Quite a number of rumors concerning the Wachusett School budget
have been circulating recently. I would like to put these to rest and reassure
voters that their tax dollars are put to good use wisely and frugally.
First, let us take up the matter of the superintendent’s salary. It’s been
stated that Dr. Thomas G. Pandiscio has received more than $100,000 in pay
raises since he began his tenure with the District. This is pure nonsense.
Dr. Pandiscio ‘s first salary as superintendent was $140,000 per year, pro
rated according to the number of months he actually worked in that position.
He is currently in his seventh year and draws a salary of slightly more than
$192,000. The percentage increments he has earned are built into the base.
His salary is nowhere near the highest in the Commonwealth although the
Wachusett School District is the largest regional school system in the state
Let me add that many, if not most, superintendents do not remain with
one school district for more than one three-year contract. Therefore, they do
not continue to accrue increments with one district, but leave and then
renegotiate a contract with another system. We are very fortunate to have
experienced stability here in our District at the top levels. The salaries of
the top administrators reflect their longevity with us.
Next, let us consider the matter of custodians in the District. We have
fourteen buildings in the Wachusett District; here the high school is counted
as one building, and the Early Childhood Building is considered a building
separate from the District Office. There are two shifts in every building, a
day shift and an evening shift. The bathrooms, halls, and classrooms are
cleaned in the evenings when there are fewer or no students in the schools.
Three of the custodians at the high school are groundskeepers. We have to
take care of the grounds and playing fields ourselves. The custodians in K-8
schools also monitor the grounds in good weather and remove snow
contiguous to the building to keep sidewalks and doorways clear. A custodian
must routinely check each building on weekends to ensure that there are
State guidelines regarding the number of custodian indicate one custodian for every 20,000 square feet. Wachusett has an average of one custodian for every 22,000 square feet, and in one case the custodian works 37,000 square feet. This figure does not include the grounds. The state indicates that the
average per pupil cost for custodial support is $362.78. per year. In the WRSD
budget, we average $351.57 per pupil costs per year, $11 less than the statewide
average. With 7,481.4 FTE students in the Wachusett District the custodial costs
would be over 83,000 more if we spent the statewide average.
Custodians work hard for not a great deal of money. The starting salary for
a level one custodian is $10.96 per hour with many of the workers making $15. or
$16. per hour. They do receive sick days and vacation time, but then another
individual has to be called in for back-up in these cases.
I am somewhat perplexed by the parallels drawn between the school system
in the town of Auburn and the Wachusett District. Auburn has five buildings: the
high school, one middle school, and three elementary schools. The high school
reported an enrollment of 712 students, slightly more than one-third the student
population at Wachusett Regional High School. The two systems are very dissimilar.
Finally, let us consider the matter of assistant principals. In our K-5 schools
across the District, the assistant principal spends about 90% of his/her time with
special needs students. State law requires an administrative presence at every
conference dealing with special needs students; this law cannot be waived.
At the present time, about 18% of all students in the District qualify as special
needs students. At the Mountview Middle School, one assistant principal spends
70% of her time with matters dealing with special needs.
Assistant principals do the evaluation of teachers. This evaluation is required
by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The assistant
principals at the high school must also evaluate the teaching staff. While some
departments have chairs, the chairs coordinate the department curriculum and
instructional delivery. Chairs cannot evaluate teachers since they are members of
the same union as the teachers. Everyone in the District, including the
Superintendent, is evaluated every year. Assistant principals also are asked
to participate in the evaluations of other staff members, including aides, tutors,
cafeteria workers, secretaries, and custodians.
Primarily the job of the assistant principal is to maintain the safety of the
students. At the high school, an administrative presence is needed in every
area of this large building. The assistant principals are located in various
areas so that every teacher has access to an administrator in case of an
emergency or disciplinary situation in the classroom. The assistant principal
must know what to do in case of an emergency, where the exits and alternative
exits are located, and where the fire extinguishers and fire alarms are located.
If there is a problem on a bus, the bus driver turns to the assistant principal
for direction. Some assistant principals ride the bus routes when difficulties
At the high school, one assistant principal is actually the Director of Guidance.
The assistant principals also implement the model student orientation program,
advise the student council, accompany students taking trips, and take charge of
the school whenever the principal is out of the building for any reason.
The WRSD administrative costs are low by comparison with state averages.
The average per pupil cost in the state is $1,277.07. Wachusett’s average is
$907.61, a difference of $369.46 per student. This saves the District a total
of $2,764,062 per year on administrative costs alone.
Thank you for allowing me to address these critical issues and set the record
straight. Sometimes only part of the story is told, and then the rest of the story
is manufactured. It’s easy to jump to conclusions if only part
of the picture is given. I hope that the facts given in this letter will clarify
some of the misrepresentations being circulated and restore your
confidence in the Wachusett District school system where quality and
financial prudence work together for the education of all our children.
Holden, MA 01520