MA+0 category; and 193.2 teachers at the top of the salary schedule for a master’s degree in category MA+72.

There are 17.9 teachers total who hold a doctorate degree, the table presented shows.

The remaining 391.35 teachers fall within the middle ranges of the BA and MA pay schedules.

Mr. Gadd and the Governing Board briefly discussed moving away from the step schedule and transitioning to salary schedules based on range. Dr. Kriekard says this is a goal for the human resources department next year, describing the range system as being more accurate for employee placement.

General Counsel Michelle Marshall at a recent Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board meeting. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

District administration salaries

The 27 individuals who make up the district administration team are paid a combined $3,078,480.46 for fiscal year 2018-19, which ends June 30.

Many of these staff members’ contracts include a 3,000 stipend for an earned doctorate, and some are allotted a tax-sheltered annuity and travel allowance.

The breakdown of total salaries, including any stipends or allowances are:

  • Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard: $202,200
  • General Counsel Michelle Marshall: $171,450
  • Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jed Bowman: $150,017.73
  • Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Steven Nance: $150,017.73
  • Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Milissa Sackos: $144,575
  • Special Assistant to the Superintendent Debbie Ybarra: $109,390
  • Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Sheryl Rednor: $109,390
  • Special Assistant to the Superintendent Amy Perez Fuller: $109,099

    Director of Facilities Management Dennis Roehler (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

  • Executive Director of Special Education Margaret Rehberg: $101,000
  • Chief Systems Officer Deborah Spaulding: $105,637
  • Director of Special Education Tara Gonyer: $90,900
  • Director of Gifted & Accelerated Programs Mai-Lon Wong: $99,027
  • Director of Secondary Curriculum & Instruction Kristopher Treat: $93,900
  • Director of Payroll Susan (Lindie) Evans: $80,425
  • Director of Human Resources Amy Eveleth: $96,027
  • Nutrition Services Director Patricia Bilbrey: $82,454
  • Director of Facilities Management Dennis Roehler: $91,283
  • Director of Transportation Brendan Wagner: $84,113
  • District Athletic Director Nathan Slater: $96,027
  • Executive Director of Student Services Steven Chestnut: $171,450
  • Director of Finance Shannon Crosier: $81,230
  • Public Information & Marketing Officer Amy Bolton: $99,439
  • Director of Elementary Curriculum Michael Roberts: $96,507
  • Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Ibi Haghigaht: $140,490
  • Interim Chief Financial Officer Jeff Gadd: $167,160
  • Executive Administrative Coordinator to Superintendent & Governing Board Sondra Como: $85,311
  • Coordinator of Fine Arts Nathan Johnston: $69,961.

Governing Board member Sandy Kravetz says in terms of the leadership team’s salaries, the board relies on district officials to offer competitive packages to its employees.

“The SUSD Governing Board relies on Superintendent Kriekard, Chief Finacial Officer Jeff Gadd and Dr. Jed Bowman, assistant superintendent of human resources, to ensure that our compensation packages for administrators are comparable and competitive with our peer districts,” Ms. Kravetz said.

Special Assistant to the Superintendent Amy Perez Fuller, on left, with Executive Administrative Coordinator to Superintendent & Governing Board Sondra Como. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“The superintendent is responsible for evaluating and measuring the success of his team. Dr. Kriekard can then make recommendations to the board about increases in compensation. As they are on one-year contracts, the superintendent can choose not to renew a contract if the administrator is not effectively fulfilling his/her duties.”

Governing Board President, Patty Beckman, says many of the leadership and cabinet members report directly to Dr. Kriekard; while Dr. Kriekard and Ms. Marshall report to the Governing Board.

“The Governing Board recently offered Dr. Kriekard a contract for 2019-20 and feel the compensation is appropriate,” Ms. Beckman said.

“All other compensation packages and contracts are currently being discussed and evaluated. I would like SUSD to offer competitive compensation, so we may attract and retain the best talent available. However, the district also needs to continue allocating as many resources to the classroom as possible.”

Ms. Beckman says while she wasn’t on the board when 2018-19 salaries were decided upon, each contract has its own pre-defined measurements of success.

“The majority of the cabinet/leadership team report directly to the superintendent. He is responsible for evaluating each individual against their goals to see if a pay increase is warranted,” she said.

On Feb. 12, the Governing Board voted 5-0 to extend Dr. Kriekard’s contract through the 2020 school year. The terms of his new contract are July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, with a base salary of $201,600.

The contract states when the Governing Board acts to hire a permanent superintendent, the parties agree that Dr. Kriekard’s contract shall end upon the start date of the employment of that individual.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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