News Story

Very Big Raises For Some Rochester Schools Managers During Year of the Coronavirus

Unionized staff also saw substantial pay increases

Top officials at Rochester Community Schools in Oakland County enjoyed significant pay increases in 2020, a year when private businesses were closed by government order during the coronavirus pandemic.

Robert Shaner, superintendent of the school district, saw his gross pay increase from $233,771 in 2019 to $261,263, a $27,492 increase or 12%.

Debra Fragomeni, an assistant superintendent, received a 9% gross pay increase, from $159,933 in 2019 to $173,550 in 2020.

Elizabeth Davis, the chief human resources officer, had her gross pay increase 7% to $169,818 in 2020.

Carrie Lawler, an assistant superintendent, received a gross pay increase of 10%, taking her pay to $163,363 in 2020.

Lori Grein, executive director of strategic communications, said the pay increases came prior to coronavirus pandemic in 2019.

“In referencing compensation without regard to the pandemic: With more than 15,000 students and 1,800 employees and contractors, the Rochester Community Schools is one of the largest school districts in Michigan,” Grein said in an email. “Compensation of district employees aligns with those across the state.”

Grein’s gross pay increased from $113,360 in 2019 to $121,014 in 2020, a 6.75% raise.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is reviewing the salaries of public sector employees across the state.

The gross pay records of school employees come from the state's Office of Retirement Services.

In 2020, many private sector employees lost their jobs as the state government shut down many businesses due to the pandemic. In May, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told residents, “We’re all in this together.”

But many people employed by the government in Michigan felt no financial effects, according to salary records received in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. The public salary records for school districts show gross pay, which includes all forms of compensation.

Other Rochester school district employees flourished in 2020, even though the school district was closed for part of the year due to the pandemic.

For example, Robin Carter-Cooper was the executive director of instruction equity at Rochester Community Schools. She enjoyed a 40% compensation increase, from $90,249 in 2019 to $126,672 in 2020.

Carter-Cooper left the school district to become the chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for Oakland County in July.

The employees mentioned here are in the district’s management and not covered by collective bargaining agreements negotiated with teacher unions. Those contracts prescribe pay scales that reach a maximum level after a specified number of years on the job. This sometimes leads to complaints about stagnant salaries for instructors who have reached that level.

These individuals can still earn more though. The union contracts also prescribe pay rates for accepting optional duties and responsibilities. For this reason, even the district’s unionized staff gross pay can vary greatly from year to year.

According to the teachers union contract, the top of scale’s base salary was $93,113 in 2019-20. One teacher, however, made $106,054 in 2020, in part by coaching the district’s sports teams.

A high school gym teacher who also coached was able to increase his gross pay from $91,423 in 2019 to $114,389.

Coaching jobs at the school district pay as much as $6,400 a sport.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.