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Help For Her Friends

Portland schools boss delivers pay hikes to officials who work for her.


At the time, most Portland School Board members said Smith deserved the raise after receiving only a 2 percent increase in pay during her first seven years in the district's top job. 

The decision by the board majority outraged many, who wondered why Smith was worth the steep pay hike as veteran teachers' salaries grew at a far slower rate and principals' pay remained relatively flat.

Smith's raise is being talked about again as campaigns gather steam for the upcoming School Board elections May 19.

It turns out hers wasn't the only pay hike.

Since 2011-12, Smith has given generous pay raises to the PPS administrators around her as well, according to budget documents obtained by WW under the state's public records saw. In some cases, new hires have seen substantial pay boosts over what their predecessors received.

Lolenzo Poe, the district's chief equity and diversity officer, saw his pay jump 20 percent, to about $135,000. Three other PPS officials—Yousef Awwad, chief financial officer; Sean Murray, chief human resources officer; and the superintendent's chief of staff, Amanda Whalen—saw their positions' salaries increase by 17 to 18.5 percent.

The co-chairwomen of the PPS board, Ruth Adkins and Pam Knowles, urged Smith to raise salaries "to hire the best and brightest," according to an August 2014 memo. Murray, the human resources chief, says the raises are also necessary to keep administrative salaries ahead of teachers' and principals' pay.

Murray says his own salary is higher than his predecessor's but in line with the person who came before that. It's the same for Whalen, Murray adds, noting that Jon Isaacs, the district's chief spokesman, earns 14 percent more than his predecessor because he took on additional responsibilities.

An internal PPS advisory group is weighing whether to study salaries at the district's headquarters. "It's important to be able to explain this to the public," says Mike Rosen, a PPS board candidate who is running unopposed to replace incumbent Greg Belisle. "It's the responsible thing to do."

The chart above shows the stark difference between pay hikes for people who work directly for Smith and the raises and salaries for high-school principals and teachers at the top of the district's pay scales. 

WW intern Anthony Macuk contributed to this story.