CHESHIRE — School administrators, principals, and police officers were among the highest-paid municipal employees in town this past year.
Police employees occupied the most spots in the top 10 wage earners, taking up seven of the top 10 spots largely in part due to overtime and private-duty work. The third-place spot was taken by Town Manager Sean Kimball, while the remaining two were taken by school officials.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeffery Solan was the overall highest wage earner for the 22-23 fiscal year, by a wide margin — receiving $228,976. The second highest was recently-retired Police Sergeant Jeffery Falk, who earned $202,968. His base salary was $90,393, supplemented by $44,145 in overtime pay and $46,692 for extra duty for vendors.
This is not unique to Falk, or the Cheshire Police Department, that the additional extra duty and overtime constitutes much of their yearly pay. According to police officials, the opportunity to take overtime and private duty pay is one many officers take advantage of in order to bring in extra money.
Private duty mostly constitutes providing security and managing traffic for businesses — usually doing construction or utility work. There are no limits on the amount of overtime or private duty an officer can take in a year, so long as they’re not working more than 16 hours a day. All the private duty work takes place outside of an officer’s usual hours.
“We're probably the department in town that has the most access to work overtime and extra duty work, (which) we consider to be two separate things,” Police Chief Niel Dryfe said. Dryfe feels it’s a positive that the officers are so well-compensated, not just for the officers themselves but for the community as a whole.
“It's a common practice throughout the state. …In a way, I'm glad that an officer coming to work here who needs to make extra money because they've got a young family to support or whatever the reason is, doesn't have to go out and get a part-time job working at a package store or driving an Uber or something like that,” Dryfe said. “I think it's a benefit to the community to have these officers in town on highly visible traffic posts. They're available to respond if we ever had an emergency that required extra officers to respond beyond what we have working our regular patrol shifts.”.
One thing Dryfe noted was that the funds officers get from private duty don’t come out of the town’s budget. They’re provided by whoever hires the officers to work at their site. While Chief of Police, Dryfe had lower pay than some officers since he doesn’t have the opportunity to do extra duty work. He was paid $147,153 last year, below 14 other officers on the force.
Education officials are also some of the highest-paid in town. Solan and Assistant Superintendent Marlene Silano were the highest paid among them, with Silano’s salary coming in at $179,510 — the seventh highest paid overall in town.
A majority of the others on the list are principals of District schools, with Cheshire High School Principal Mary Joscelyn-Gadd being the highest-paid of that group at $169,350.
All of the elementary school principals have the exact same salary across all five schools, totaling $159,221. According to Solan, that’s because they’re together in a collective bargaining group that helps set their rate of pay. Solan, Silano, and the district’s Chief Operating Officer Vincent Masciana - who is the third-highest paid amongst school officials - are not part of that group.
According to Solan, between Central Office administrators and the principals, rate of pay is determined based on the responsibilities they’re undertaking alongside the earnings of school officials in nearby towns of comparable size. Though for Solan, his rate of pay is also partially determined by how the district is making progress toward meeting its projected goals.
Based on the work the administrators put in, and the quality of the education in the district, Solan believes their pay is more than fair given the workload of overseeing so many students.
“I think the way that the system works designs air market salaries. I can make a great argument for why everybody on that list should be paid more. The market really dictates that though,” said Solan.
Solan earned praise from the Board of Education for his work last year, which led the group to extend his contract through the 2024-25 school year and increasing his pay by 2.75 percent to its current figure.
“It's not just the education of our children, it's their welfare, it's their mental health, it's their physical well being. You have a tremendous responsibility in that role beyond the education. There's extensive experience that goes into earning a leadership position. Most of our administrators have taught for many years,” Solan added. “Think people see maybe how much money a superintendent makes in a year and may think that I only work 10 months a year. That's not the case. I work 12 months a year. … I think the pay is commensurate with that track record and that level of responsibility.”