Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mystic Valley teacher pay below state average; staff youth, experience cited - The Boston Globe

In today's Boston Globe - Article by Brenda Buoute and Top 50 Ssalaries @ MVRCS

Mystic Valley teacher pay below state average; staff youth, experience cited - The Boston Globe

Top 50 Salaries at MVRCS - The Boston Globe

Mystic Valley lags state pay norm

Director says pay still competitive

By Brenda J. Buote Globe Correspondent / October 24, 2010

At Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, only three employees earned six-figure salaries last year, and most staff members earned less than half of school director Joseph McCleary’s $166,332 paycheck, according to records released to the Globe.

The average salary for teachers who were among the top 50 earners in 2009 was $50,853, well below the statewide average of $64,166 earned by public school teachers for the 2007-2008 school year, the last year for which Massachusetts figures are available.

Mystic Valley administrators topped the pay list, including assistant director Chris Finn, who earned $113,001 in 2009, and business manager Richard Veilleux, $106,650. McCleary’s 2009 earnings included compensation for moving from Maryland in 2007 to lead the charter school, which has about 1,400 students from Malden, Medford, Melrose, Everett, Stoneham, and Wakefield.

Others in the top 50 earners were two relatives of Malden City Councilor Neil Kinnon, who serves as chairman of the school’s board of trustees, an unpaid position. Neil Kinnon’s brother Greg earned $53,656 in 2009 for his work as facilities manager and nurse. Kathy Kinnon, Neil Kinnon’s sister-in-law, earned $84,658 as special education director, an increase of about 9 percent over 2008, when she earned $77,187.

School officials said Kathy Kinnon’s salary for 2009 included a $1,000 “stay bonus,’’ similar to the pay raises mandated by general public schools in their stepladder approach to determining salaries; a one-time salary increase to ensure Kinnon’s compensation remained competitive with the charter school’s sending districts; and a $3,000 stipend for serving as administrative secretary to the school’s swim team.

As a matter of policy, the school director from time to time approves mar ket adjustments to staff salaries to ensure the charter school remains competitive. The school also pays staff stay bonuses and stipends for coaching or overseeing other extracurricular activities, Veilleux said.

The Globe’s review of Mystic Valley’s records for 2008 and 2009 indicated Mystic Valley’s teacher pay scale appears to be lower than many public school teacher salaries in the state. Of the 328 Massachusetts school districts surveyed in fiscal 2008, only 12 paid their teachers an average salary that was lower than the average salary Mystic Valley paid its top-earning teachers in 2009. Malden’s public school system — not including the charter school — ranked 14th in the statewide report, with an average teacher salary of $73,547.

Mystic Valley’s highest-paid teachers in 2009 were Jeffrey Zajac, chairman of the math department, who earned $82,383, and Arlene Burke, $74,600, a seventh-grade reading teacher who has been with the charter school since its inception.

Neil Kinnon said teacher salaries at Mystic Valley are comparable with those earned by Malden teachers with similar experience. On average, the highest paid teachers at Mystic Valley had about six years of experience and earned $50,853 in 2009. In contrast, Malden teachers who have six years of experience and a bachelor’s degree earned $47,479; those with a master’s degree and the same level of experience earn $53,746.

“Most of our teachers are making at or above what they would make in Malden, in the schools they could work in,’’ said Kinnon, noting that teachers at the Salemwood and Ferryway schools earn larger salaries because those schools provide extended day instruction.

Kinnon said the charter school does not pay using the same system as the unionized public school district. Instead, the charter school pays its teachers on a market-based system.

“So those teachers who are in high demand will be paid more,’’ he said. “We are never going to pay a gym teacher the same as a math or science teacher.’’

The charter school was founded 12 years ago with 19 teachers; today, there are about 100 on the payroll. Over the years, the board of trustees has made significant adjustments to its salary structure in order to remain competitive, said Kinnon, a founding member of the school. As a result, the charter school has been able to attract and retain first-rate teachers, he said.

Mystic Valley’s MCAS scores are among the best in the state, and the school has a waiting list of more than 2,000 students; admission is by lottery. School officials attribute its success, in part, to its extended instruction period: Classes run from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., 200 days a year.

Still, the school has not escaped criticism. Kinnon acknowledged that Mystic Valley has at times come under fire because there has been little turnover on the board of trustees. The state Department of Education has repeatedly questioned the trustees’ long tenure.

“Under state law, [the board of trustees] has three jobs — to remain true to the charter, to ensure the academic success of our students, and to maintain the school’s financial and operational viability,’’ said Kinnon. “The quickest way to be not true to the charter is to not have continuity. Since superintendents come and go, where do you get continuity? You’re able to get that through a long-serving board that has full understanding of the charter. This is what I have told the DOE every year they’ve come in and questioned it.’’

In recent months, the school has also come under fire for its $10.1 million real estate portfolio, capped by the April purchase of a vacant car lot in Malden. Mystic Valley paid $4.4 million in cash for the property, where it plans to build an athletic complex, a move that prompted some local taxpayers to raise questions about the school’s finances. Other properties the school owns include three houses, two school buildings, and a fire station leased to the city.

“As a charter school, we can’t go to a tax base or a community and ask for funding for our facilities,’’ said Veilleux, noting that charter schools are barred from receiving money from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which funds public school construction projects.

Instead, Mystic gets a facilities fee from the state; it was $893 per student for the 2009-2010 school year. One of three base categories paid to charter schools by the state, the fees added up to $1,206,350, in addition to $12,410,472 in student tuition and $210,339 for transportation.

“We try to utilize those [facilities] funds to address our facility’s needs for today and as we continue to expand our school,’’ Veilleux said.

“We are doing our best to be competitive [with salaries], but we’re going to naturally have higher attrition because the funding for charter schools is inequitable,’’ Kinnon said. “So, when people question what we’re doing, when they talk about inequity in funding, I tell them ‘There is only one inequity in funding [for public education], and it’s on our side.’ ’’
Brenda J. Buote may be reached at

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.

Top 50 Salaries -

Top 50 salaries at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden

The Globe’s review of Mystic Valley’s records for 2008 and 2009 indicated Mystic Valley’s teacher pay scale appears to be among the lowest in the state. Of the 328 Massachusetts school districts surveyed in fiscal 2008, only 12 paid their teachers an average salary that was lower than the average salary Mystic Valley paid its top-earning teachers in 2009. Malden’s public school system — not including the charter school — ranked 14th in the statewide report, with an average teacher salary of $73,547.

Last▴ First Position Years at MV 2009 total 2008 total

McCleary Joseph School director 4 $166,332 $148,702

Finn Chris Assistant director-Lower School 13 $113,001 $113,287

Veilleux Richard Business Manager 5 $106,650 $106,072

Benzie George Assistant director - High School 2 $98,318 $38,500*

Bradford Gordon Humanities Dept. chair/IB director 8 $87,438 $88,519

Kinnon Kathy Special Education director 12 $84,658 $77,187

McKinnon Gina Professional Development coordinator 13 $83,033 $83,779

Chiccuarelli Anthony Human resources director 6 $82,960 $84,540

Zajac Jeffrey Math Dept. chair 5 $82,383 $84,625

Burke Arleen Reading teacher 13 $74,600 $83,392

Bradford Maureen High School Librarian 8 $69,115 $70,821

D'Angelo Rick IT Supervisor 6 $68,877 $70,172

Swible-Keane Catherine Science Dept. chair 12 $68,633 $73,447

Dan Alex English Dept. chair 8 $66,215 $63,237

Brown Carlos World Language Dept. chair 6 $60,900 $57,560

Mullen Jennifer Professional Development Coordiantor 12 $60,214 $57,808

Courtney Judith Elementary teacher 13 $58,738 $66,785

Guerriero Diane Elementary teacher 13 $56,263 $65,308

Wood Dawn High School Special Education teacher 7 $56,257 $52,691

Gregory Nicole Elementary teacher 8 $55,814 $60,299

Dado Roy Assistant director 3 $54,732 $98,304

Connolly Peter Athletic director 2 $53,682 $28,500*

Duvert Ingrid Special Education teacher 9 $53,037 $55,588

Gately Marty Public Relations 2 $52,729 $50,500

Kinnon Greg Facilities Manager/Nurse 6 $51,791 $53,656

Nair Asha High School Math teacher 5 $51,626 $52,321

Tapia Stephanie Elementary Special Education teacher 8 $51,450 $51,421**

Walton Matthew 7th & 8th Grade history teacher 6 $51,268 $53,456

Ferrara Danielle Office manager 3 $51,166 $50,592

Bauer Chris High School physical education teacher 5 $50,501 $50,245

Gover Melissa Elementary teacher 7 $49,863 $45,585

Upton Dawn Elementary Special Education teacher 10 $49,602 $55,945

Hawes Elizabeth High School World Language teacher 5 $49,444 $51,129

Mahoney Carol High School science teacher 8 $49,432 $52,045

Cappadona Stephanie College advisor 2 $49,310 $26,000*

Sylvester Lynann 7th & 8th Grade ELA teacher 4 $49,142 $50,756

Giles Chris Elementary teacher 6 $48,625 $49,941

Shoutis Samuel High School math teacher 2 $48,075 $19,545*

Turilli Deirdre High School World Language teacher 7 $47,679 $48,700

Fields Matthew High School science teacher 2 $47,031 $21,123*

Hayes-Sturgeon Courtney High School art teacher 2 $46,638 $21,579*

Rybarczyk Brad 7th & 8th grade science teacher 6 $46,380 $21,579

Baglio John Elementary teacher 12 $46,351 $21,579

Gilliam Sarah Elementary teacher 4 $45,746 $21,579

Kravitz Robert Facilities supervisor 3 $45,724 $21,579

Reed Michael High School history teacher 2 $45,507 $21,579

Cahill Katherine Elementary teacher 3 $45,431 $21,579

Libby-O'Connor Deanna Elementary Special Education teacher 2 $45,403 $21,579*

Ashton Sonja Elementary teacher 6 $45,370 $21,579

Murphy Joanne High School Spanish teacher 4 $45,051 $21,579

*worked partial year in 2008

**median teacher salary
SOURCE: Mystic Valley Regional Charter School


  1. Wow! The school finally responded to The Globe's request. How long did that take.........6 months or more I can't remember.

    Unbelievable is that the Department of Education has questioned the LONG tenure of the board and then has done nothing about it. According to Mr. Kinnon, only him and the board understand the charter. They are the only ones it seem that understand it or ever will.

    What is wrong with this board? They have become not a democracy but a dictatorship. They are not following The Declaration of Independence or The United States Constitution in their control over this PUBLIC school.

  2. I question these numbers....Chiccuarelli made more than Gately? The salaries for a few went down in 2009 and they all have the same figure?
    Dado's salary almost doubled? What's up with the 21,579? figures?
    Love that they had to pay Kathy Kinnon an incentive stay bonus, yeah cause she might leave. She know's where her bread is buttered. Also didn't see Lee Kinnon on there - he coaches the swim team.

    These numbers don't seem right. Curious to know if they align with what is reported to the IRS for these individuals and if all financial records were released if they would add up to the numbers the DESE has in the financial reports.

  3. The question is, did they release ALL of their records as required by law or did they just release these top 50?

    It's taken so long for them to release them cause they were probably cooking the books!

  4. From the Payroll portion:
    Of the 328 Massachusetts school districts surveyed in fiscal 2008, ******only 12 paid**** their teachers an average salary that was lower than the average salary Mystic Valley paid its top-earning teachers in 2009.
    Not a big fan of unions but bet part of it is that the Chairman or Superintendent of other districts don't compare teachers to monkeys!

  5. In the article Neil states he would never pay a gym teacher what they pay a math teacher yet when you look at the list, Mr.Giles makes more than the high school math teacher below his name. These stats are questionable. I am glad to see many of the teachers in the top 50 are worth every penny. Now if they could get decent qualified special needs teachers then they might solve some of their problems.

  6. The problem isn't necessarily the special ed teachers, it's the lack of communication between the special ed department and classroom teachers and TA's. The sped department does little in the way of assisting or coaching teachers in meeting students needs or ensuring that they are both on the same page. Seems like they believe they are superior to the classroom teachers.

  7. Next think Neil Kinnon will want is video cameras in the classroom. First it'll be to monitor the 'teaching' and students. Eventually he'll try to have classes taught by video with no teachers in the classroom, just monitors.

    I think he must have financial interest or relative in the surveilance business - that's his answer to everything! And now it seems like Howards buying into it too!

  8. These posts are funny because none of you know what info was requested or when it was provided. Or course the people posting here will fill in their own blanks and find something to bitch about.

    BTW you guys should use screen names so we can see who is posting. I've provided some you can use.


    And all these names have something in common. None have a child attending MVRCS. Losers!

  9. wrong there Andy-I know at least 2 on your list w/kids in the school. They may not like what's going on in the school....

  10. To Andrew25
    They probably have more of a right to speak, especially if they have had to pull their child from the school. Who would know better what is going on then someone who chose to leave? I believe Oceans12 was in the very first lottery but has since left the school (my apologies Oceans if I am remembering past postings incorrectly).
    Assuming you are NOT connected to anyone at the school or within the city of Malden, then you have been associated with the school for how many years? I imagine you are still in the 'honeymoon' stage of your relationship with them and just recently entered the school.
    FYI, when my first child was in K, one of the teachers (with a child in the class) was at a party going on about the 'practices' of MVRCS to all of us 'newbies'. At the time, I took offense to it and felt as though she was acting inappropriate and unprofessional. I too used to believe in the school, thought highly of the administration, and felt fortunate that my child got in.
    Fast forward a few years as I watched from the sidelines (still believing) as parents encountered problems, as the Administration handled certain situations, and as teacher came and went excessively. Then a few years back, it was my child who had an issue and it was my family that had to deal with the Administration, that had a teacher tell me she wasn't allowed to talk parents about such issues, that I had to talk to Chris or Kathy, and started hearing the all too familiar, 'this is how we do it here'. Now I have a very different perspective and attitude about the school, its leadership, and some of their 'ways'.
    My point is that parents who pulled their child(ren) from the school did so for a reason, not just because they didn't like the dress code. You may want to think about where they've been and why they are so against or angry with the school and/or chose to send their kids elsewhere. No one gets so angry or vocal unless they feel as though they (or their child) has been mistreated.
    Think about the ad MVRCS just took out, if the statistics are correct, and Malden schools are THAT bad (and I'm not saying they are, just making a point), what does that say about the parents who pull their kids? Also, isn't it sad that the school has SO many Malden politicians kids, that rather than work to improve the school of the city they serve, they choose to use their connections for their child to go elsewhere? How much do you think Howard values MPS in his role as mayor since his kids don't even go there?

  11. New movie to be released about the myths of charter school. I could have produced this movie myself! If you read the whole link, it talks about charter schools being in the real estate business?

    Waiting for “Superman”
    a film directed by Davis Guggenheim

    (Hey, isn't that Kinnon's new name? Superman? Didn't he jump into his car to chase the bad guys when gun shots rang out in his ward?)

  12. I have not seen the movie but I thought the basis was the teachers union were undermining the education system.

  13. That is what I took away from it, as long as there is a union, they will be fighting the ideals of a charter school.

  14. It is, but if you read the article in the link posted above, it is about the views of others who talk about charter schools and their not educating all children. I found her views to be of interest and wanted to share it.

  15. I just noticed that John Baglio is listed as an Elementary Teacher - not a music teacher....Hmmmm