Elizabeth Lolli was associate superintendent for teaching and learning, then interim superintendent for Dayton Public Schools, before agreeing to a three-year contract as superintendent last week.

Dayton’s Lolli now top-paid local superintendent, but one big perk cut

Dayton school superintendent Elizabeth Lolli will earn $25,000 more in annual base salary than Rhonda Corr got — making her the Dayton-area’s highest-paid superintendent – but her contract also cuts down one $18,000 perk and removes possible incentive bonuses.

School board President William Harris justified the raise by citing Lolli’s experience (this is her third stint as a superintendent) and the fact that as the largest district in the Dayton area, Dayton Public Schools had been paying a lower base salary than a few smaller suburban districts.

“When you take into consideration her experience, her education, and what she brings to the table and the task at hand, we felt that the salary was sufficient,” Harris said. “Also, as we looked around this area, we want to be competitive to the other districts. … I’m comfortable and we’re comfortable with where we are (on the contract).”

Superintendent contracts are often difficult to compare apples-to-apples: one district offers higher base pay, while another offers an annual bonus, a car allowance, or premium-free health insurance.

Lolli’s base salary of $175,000 will be the highest in the Dayton area, as the superintendents in Beavercreek and Oakwood schools are next at about $161,000 and $155,000, respectively. Lolli’s contract adds a $30,000 per year annuity payment, while several other superintendents get annual payments or bonuses ranging from $4,000 to $15,000.

“The job’s a lot easier in a high-performing district. … I don’t apologize for that salary,” Lolli said, adding that she did not seek incentive payments in her contract. “If we are able to raise scores and achievement, I’m not the one who deserves a bonus. Our teaching staff deserves that bonus.”

DPS has about 13,000 students, and Lolli’s base salary is roughly comparable to some other large districts. Superintendents in the 15,000-student Lakota and Hilliard districts make about $170,000, while the 10,000-student Mason district pays $181,000.

Tom Ash, director of governmental relations for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, said Lolli’s compensation is in the normal ballpark for a district like Dayton. He also said Dayton saved some money by hiring from within, rather than doing a national search.

“One of the pluses of hiring inside is you know the person and their capabilities,” Ash said. “You’re not relying on a third-party outside of the district to make a recommendation.”

One major perk from Corr’s contract has been changed for Lolli. Corr, and Lori Ward before her, got a $1,500 per month payment for expenses “that she deems appropriate,” with no need to document the spending. Lolli said that essentially made their base salary $168,000.

Rather than that $18,000 annual perk, Lolli’s contract allows up to $1,000 per month in “reasonable expenses” for travel and other costs, via a tracked district credit card.

Dayton school board members expressed confidence in the way Lolli had handled tough issues, including potential school closings, forging relationships with the city, and a battle over Dunbar High School’s basketball eligibility. Harris said Lolli has brought stability to DPS administration, but he also cited her strong decision making, and her passion in fighting the Dunbar issue with the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

“I observed her tenacity in that issue, and … it gave me confidence that she was willing to fight for the district and fight for our young people,” Harris said. “So I’m very comfortable with her style and her leadership ability, along with the other board members.”

Lolli said four things are key to the district’s academic performance – strong leadership focused on academic achievement, keeping curriculum well aligned with standards, making sure teachers are using best instructional techniques in the classroom, and finding the sweet spot where students are challenged just the right amount, so they stay engaged in their education.

She said she’s looking to fill some vacant positions in the curriculum department and wants the district to be ready to work with teachers on quick adjustments this summer when state test scores come in.

“I’m very appreciative of the opportunity. It is a very challenging position,” Lolli said. “This is something I didn’t anticipate. It wasn’t something I was looking for when I came here. I will do my very best for the community, the students, the teachers and the rest of the staff. … I appreciate the support of the board of education and the community. … It’s very heart warming, but we do have work to do, and that’s my message to the community and staff.”

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