March 8, 2021
By Julia Fair
Kentucky readers: Scroll down to see how your superintendent's pay has increased in recent years.
How does a $50,000 pay raise sound?
That's what a Northern Kentucky school superintendent got over the last year – the largest single-year jump a Kentucky superintendent salary received.
Beechwood Independent Schools Superintendent Mike Stacy got a 28% pay raise between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, according to public records.
The average raise Kentucky superintendents got in the same period was 1%, according to superintendent salary data.
The raise has spurred debate among parents on a community Facebook group, partly because Stacy also made the decision to freeze teacher pay during the pandemic.
Some thought the raise was too big and others defended it, which the school board did, too. Stacy himself plans to address the issue at a board meeting Monday night.
Adding to the controversy: Beechwood teachers didn't get any pay raise between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. Beechwood teachers typically get a $750 annual raise, Stacy told The Enquirer in an email.
Why the big boost? To keep him from being recruited away, the board explained to The Enquirer.
"In late 2019 and early 2020, when other schools tried to recruit him away, we were pleased to give him a salary package that kept him with Beechwood to finish the overhaul he started six years ago," the board wrote in a joint email. The board approved the raise in January 2020 for the 2020-2021 school year.
It said Stacy is "worth every penny, and then some."
Stacy told The Enquirer during a phone interview that he had considered leaving the district – he wouldn't say why – when recruiters from other school systems reached out to him.
Beechwood parent Brandon Combs told The Enquirer the raise "sounded a little extreme."
Another, Dawn Kirkpatrick, said Stacy has does good work for the school system, but added that he hasn't done it alone and that teachers deserve a raise as well.
Near the end of a prepared speech Stacy plans to share tonight, which he shared in advance with The Enquirer, he said he believes "teachers will again get their much-deserved raises."
His raises are a separate issue from teacher pay, he said. The board gave him a raise, but it was his decision to freeze teacher raises.
"While they may paint a bad narrative, two different decisions made by two different bodies during two different circumstances are truly unrelated," Stacy during a phone interview.
Mike Stacy's salary increase, teacher pay freeze
Stacy, 49, became superintendent in 2015 and made $135,000.In January 2020, the Beechwood Independent School Board approved his new $228,000 salary to oversee the education of 1,448 students, according to the Kentucky Department of Education.
Stacy's double-digit salary increases started after his first year on the job. He got raises each year. He got a 12% increase between the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school year. Then his raises were 2%, 3%, 12%, and finally, 28%.
Before coming to Beechwood, he served as the chief academic officer for Woodford County Schools since July 2010.
Because of the raise, Stacy is now the highest-paid superintendent in Northern Kentucky. He makes more than Boone County Superintendent Matt Turner, who oversees the largest school district in Northern Kentucky. Turner became superintendent 2020 and makes $197,500 to oversee 20,392 students.
Northern Kentucky superintendent salaries
Beechwood Independent Schools Superintendent Mike Stacy got a $50,000 raise between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school year. Because of that, he's now the highest-paid superintendent in Northern Kentucky.
The median Kentucky superintendent salary is $129,000, state figures show.
There are other superintendents in Kentucky that got similar salary boosts. At Murray Independent Schools in Western Kentucky and Russell Independent Schools in Eastern Kentucky, the superintendents saw 31% increases, according to Kentucky superintendent data. But their salaries are $160,000 and $170,000, far lower than Stacy's.
"If (Stacy) deserves it — great," Combs, the Beechwood parent, told The Enquirer. Combs wondered how the teachers felt about the raise and added that he still didn't think it was a good use of his taxpayer dollars because the amount "sounded a little extreme."
Kirkpatrick, the other Beechwood parent, told The Enquirer Stacy did good work for the district and added the teachers helped, and should be compensated for that.
"I for one think we owe it to our teachers to stand up and ask why our taxpayer money is being allocated in this manner," Kirkpatrick told The Enquirer over Facebook messenger.
Stacy insisted the decisions about his salary and the teacher salaries are unrelated because they happened months apart.
In May 2020, two months after COVID-19 started to alter Kentucky's schools and economy, the finance director recommended to Stacy that there be no raises for the 2020-2021 school year.
"The discussion about teachers/staff raises came amid the pandemic when our school system, like others throughout the state and country, were hit with a variety of unexpected costs and challenges," Stacy wrote in a statement.
Stacy explained the district's three main budget challenges: The $500,000 reopening costs, budget shortfalls due to elementary school enrollment and state revenue decline, and the fact that the board of education did not want to increase property taxes by 4%.
Stacy made the final decision to freeze the teachers' pay.
"We were faced with an option of cutting positions and letting some of our staff/teachers go or freezing pay for the year," Stacy wrote. "We chose the latter. We continue to believe that was the best decision."
The board wants Stacy to stay
The five-member board told The Enquirer in a group statement that Stacy helped the district go through a "total transformation" since he joined the school system.
It wants Stacy around to be here for the next phases of facility upgrades, academic advancement, and long-term budget planning. For example, Stacy saved Beechwood about $2 million in general funds by renegotiating external vendor contracts, ending the outsourcing of jobs, and closely monitoring expenses.
The board also said Stacy's "fiscal leadership" allowed them to keep jobs when the district's enrollment decreased due to COVID-19, while others "might've suggested" that the board cut positions.
The decision to give Stacy a raise was transparent, the board said in its statement.
"It is rather common for ‘under-the-table’ benefits to be paid to superintendents to avoid people knowing the full total of the overall package," the board wrote. "But Dr. Stacy would not allow that, and insisted that all money we pay him (sic) be done on top of the table and in full public view."
It claimed if people could access those "below-the-table" benefits, they would see that Stacy's benefits are similar to the "best leaders" in education.
"I don’t particularly care for increases in benefits being paid in ways that make it hard for the public to see," Stacy wrote in his statement. "I think our results speak for themselves, and I’d put Beechwood up against any school system in Kentucky."
Stacy emailed The Enquirer some of his accomplishments over the last six years, which he plans to share at the school board meeting.
Some of those include:
Starting all-day kindergarten and preschool.
Equipping every K-12 student with a computer.
Increasing Advanced Placement classes.
Obtaining a new turf on the football field, a new practice gym, a turf baseball field, and a new softball field.
Installing safety upgrades in the high school with a new entrance, new office, better cameras, and safety doors.
Increasing funding to all extra-curricular programs.
"We are looking forward to Dr. Stacy's presentation Monday night when he delivers a State of the District address to us and the community," the board wrote. It said everyone "will hear a story that more than justifies the leadership decisions we’ve made since bringing Dr. Stacy to Beechwood."
Here's how to watch the meeting:
Time: 6 p.m.
Where to watch: Beechwood Schools Youtube channel.