Central High Principal Nancy Rousseau Brian Chilson

The Little Rock School Board will vote Thursday on a reworked contract for longtime Central High Principal Nancy Rousseau, who asked the district to reconsider her salary when it came to light that a principal brand new to the district would be making significantly more.

Board members will vote on a proposal that would raise Rousseau’s compensation by $27,126.00 for 2023-24 and would revise her contract for 2024-25 to a higher salary.

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Attorney and former Little Rock School District Superintendent Baker Kurrus represented Rousseau in the matter. In March, he requested a hearing with the district’s Compensation Equity Review Committee to address a $33,000 pay discrepancy.

Southwest High School Principal George Maxey, who was hired in December, earns a salary and other compensation for this school year that amounts to a rate of $170,747, although it’s prorated because Maxey didn’t start the job until January.

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Compare that to Rousseau’s contract for 2023-24 that set her salary and other compensation at $136,618.

The salary discrepancy raised interesting questions about gender and race. Maxey is a Black man and Rousseau is a white woman.

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In a letter to the compensation committee, Kurrus noted that Rousseau is earning about 80 cents per Maxey’s dollar.

“Ms. Rousseau’s duties are substantially the same, or more arduous, than the duties of Mr. Maxey, yet Mr. Maxey and she have substantially different pay rates. This is an internal inequity that should be remedied by this Committee and Superintendent Wright,” he wrote.

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Members of the Compensation Equity Review Committee do not substantially address issues of gender or tenure in their report, except to refute the allegation that the Equal Pay Act that requires equal pay for men and women was violated.

They did, however, find that both Maxey and Rousseau have duties beyond the standard principal, and should be compensated for them. Maxey is an “executive turnaround leader” in addition to being principal of Southwest. This means he’s charged with giving the school a rapid academic boost and sharing lessons learned with other district leaders. Rousseau’s campus is a National Historic Site, and requires lots of coordination for events, tours and other happenings unique to the setting of the 1957 desegregation crisis.

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“The Compensation Appeal Committee has carefully considered the issues raised and finds that the Principals of Southwest High School and Central High School have distinct additional duties warranting appropriate supplemental compensation. The Central High School Principal, Ms. Nancy Rousseau, should receive back pay retroactive to July 3, 2023, through June 30, 2024, and a revised salary thereafter,” their recommendation says.

Under the proposal to the board, Rousseau’s full compensation package will come to $172,059 for the 2024-25 school year.

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Maxey’s contract will remain at $170,747.

Thursday’s meeting is at 5:30 p.m. at the district’s central office, 810 West Markham St.