A group tasked with reviewing the salaries of members of the Montgomery County Board of Education is recommending board members receive a substantial pay raise.
The Board of Education Compensation Review Commission announced during a hearing with the county’s state delegation on Monday night that school board members should be paid $60,000 annually for their work overseeing the state’s largest school district. Board members currently receive $25,000, aside from the president, who receives $29,000, and the student member, who is awarded a $5,000 college scholarship.
“The recommendations have been guided primarily by the principle that the board should represent a wide range of experience and expertise found among residents of Montgomery County,” Commission Chair Jaye Espy said. “The commission believes that the current salary level is not reflective of the time and effort needed for a board member to fulfil their duties and responsibilities, nor of the type of work the board is called on to do.”
During the 2018 state legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill authorizing a commission to study compensation for Montgomery County school board members. The bill was sponsored by Del. Eric Luedkte, a Democrat from Burtonsville, and it says the salary panel will revisit board salaries every four years.
The state legislature must approve the recommended salary increase.
Montgomery County school board members last received a salary increase in 2013, the only raise in the past 17 years.
Each current school board member has voiced support for increasing members’ salaries, citing a full-time, year-round workload, the responsibility of managing a $2.68 billion budget and the need to attend several public events each week.
According to the minutes of previous commission meetings, board members varied in how much they felt the job should pay.
Rebecca Smondrowski and Karla Silvestre said they felt salaries should be closer to $100,000. Board President Shebra Evans and former student member Matt Post said salaries around $50,000 would be fair.
Board members have said increasing the pay would encourage a more diverse mix of candidates to run for office. It is difficult for people who are not retired or “independently wealthy” to serve on the board because of the low salary, according to board members.
Five of the seven adult members of the Board of Education are at least 60 years old.
The majority of school board members are retired or do not hold full-time jobs. The exception is Karla Silvestre, in her first term, who is employed full-time as Montgomery College’s director of community engagement.
The student board member, elected by middle and high school students from across the county, currently receives a $5,000 college scholarship, Student Service Learning hours, and one honors-level social studies credit.
The commission recommended the student board member receive a stipend equal to 20% of publicly-elected board members’ salaries, as well as a larger college scholarship.
School board member Pat O’Neill, elected in 1998, said the student board member’s stipend “should be the same as for adults,” because they have full voting rights, according to committee meeting minutes.
The commission believes the board president should be paid $70,000, rather than the current $29,000.
The commission’s full report was not available Tuesday morning.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org