School Superintendent Salaries: In Line or Out of Whack? - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

School Superintendent Salaries: In Line or Out of Whack?

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By: Ashley Ritchie

In classrooms across California, the lesson being learned is a hard one.

"We're absolutely receiving less than we ever have. We continue to shrink the organization to match the budget," Cindi Costa, Visalia Unified School District, said.

At the Visalia Unified School District, that budget makes the bottom line a struggle.

"We're trying to keep it as far away from the students and programs as we absolutely can," Costa said.

And the district's superintendent of schools isn't getting rich either.

"At first blush, it certainly looks like our superintendent is underpaid for the amount of work or the size of our district," Costa said.

And if you take a look at the numbers, she's right.

Visalia Unified serves about 27,000 students. Visalia's superintendent makes about $150,000. Add in his perks and he makes a total of around $155,000.

Now drive north to the Clovis Unified School District. It's the local district closest in size to Visalia.

Clovis Unified serves about 37,000 students. Clovis' superintendent brings in a base salary of more than $232,000 a year. He also receives car and expense allowances, 20 paid vacation days, 12 sick days, plus a $1 million life insurance policy.

Despite numerous requests for an interview, Clovis district officials refused.

Clovis Unified's superintendent is the second highest paid in the Valley.

The highest paid is Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson. His district serves more than 73,000 students. He gets $277,000 a year, $1,000 a month for travel and health benefits totaling almost $14,000 annually.

Like Clovis, Fresno Unified officials refused to talk.

Visalia Unified officials say they understand as a school district they're using public funds.
That's why it's so important that people living there are able to see right through their finances.

"We're a public agency. We operate under public funds. We completely understand that one of our largest responsibilities is to do that well. In addition to our core mission, which is of course to teach students and increase their achievement, we also have to make sure that we are transparent and we manage our funds correctly so the district remains solvent," Costa said.

So here's how the rest of the numbers play out:

Farmersville, Selma, Cutler-Orosi and Dinuba all have between 2,000 and 6,000 students.

Selma's superintendent brings in $172,804, Cutler-Orosi's makes $180,493, Dinuba and Farmersville's superintendents both make about $162,000.

"We're here doing, my managers, sometimes the work of two or three people because I don't have those people I can send to a meeting. I handle personnel personally. So I have to go to all the personnel meetings," Janet Jones, Farmersville Unified Superintendent, said.

Jones says, though she makes slightly more than some bigger districts around her, she's been with the district for decades and handles tasks superintendents from other districts might not have to.

"If we have a parent complaint, I don't have somebody to put the parent complaint on; they're going to meet with me either during the course of the day or after school," Jones said.

Sanger, Madera and Porterville are larger school systems with between 10,000 and 20,000 students.

With all the perks, Sanger's superintendent makes $200,059, Porterville is at about $154,987 and Madera's superintendent position, which is open right now, usually pulls in about $186,058.

"You want to offer a competitive salary and one that's comparable with districts demographically, one that's comparable geographically, so like I said you're not out of whack on the high or the low side," Jake Bragonier, Madera Unified School District, said.

Regardless of district size, superintendents around the Valley are all pulling in six-figures.
And yes, in this economy, that's a nice paycheck, especially considering the average teacher's salary in California is less than $70,000 a year.

But those who would speak on camera say when you stack up the workload of a superintendent, it's always more.

"225 day work-year versus 185 day-work year. The level of responsibility, not to say teaching is not important, it's the most important work we do, but the management of an organization this size is a huge responsibility. The time commitment is unbelievable," Costa said.

KMPH also requested the information about how much money school board members in each district make.

All districts provide their board members with the option of health insurance benefits.

The highest paid are the Fresno Unified school board members. They get about $1,500 a month in addition to their health benefits.

The only district we found that doesn't pay its board members for their service is Sanger.

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