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High school sports group putting focus on education; Top administrators with MIAA a long time.

Byline: Rich Garven

COLUMN: THE BUSINESS OF HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

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FRANKLIN - Superintendents, principals, athletic directors, coaches and athletes come and go, but top administrators at the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association have found themselves a home.

Richard Neal has been with the nonprofit organization since its inception in 1978 and has held the position of executive director since Year 2. William Gaine, now the deputy director, has been on board since 1979 and assistant director Sherry Bryant since 1991.

Virginia Anderson will retire at the end of the month as associate director, ending a 14-year run with the MIAA. She recently was honored with an award named after Sherm Kinney, an executive for the organization from 1978 to 1998.

Today's workplace is a transient one, but the MIAA seems immune to those forces. As far as Mr. Neal is concerned, it's as simple as liking your job.

"We're doing more things for kids than could have been envisioned, and we're going to do more next year than we did this year," Mr. Neal, 63, said. "So that's what keeps me going. I mentioned to the finance personnel committee (last month) that I would like to continue, but asked them if they felt that it was time for change and if so I perfectly well understood.

"I still feel I have the energy I had years ago, the enthusiasm, and they encouraged me to continue. I have no reason not to. I'm healthy."

Mr. Neal said he graduated from Marian High School in Framingham in 1961 - at the age of 16 - and then earned a general studies degree from Providence College. He also has a master's in education from Framingham State College.

Mr. Neal spent 11 years at Pope John High School in Everett working as a teacher, coach and athletic director before joining the MIAA. In both instances, he said he was all but ordered to apply for the positions, first by a teacher of his and then by a colleague, because of "the opportunity to give back."

In fiscal year 2007, the last year this nonprofit organization's financial statements are available for public viewing, Mr. Neal earned $138,822 from the MIAA and $15,425 from the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators' Association, a sister organization for principals. In addition, he received about $21,400 in employee benefits.

For approximately the last 12 years, Mr. Neal and Mr. Gaine have been provided with company cars. They each drive a 2006 Mercury Grand Marquis. Mr. Neal said his is parked at his Franklin residence when he isn't working and currently has 60,000-plus miles on it.

"The board (of directors) felt we would be doing a lot of traveling for the association," Mr. Neal said, "and it would be good for us to have cars, as many school superintendents have in their district."

Meanwhile, Mr. Gaine made $120,079 from the MIAA for a 40-hour workweek and $18,411 from the MSSAA and Ms. Bryant $73,644 from the MIAA for a 36-hour workweek and $18,411 from the MSSAA. Ms. Anderson was listed as earning $57,355 from both the MIAA and the MSSAA, the former based on a 22-hour workweek. The trio received a combined $60,000 in benefits.

Paul Gilligan, an employee with the accounting firm of Stowe & Degon in Westboro reviewed various MIAA financial statements for the last three years at the request of the Telegram & Gazette. His analysis: While those salaries may seem eye-catching, they shouldn't raise an eyebrow.

"The compensation doesn't look out of line for people who have been there that long and I assume have contributed to the building of the organization," Mr. Gilligan said. "I don't think the compensation looks that unreasonable were you to look at other charitable organizations throughout the state based upon what I've seen."

Barry Haley, the athletic director at Concord-Carlisle High School who chairs the MIAA finance committee, said longevity and performance are two of the key factors used when determining the salaries of administrators. The committee also takes a look at comparative data available from the National Federation of State High School Associations.

"Our staff is not the highest paid, but I would say it's in the top 25 percent," Mr. Haley said.

Mr. Neal oversees the day-to-day operations here at the organization's headquarters and his name regularly finds its way into media accounts. Because of that, public perception is Mr. Neal runs the MIAA.

That's a notion disputed by him and by some directors. Five directors interviewed for this story unanimously agree Mr. Neal, as CEO, doesn't plot the course, he follows it.

"Ultimately, Dick takes his action based on the board," said Sean Gilrein, superintendent of the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District

"I can tell you clearly - the meetings are not run by Dick Neal," said Mary Carlson, the superintendent of Marlboro schools and principal at Marlboro High School.

"The board doesn't need me to lead it - it's comprised of leaders," Mr. Neal said. "As boards change, I see my role changing. But I am very conscious of a couple of things and one is we work for our school leaders and not the other way around. I take my direction from them."

ART: CHART

CUTLINE: MIAA executive directors
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 23, 2008
Words:877
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