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Jefferson Co. Board of Education vaults Pollio’s superintendent salary over $350K

A man in a suit stands at a podium with a microphone. Behind him is a JCPS backdrop.
Ryan Van Velzer
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio is getting a 27% salary increase.

The board gave the superintendent of Kentucky’s largest school district a 27% raise, citing a “clear disparity” in pay with the superintendent of a smaller district.

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio is getting a 27% raise, sending his annual base salary from $276,000 to $350,244.

The seven-member Jefferson County Board of Education said the $74,000 raise was merited based on Pollio’s performance leading the state’s largest school district. They said it also addressed a “clear disparity” in salary with the superintendent of Fayette County Public Schools, the state’s second-largest district.

Fayette County Public Schools’ superintendent Demetrus Liggins makes a $313,813 base salary, according to the board’s report.

“JCPS is an urban district with many complexities associated with our large size and diverse population,” the board writes in its annual performance evaluation of Pollio, finalized Tuesday.

“Based upon Dr. Pollio's performance this past year as evidenced by this evaluation and addressing the clear disparity in salary compared to the second largest school district in the state, the Board is providing a salary increase to Dr. Pollio.”

Pollio’s increased base salary is more than $90,000 higher than the state’s top education official. Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason Glass earns a base salary of $260,000 a year.

The board hired Pollio in 2018. He was the principal of Doss High School until 2017, when he was appointed JCPS acting superintendent, replacing Donna Hargens.

In the board’s annual summary of Pollio, members evaluated the superintendent in seven areas, giving him a rating from the following scale:

  • Exemplary: Exceeds the standard.
  • Accomplished: Meets the standard.
  • Developing: Making progress toward meeting the standard.
  • Improvement Required: Progress toward meeting the standard is unacceptable.

The board gave Pollio an “exemplary” rating in the areas of “strategic leadership,” “collaborative leadership,” and “influential leadership,” citing his “aggressive agenda this year to make major changes.” The changes the board highlighted included retooling school start times, expanding summer learning, and creating a more equitable school funding system. The board also praised Pollio for “standing up for JCPS” against a “hostile” state Legislature.

Pollio earned the second-highest rating, “accomplished,” in all other categories. The board highlighted concerns about a high-level leadership position going unfilled as well as concerns about student test scores.

“The Board is cognizant that our current federal and state mandated testing system may not be giving us an accurate picture of student learning and growth, however we are still concerned that we have far too many students who are not being successful in the learning environment,” the report reads.

The board approved the evaluation on a 4-1 vote. District 6 board member Corrie Shull and District 7 board member Sarah Cole McIntosh were absent. The only member who voted against approving the evaluation was District 2 board member Chris Kolb, who said he believed it was “too critical” of Pollio.

Pollio’s pay increase goes into effect on July 22.

Several Republican State House members issued a statement Wednesday criticizing the board’s decision to increase Pollio’s pay, saying it showed the board was “out of touch” and an “egregious insult” to educators.

“Our schools continue to operate with significant staff shortages and JCPS students lag behind the rest of the state in core academic subjects,” the statement from seven Jefferson County House Republicans reads.

“While the Kentucky General Assembly provided funding for teacher pay raises in the current budget, this money was intended for classroom educators, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and front office staff. It was not meant to continue the staggering expansion of central office or pad the pockets of the district’s administration,” the statement continues.

The GOP-led Legislature did not, in fact, fund teacher pay raises this year, or last year. Lawmakers did provide a modest increase to the overall per-pupil funding formula known as SEEK, which districts could have used to fund teacher raises.

In JCPS, officials say the SEEK increase would have been enough to fund less than a 1% pay raise. The district used mostly local and federal pandemic relief funds to boost pay by 4% for school employees in 2021 and 5% in 2022.

JCPS’s average teacher salary is around $68,000 a year.

This story was updated.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.

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