District Administration magazine has an article out this month on superintendent salaries, based on research compiled by the Alexandria, Va.-based Educational Research Service, which has been collecting this information for nearly 40 years. The average superintendent salary was $161,992 in 2010-11, up from $159,634 in 2009-10. From the article:
Salaries of more than $225,000 were seen in districts with enrollment levels of more than 25,000 students, the salary survey states. "An outlier for a salary may be $300,000 for large city school systems, and there aren't too many of those," says Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Superintendents (AASA). "If we're looking at $300,000 as the high end, that same person in the private sector leading a company of that magnitude would be making well over $1 million—that's just a fact." As the AFL-CIO reported in its 2011 Executive Paywatch, CEOs at companies in Standard & Poor's 500 Index received, on average, $1.09 million in 2010. If you factor in stock options, bonuses, pensions and deferred compensation earnings, their income jumped to $11.4 million—a 23 percent increase from 2009. Cash-strapped school leaders saw, on average, a 1.48 percent increase from the $159,634 earnings of last year, and that's without other benefits and perks, according to the 2010-2011 salary survey.
The timing of this piece is fortuitous: I just wrote an article about how the provisions of superintendent contracts can sometimes lead to large buyouts like what we’ve seen recently in Philadelphia with Arlene Ackerman. She was asked to resign and her contract allowed her to receive $905,000, which was paid for with public and private funds.
But let’s talk about Domenech’s point, which is that a person with the same level of responsibility in the private sector would be making millions. “In public education, you’re supposed to take a dozen eggs and a slab of bacon for your compensation, and apologize for doing that,” joked Colin Cameron, the director of professional development for the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, when I interviewed him for my article.
So is it fair to complain about superintendent salaries when their jobs are so expansive?
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.