Almost Half of Fed Safe Schools Office Salaries Over $100,000

Posted by on November 18, 2010

Almost half of the government employees staffing the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools made over $100,000 in adjusted base salaries in 2009 according to DataUniverse, a portal to public government data. (Thanks to Alexander Russo for his pointer to this hidden data treasure source!)

Total adjusted base salaries for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools in 2009 was over $4.8 million  ($4,814,611, to be more precise).  This does not appear to include fringe benefits.

The list provided adjusted base salaries, titles, and other information for 53 employees of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. Upon taking away eight positions included for what appears to be part-time members of an advisory committee, of the 45 remaining positions:

  • Over 46% (21) employees had adjusted base salaries over $100,000; and
  • Over 24% (11) additional employees had adjusted base salaries over $90,000

This means more than 71% (32 of 45 staff) of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools received adjusted base salaries over $90,000 in 2009.

Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools Spends Hundreds of Thousands in Top Administrative Salaries

Some of the more interesting highlights:

  • William Modzeleski, the Associate Assistant Deputy Under Secretary, is #2 in the Office power structure but is #1 in adjusted base salary at $177,000;
  • Kevin Jennings, the Assistant Deputy Secretary and head of the Office, is listed with an adjusted base salary of $153,200, putting him at $23,800 less than the person he supervises;
  • Jennings’ Assistant in 2009 (Assistant to the Assistant Deputy Secretary), Martin F. Schubert, is listed with an adjusted base salary of $50,408
  • Tina Hunter, Administrative Officer (listed under Modzeleski in the Department of Education’s 2010 Organizational Directory as Executive Officer) is listed with a 2009 adjusted base salary of $132,914; 
  • Just the above four administrative-related positions alone consume over a half million dollars in salaries at $513,522. This does NOT include other possible special and confidential assistants such as those listed in the aforementioned 2010 ED Organizational Directory;
  • Modzeleski is listed as having a pay grade at ES00 (Senior Executive Service) while Jennings, his boss, is listed as a lower GS15 pay grade.  Jennings predecessor, Deborah Price, is shown in 2007 as a ES00 pay grade;
  • Eight individuals listed as members of the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Advisory Committee are included in the federal employees list as having an adjusted base salary of $26,088 each for a total of $208,704 in salaries.  Six of the eight individuals appear to be individuals who, at least according to ED’s web site, are also local or state public employees and presumably are paid separately for what appear to be full-time public positions outside of ED.
  • Adding this $208,704 in advisory committee salaries to the four administrative salaries noted above ($513,522), brings the subtotal to $722,226.
  • Two employees for this D.C.-based office are not located in the Department’s D.C. headquarters.  Michelle Padilla, a GS14 employee with a base salary of $128,162, is located in Philadelphia.  Sara Strizzi, formerly based in D.C., is now based in Douglas County (Littleton), Colorado, and is a GS13 employee at $97,662.

Preliminary Salary Data Review Raises Questions

This preliminary review of the data triggers a number of intriguing questions including:

  1. Why does the head of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools make LESS money than the person who is his #2 in the department?
  2. Why is the current Assistant Deputy Secretary listed at a GS15 pay grade when his predecessor, and even his #2 man, are listed at the ES (Executive Service) higher level?
  3. Why does the Office, which just eliminated over $295 million in state formula grants to states for the Safe and Drug Free Schools Program, need an Assistant Deputy Secretary AND an Associate Assistant Deputy Under Secretary, with combined salaries over $330,200 excluding benefits and costs of their special/executive assistants? (Especially since neither of these titles existed until created by the past Administration, prior to which time Modzeleski was simply the Director of the Safe and Drug Free Schools program.)
  4. Why are advisory board members who are also public employees at the local and state levels also being paid as federal employees according to this data source?  If this is the case, were these individuals on their personal/vacation time from their regular jobs while performing services for the U.S. DOE?
  5. This preliminary analysis shows almost 3/4 of a million dollars in top administrative salaries for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.  I suspect there are more salaries which may also be included in this upper administration of this office, not to mention a number of six-figure administrators overseeing subdivisions/program areas of the Office.
  6. Does the Department of Education actually have an office in Littleton, Colorado (Douglas County), and how does the person in this $97,000+ job do work for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools whose all other employees (minus one in Philadelphia) are based at ED’s D.C. headquarters?

Just in case you’re interested, the 2010 Base General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale shows much lower salaries for many government workers.

This is only a preliminary review.  A more thorough analysis is warranted, and more questions are likely hidden behind this tucked away and unquestioned batch of salary data.

Is the Office top-heavy in bureaucratic salaries?  Could some of this money be better spent if directly provided to local schools for school safety programs? Maybe not…but then again, maybe so.

Your thoughts?

Ken Trump

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