Monday, December 31, 2012

The Connecticut superintendent salary project

By Viktoria Sundqvist

This past weekend, the New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen published my stories on Connecticut's superintendents and their salaries, showing how much or how little each local superintendent makes in comparison to district size.

A sidebar explained other perks and benefits that some school superintendents get.

We also launched the Connecticut superintendent salary database, which is searchable by school district or superintendent name, and you can sort it by salary, size or amount of vacation time. It also shows each school district on a map with a popup window of information about each district. (This was created with the help of our data team at Thunderdome in New York City).

Originally, the project started out small - I was just gathering some of the local contracts because we had several new superintendents. Then the idea grew into "why don't we do the entire state?" As my editor said, "Connecticut is a pretty small state, so you can actually do that."

We asked for all the contracts under the state's Freedom of Information Act, and then reported on each district's response. We found that the majority of the 148 districts were pretty good at providing documents in a timely manner, and only two districts actually charged us. So, the total cost of the document gathering part came to about $15.50.

A big struggle was making sure all the numbers collected actually added up, because some of the contracts only reported salary (including tax-sheltered annuity), while others split this into several sections of a contract. In order to make it comparable across the state, all salaries had to include the annuity, so we added it to the base salaries for the towns who had them separate.

I enlisted Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, investigations editor at the New Haven Register, to not only help gather contracts and remind the districts that were slow in responding, but also to double-check all my data before we created the searchable database. Some local reporters at The Register Citizen, the Foothills Media Group and the Fairfield Minuteman also assisted in gathering correct contact information and some of the contracts.

Overall, the project took about three months, from start to finish. And all contracts were uploaded to Document Cloud, where anyone from the public can view them. You can also access them directly from the database.


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