Incoming Superintendent Richie Smith had his terms of employment finalized and his final contract with Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools approved by the All-Island School Committee (AISC) Tuesday.
Smith is taking over for outgoing Superintendent Matt D’Andrea, who is leaving the Island to take a job as the superintendent of Wareham Public Schools. The committee chose to hire Smith without exercising the option to conduct a nationwide external search for a qualified candidate, due to the unique conditions of the job requirement on Martha’s Vineyard, and the extremely difficult housing situation.
The new superintendent’s contract will be for two years, with a total compensation package of $380,000. Smith will get paid $186,500 in the first year of his employment, then $193,500 for the second year (a 3.75 percent increase from year to year). Each year, school officials will have the opportunity to review the progress Smith has made toward his goals, established in concert with the personnel subcommittee.
During Tuesday’s AISC meeting, committee chair Skipper Manter asked for clarification about the first-year salary figure, saying that in an earlier executive session, Smith requested that the $3,200 travel reimbursement and the $1,200 phone usage stipend included in former Superintendent Matt D’Andrea’s contract be carried into his total pay. “I’m concerned that this number compounds and becomes part of your base pay. Whatever percentage increase you may or may not get each year compounds on top of what you already have,” Manter said. “Whereas a reimbursement is not pay or salary — it’s a reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses.”
Committee member Kate DeVane said she looked at the reference sheet of superintendent salaries compiled by Martha’s Vineyard school business administrator Mark Friedman, and it shows that what Smith is asking for is “completely reasonable,” even if he were to keep the travel and cell phone reimbursement as part of his package. “It looked like what he is asking for is right in line with other comparable towns,” DeVane said.
DeVane added that the two low-end salaries on the sheet compiled by Friedman represented superintendents from the Berkshires and Amherst. “I wouldn’t think of them as being particularly representative of what we’ve got here,” she said.
In 2015, Smith said D’Andrea was awarded a contract of $165,000. With inflation rates, that number would land around $203,000 today, according to Smith. Smith also looked to Nantucket for some points of comparison, and found that the Nantucket Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Hallett’s starting salary in 2021 was $180,000. In year two (2022), her salary was $184,500, with the same travel and professional development allowances.
If D’Andrea remained in the school system, during the final year of his tenure in 2024, he would receive $200,000. “Knowing what I am facing, and what we are facing as a school system, I feel as if I have approached this school committee with a fair compensation amount,” Smith said.
The $186,500 starting salary was approved unanimously, and the total, two-year $380,000 compensation package was approved, with Manter and Robert Lionette as the dissenting votes.
Smith said he is taking a leap of faith by leaving his assistant superintendent position, which he has held for years, and that could likely continue for another six or seven years with a high level of job security. Although he feels a strong sense of obligation to the school system, and he believes he is the best person for the job, Smith acknowledged the possibility of not being chosen in an open candidate search once his contract runs out.
Smith’s contract could also be terminated if school officials determine he hasn’t sufficiently worked toward his goals after the first year of his tenure.