Brooklyn Heights

Packer Collegiate head of school tops list of highest-paid headmasters at more than $1 million

July 16, 2018 By Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle
File photo courtesy of the Packer Collegiate Institute

A survey of earnings paid to headmasters of the city’s priciest private schools shows that the head of a prestigious Brooklyn school earned the highest such amount in the city in calendar year 2016—although this contains deferred compensation as well as his annual salary.

Topping the list, according to the New York Post, is Bruce Dennis, head of school at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights. His total calendar year2016 compensation came to $1,002,643, including base pay of $702,450 and $186,656 in deferred compensation from previous years (he plans to retire in June 2019), according to a source familiar with the school. Packer enrolls about 1,000 students in grades K-12, charged tuition in 2017-18 ranging from $43,700 to $44,700, and has such prestigious alumni as “Good Day New York” anchor Rosanna Scotto, actor Ethan Hawke and actress Deborah Ann Wolf and, going way back, NAACP co-founder Mary White Ovington.  

At least one alumnus – Kevin Obey, Class of ’12 – feels that the salary is excessive. “I was completely shocked how much he was paid,” said Obey, who now works for an engineering firm. While Obey recognized the value of administrators to the school, he said that Packer is “an incredibly expensive school. In my time, I think, the tuition almost tripled. It’s always been a burden who don’t have the means for the school. The fact that tuition has gone up so much and his salary is so high, I was shocked.” Obey added that “so many teachers, who have more of an effect on your life, would have been better recipients of such a salary.”

Attempts by the Eagle to reach the school, which is closed for the summer, and some of its trustees were unsuccessful.

According to the Post, Thomas Kelly, head of school at Horace Mann, was second in terms of total compensation. In 2016, his earnings came to $996,136, including a base pay of $951,498, making his salary actually higher than Dennis’.

Schools associated with religious denominations, such as the many Catholic schools and Orthodox Jewish yeshivot in the borough, are not required to file IRS returns, so their spending and salaries are not known to the public.

 “Even at the lower end of the pay scale, the private-school directors are earning hundreds of thousands more than New York City’s public school principals, whose top earners were paid $166,148 in 2016,” added the Post.

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