Long Island educators made up nearly half of the top 100 highest-paid employees in the state’s public schools and colleges during the 2015-16 academic year, each with an annual salary of at least $250,000, according to compensation figures from the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System.

A total of 49 educators in Nassau and Suffolk districts, mostly superintendents or administrators, were among the top 100, with gross pay ranging from $250,984 to nearly $400,000. The information does not include New York City public school employees.

Peter C. Scordo, 66, who retired in June as superintendent of the Elwood district, had the largest gross salary among K-12 public school educators in the state, at $385,861. He ranked fifth on the overall list, behind State University of New York physicians and researchers.

They were Ovadia Abulafia, an obstetrician/gynecologist at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, with gross pay of $573,647; Michael Lucchesi, an internist/emergency physician at the same center, with $538,617; Douglas Lazzaro, an ophthalmologist and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the center, with $419,421; and Esther Takeuchi, a chemical engineer and materials scientist at Stony Brook University, with $398,120. SUNY officials did not comment.

Scordo, who has worked in public education since 1973 and now is interim superintendent in the Eastport-South Manor school district, earned accrued vacation and sick time upon his retirement from Elwood.

His contract stipulated an annual salary for 2015-16 of $264,000 and he received a $50,000 stipend for also acting as the district’s human resources administrator. In addition, he got $72,000 for unused vacation days, according to the Elwood district.

In his current position in Eastport-South Manor, Scordo is paid $1,200 a day, according to his contract with the district, obtained under a Freedom of Information Law request. Scordo declined to comment.

Educators on the Island typically are among the highest-paid in New York. The statewide data included a total of 247,950 educators, with average annual pay of $62,206.

Three other local educators were in the top 10 for annual gross pay for the 2015-16 school year. All are longtime administrators, each with at least 40 years in public education.

They were Jericho Superintendent Henry Grishman, listed sixth, with pay of $376,405; Syosset’s former Deputy Superintendent Jeffrey B. Streitman, seventh, with gross pay of $373,247; and Locust Valley Superintendent Anna Hunderfund, eighth, with gross pay of $368,500.

Grishman and Hunderfund declined to comment. Streitman, who retired in June, also declined to comment.

According to the Albany-based nonprofit Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank, 54 percent of Westchester County teachers and administrators were paid more than $100,000 in 2015-16, compared to nearly 50 percent in Nassau County and slightly more than 45 percent in Suffolk.

“School taxes make up the biggest part of our property-tax bills, and personnel costs make up the biggest part of our school budgets,” said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center. “Taxpayers have a right to examine that spending and decide for themselves whether they’re getting their money’s worth.”

Raises for teachers, guidance counselors and other professional school staffers Islandwide averaged about 2.5 percent in 2016-17, a Newsday survey earlier this year found. Pay for teachers represents the single-largest expense for districts, and contracts typically run for three or four years.

Carl Korn, spokesman for New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest teacher union, said, “Competitive salaries help school districts to attract talent.”

“And there is no question that Long Island public schools are among the best in the state and certainly the envy of the nation,” he said.

The pay data overall, Korn said, show that “for the most part, teacher salaries are fair, but many educators earn far less than they should . . . and I say most teachers, because it is important to point out that you must have a master’s [degree] to become certified. When you compare teaching salaries to other professions that require a master’s, those salaries tend to lag behind what other professionals earn in the private sector.”

Noting that there is a looming teacher shortage in the state, Korn said, “The best way to attract people into the profession is to make those salaries competitive.”

© 2016 Newsday

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