School & District Management

Houston’s Paige Becomes Top-Paid Superintendent

By Alan Richard — May 17, 2000 2 min read
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Rod Paige of Houston has become the nation’s highest-paid superintendent, after a school board vote there raised his salary to $275,000 a year.

Mr. Paige, a former school board president in the city who was hired as the superintendent in 1994, is credited with drastically improving the image and public support of the 208,000-student district. He has worked closely with civic and business leaders, reshaped administrative and instructional approaches, and seen test scores rise steadily—especially for poor and minority children.

Rod Paige

Mr. Paige, who could not be reached last week, is an education adviser to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Recently, he also has drawn interest from firms searching for superintendents for the school systems in New York City and Los Angeles.

“We were giving him some significant raise because he earned it and because he deserves it, and not because we were worried he was going to leave for another school district,” said Don McAdams, a Houston school board member who was first elected alongside Mr. Paige in 1989.

The new contract, approved May 4 during Mr. Paige’s yearly review, is for $275,000 a year plus up to $25,000 in incentives based on improved test scores.

Board members surprised Mr. Paige with the $56,000 raise, moving him ahead of Dallas Superintendent Waldemar “Bill” Rojas’ $260,000. Mr. Rojas was believed to be the country’s highest-paid district chief as of last November. (“Pay Soars for Schools Chiefs in Big Districts,” Nov. 3, 1999.)

‘Better Than We Thought’

Mr. McAdams said superintendents in smaller Texas districts—including one that adjoins Houston—made more than Mr. Paige until now.

One of the accomplishments Mr. Paige is often credited with is bringing stability to the district, though the decision to hire him six years ago was criticized by some as politically motivated. Now, some observers see the district as a model for urban districts pursuing increased accountability and standards-based reforms.

“In truth, we thought he would be extraordinarily good. He turned out to be better than we thought,” Mr. McAdams said.

“He has very strong people in different roles. A lot of superintendents don’t seem to be able to do that,” said Paul D. Houston, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators in Arlington, Va.

The result, many observers say, is vastly better training for educators, a reworked curriculum, and renewed public interest in the schools—as shown by a $678 million bond vote in 1998.

A version of this article appeared in the May 17, 2000 edition of Education Week as Houston’s Paige Becomes Top-Paid Superintendent


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