Sept. 28, 2017

Some charter school heads earn big paychecks compared to other public school leaders. What’s the rationale?

By Mary Niederberger and Stephanie Hacke

Sept. 28, 2017

Some charter school heads earn big paychecks compared to other public school leaders. What’s the rationale?

By Mary Niederberger and Stephanie Hacke

Vasilios Scoumis is chief executive officer of Manchester Academic Charter School. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Part of the series

The Charter Effect

Traditionally, the 20th anniversary is celebrated with china but we are marking the 20th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s charter school law with transparency and depth. While other local media outlets have reported on the sweeping change charter school choice has had on students and traditional school districts, our series will expand on that by teasing out the root of the tension between charters and other public schools: money and what appears to be differing standards of accountability.

This series will expose and explain the data and records behind the charter schools operating in Allegheny County.

As the CEO of Commonwealth Charter Academy, Maurice Flurie received a 2016-17 salary of $225,500 for overseeing a statewide cyber school with an enrollment of 9,035 students, a budget of $116 million, staff of 500 and 11 family centers across the state.

In that same school year, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet drew a $210,000 salary for managing a district of about 24,000 students, a budget of about $570 million, staff of 4,300 and 70 buildings.

If you’re looking for logic or consistency in the salaries of charter school leaders in comparison with their traditional school district counterparts, it might be hard to find.

The salaries among charter school administrators are inconsistent.

Even among the charter schools — both brick-and-mortar and cyber — there’s a wide range of compensation that, in some cases, doesn’t appear to always be tied to academic achievement or school size.

Maurice Flurie is the CEO of Commonwealth Charter Academy. (Photo courtesy of Commonwealth Charter Academy)

Some of the smallest brick-and-mortar charters in Allegheny County have CEOs who are among the highest paid. At Manchester Academic, where 340 students were enrolled last year, CEO Vasilios Scoumis was paid $146,000. In comparison, Environmental Charter School CEO John McCann earned $120,000 with a school enrollment of 630 students.

Explore a table showing administrative salaries at Allegheny County brick-and-mortar charters

And among the cybers, CEO salaries vary greatly among schools of similar size and staffing and are often based on different factors. While Flurie earns $225,500 overseeing 9,035 students, CEO Brian Hayden received $150,000 for directing Pennsylvania Cyber’s 9,173 students.

Explore a table showing administrative salaries at Pennsylvania’s cyber charters

“It certainly doesn’t seem equitable to me,” said Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. “But unfortunately, it’s a situation where every board gets to make that decision about their CEOs.”

With traditional school districts, DiRocco said superintendent salaries are set annually based on variables that include the size of the budget and district, the expertise level of the superintendent and what market salaries are in the area of the state where the district is located.

Explore a table showing superintendent salaries from traditional Allegheny County school districts

“When my salary is set, it is voted on in public. The public can have input and comment. Taxpayers can see it at the meetings,” said Sto-Rox Superintendent Frank Dalmas, who earned $123,659 in 2016-17.

But because the public rarely attends charter board meetings, especially the boards of statewide cyber charters, those boards don’t face the same pressure, DiRocco said.

“It’s easier to make those decisions and not have to worry about the fallout,” DiRocco said.

Charter school boards assess school leaders annually, but the factors considered vary by school.

The Commonwealth Charter board hires an outside firm that measures Flurie’s performance. It evaluates him similarly to how the leader of the American Red Cross or United Way would be evaluated. The firm also takes into account staff size, budget, number of students, geographical boundaries and the school’s nonprofit status.

Flurie is the highest-paid cyber charter CEO out of the nine who responded to Right-to-Know requests.

Hayden, of Pennsylvania Cyber, one of the the state’s largest and oldest cybers, said the number of students attending his school doesn’t affect his $150,000 salary. Recruitment of students is not factored in either.

The school is reviewing ways to evaluate the CEO and executive team, but no process is currently in place, he said. Typically, he said members of the school’s executive team earn percentage pay increases each year that are equivalent to those of the school’s non-union employees.

“While we do regularly monitor enrollment and use this data to develop yearly budgets, our students are not a commodity and I am uncomfortable in using recruitment goals to set compensation,” he said.

“It certainly doesn’t seem equitable to me. But unfortunately, it’s a situation where every board gets to make that decision about their CEOs.”

Among the brick-and-mortar charters in Allegheny County, the highest paid leader in 2016-17 was Propel CEO/Superintendent Tina Chekan at $160,000. Above her on Propel’s salary scale is founder Jeremy Resnick at $180,000. Resnick’s salary is paid by the Propel Foundation for which he serves as executive director.

In addition, each of Propel’s 13 schools has at least one principal, with salaries that range from $90,000 to $114,800.

David Fair, president of the Propel board of trustees, wrote in an email that the Propel board hires an independent consultant whose process “factors in experience, performance and other qualities” and analyzes “the salaries of similarly credentialed professionals at comparable peer institutions.”

Fair declined to name the peer institutions.

He said Chekan and Resnick earned their compensation because they have grown Propel into a “high-performing public charter school system.”

Propel has some of the highest performing charter schools in the county — including Propel East, Propel McKeesport and Propel Montour. But it also has some of the lowest performing, including Propel Northside and Propel Hazelwood.

Fair said the board’s definition of high performing was not limited to academics and also included Propel’s wellness program and after-school programs.

CEOs at some of the smaller charter schools in the county defended their salaries, saying they don’t have a large central administrative staff to delegate responsibilities

“I’m a principal and [chief academic officer]. I do the functions of both. I’m also outside getting kids off of the buses in the morning,” said Kim Fitzgerald, the CEO of Urban Pathways K-5 College Charter School. She made $100,045 in base salary along with a $5,000 bonus in the 2016-17 school year.

The ratio of school leaders’ dollars per student they oversee is all over the spectrum.

Hamlet makes about $9 a year for each student educated in the Pittsburgh school system, while Flurie earns about $25 per student at his school.

Brick-and-mortar charters paid their CEOs the most per student, with the average CEO earning $435 per student. The CEO at Spectrum Charter School earned $1,800 per student for the school’s 36 students.

Tamara Allen, CAO and principal of Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship, chats with students on May 17, 2017. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Cyber charter schools also paid a higher per student average than traditional public schools at $268. SusQ-Cyber, with 103 students, paid its CEO $883 per student.

Traditional public schools paid their leaders the least per student with the average superintendent earning $119 per child. However, the superintendent at Duquesne City School District brought in $362 per student with the district’s enrollment of 326 students.

Some school leaders get sizeable bonuses.

The Pittsburgh school board in July voted to give Hamlet a $10,000 bonus based on meeting the goals set for his first year in office.

Some charter leaders also qualify for bonuses. Fitzgerald at Urban Pathways K-5 received her $5,000 bonus for securing the school’s five-year charter renewal. Propel’s Chekan and Resnick also both received $5,000 bonuses.

Vasilios Scoumis, CEO of Manchester Academic, said he qualifies for up to a $15,000 bonus on top of his 2016-17 salary of $146,000. He said his board has not yet voted on his 2016-17 bonus.

Scoumis said his salary is higher than other local charter leaders with bigger schools because he has a 20-year tenure at Manchester Academic. “There are probably not a lot of who have more tenure in one place than I do,” he said.

Michael Conti, CEO of Agora Cyber Charter School with an enrollment of 8,536, said he qualifies for up to a 5 percent bonus on his $175,000 salary ($8,750). The bonus factors in student achievement. Test scores have yet to be released this fall, and he has not yet received a bonus.

“I’m more focused on doing the work than I am on trying to get the bonus. I think I’m paid very fairly,” he said.

StoryMary Niederberger and Stephanie Hacke

Mary covers education for PublicSource. She can be reached at 412-515-0064 or

Stephanie is a freelance journalist in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at

Fact checking and data analysisJ. Dale Shoemaker

Dale is PublicSource's city government and policy reporter.

Amy Tsai, a former PublicSource intern, helped clean and process the data for this story.

PhotographyRyan Loew

Ryan is PublicSource's visual producer.

EditingHalle Stockton and Mila Sanina

Halle is PublicSource's managing editor. Mila is PublicSource's executive director.

Web development and graphicsNatasha Khan

Natasha is PublicSource's interactives & design editor.

Administrator salaries at Allegheny County brick-and-mortar charter schools

Back up to story

School Administrator Salary Bonus Enrollment
Propel Central AdministrationJeremy Resnick, Founder$180,000$5,0003,600
Propel Central AdministrationTina Chekan, CEO/Principal$160,000$5,0003,600
Manchester AcademicVasilios Scoumis, CEO$146,000not yet set340
Urban AcademyGail Edwards, CEO/Principal$137,560 221
City Charter High SchoolRon Sofo, CEO/Principal$125,000$2,500574
Environmental Charter SchoolJon McCann, CEO$120,000$50630
Penn Hills CS of EntrepreneurshipTamara Allen, CAO/Principal$115,500 344
Urban Pathways 6-12Kathleen Garlan, CEO/Principal$102,000 325
Urban Pathways K-5Kimberly Fitzgerald, CAO/Principal$100,045$5,000280
Hill House Passport AcademyJeffrey Jackson, Principal$95,000 225
The AcademyWilliam Styche, Executive Director$88,819 152
Young Scholars Western PAKasim Biyikli, CEO/Principal$88,159 300
ProvidentBrett Marcoux, CEO/Principal$84,899 86
Young Scholars McKeesportHalil Demir, CEO/Principal$78,000 142
SpectrumMichele Johnson, CEO/Principal$66,585 37

Source: Teacher salary data was collected through Right-to-Know requests submitted by PublicSource to each school or district.

Administrator salaries at Allegheny County Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools

Back up to story

School Administrator Salary Enrollment
Commonwealth Charter AcademyMaurice Flurie III, CEO$225,5009,034
Pennsylvania VirtualJohn Chandler, CEO$185,0002,365
AgoraMichael Conti, CEO$175,0008,536
Achievement HouseDon Asplen, CEO$157,500553
Pennsylvania CyberBrian Hayden, CEO$150,0009,173
21st Century Kim McCully, CEO$140,454827
Pennsylvania Distance LearningPatricia Rossetti, CEO$116,476475
ReachJane Swan, Principal$80,000 - $110,000*714
EsperanzaCarolyn Faulkner-Beitzel, Director Academic Program Development$98,633149
SusQ-CyberPatricia Leighow, CEO$91,000103
Central Pennsylvania Digital Learning FoundationMalynda Maurer, CEO$56,000187
ACT AcademyStephanie Mitchell, Principal$425/per diem111
PA LeadershipJames Hanak, CEO**School did not provide salaries2,361

*Note: School provided ranges and did not give actual salaries when asked.
**Note: School provided lists of employees/personal information that did not include salaries.

Source: Teacher salary data was collected through Right-to-Know requests submitted by PublicSource to each school or district.

Salaries of superintendents in Allegheny County districts that send highest percentage of students to charter schools

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District Superintendent 2016-17 salary Bonus
Pittsburgh Public SchoolsAnthony Hamlet$210,000$10,000
Penn HillsNancy Hines$140,000 
Woodland HillsAlan Johnson$140,000 
ClairtonGinny Hunt$136,000 
Sto-RoxFrank Dalmas$123,659 
WilkinsburgLinda Iverson$120,000 
DuquesneBarbara McDonnell$118,000

Source: Teacher salary data was collected through Right-to-Know requests submitted by PublicSource to each school or district.