Detroit Public Schools Spokesman Steve Wasko was the voice of his school system when it was announced in February that a $327 million deficit would require closing half the district's schools and the laying off of some of its teachers and staff.
But Wasko was part of a group of more than a dozen of Detroit's highest paid employees who improved financially from 2008 to 2009 despite the district's financial woes. Records show Wasko received a 5.6 percent pay increase from 2008 to 2009. He was hired from the West Bloomfield School District in December 2007 to serve as primary media spokesperson in Detroit.
He made $121,510 in 2008 and cleared $128,370 in 2009.
A Michigan Capitol Confidential Freedom of Information request provided just a snapshot of earnings for some of the highest paid employees in the Detroit Public Schools. Overall, there were 50 employees who made $100,000 or more in 2009. The FOIA asked for only salaries of those employees who were paid $100,000 or more. Only the employees whose earnings were six figures for consecutive years were compared. Fourteen of the 21 DPS employees who cleared six figures in both 2008 and 2009 saw their salaries increase.
The FOIA request was originally sent Nov. 29 to the Detroit Public Schools, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy paid the FOIA bill on Dec. 27. Detroit gave the Mackinac Center the information on March 7.
FOIA law allows up to 15 business days to release the information.
Many of the district’s highest-paid administrators got richer from 2008 to 2009.
Gwendolyn DeJongh, the chief labor negotiator, saw her salary increase 13.1 percent from $113,281 in 2008 to $128,227 in 2009.
Derrick Graves, a teacher, had his salary increase 9.2 percent from $106,776 in 2008 to $116,659 in 2009.
Marvin Brantley, a general foreperson carpenter, and Larry Redfearn, a lead general foreperson, had salary increases of 16.4 percent and 17.2 percent respectively.
Brantley’s total salary went from $120,758 in 2008 to $140,573 in 2009, and Redfearn made $127,849 in 2008 and $149,918 in 2009.
Wasko noted that overall, the number of employees in the district making six figures dropped dramatically. In 2005, there were 140 employees making $100,000 or more. That number dropped to 50 in 2009.
Some of his comments:
The number of DPS employees earning more than $100,000 has dropped substantially, by nearly two-thirds since 2005, with the largest drop during Robert Bobb's administration when from 2008 to 2009 the number was reduced a full 30 percent,” Wasko wrote in an e-mail. “All DPS administrators are also taking 7.5% concessions from their base salaries. In a number of cases, department restructuring or the adding of additional responsibilities led to changes in job descriptions, titles, and salaries.
Approximately half of those on your year-year increase list are no longer with DPS, either having retired, been non-renewed in their contracts, or their positions were eliminated or defunded. For example, DPS eliminated the position of General Superintendent whose wages are listed on your chart as $188,638.
The employees' wages who are forepersons in the physical plant ops department include significant overtime prior to DPS' restructuring of that department. Due to the outsourcing that we've now completed for that department, two of the four forepersons are now salaried and would no longer receive the extra overtime, another is now with the private company (Sodexo), and the fourth retired.
Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb’s salary for 2009 was listed at $207,644.