Superintendents Underpaid

I recently read the article titled, “Education Pays Off Well: Local Salaries Revealed,” and was disappointed. In this article, your newspaper listed the 2010 salaries for superintendents of local school districts in Ohio. I had no problem with this – these salaries are public knowledge and anybody can request this type of information from any school district they choose. I was disappointed by the position that these superintendents are being paid too much.

A superintendent is similar to the CEO of a company, the top executive of their organization answering to a board of directors (board of education). Superintendents have a layer of middle management, building principals, who ensure that board policy is carried out who they are responsible for hiring, evaluating and sometimes firing. Superintendents also have to negotiate with the labor union on developing a collective bargaining agreement. This normally occurs every two years and sometimes even every year.

Our local superintendents oversee a multi-million dollar budget and a workforce, even in the smallest districts, of over 100 employees.

Superintendents do not work 40 hour weeks; you can probably double that. There are very few nights that don’t include attendance at either a community or school function. Couple that with difficulties in balancing budgets due to inequities in school funding and an aging population that is reluctant to support school districts financially through the passage of levies, and it is easy to see that the superintendency is a real pressure-cooker.

As a taxpayer, I want the best person money can buy to run my school district. The stakes are too high – I don’t want a “bargain” superintendent. I want a CEO who will ensure that the students in my community are receiving an education that will allow them to be competitive globally. I want a CEO who will ensure that students graduate because I know that drop-outs cost me money as a tax payer. They are more likely to be: (1) incarcerated, (2) on public assistance, (3) create or continue a cycle of generational poverty that is a drain on our communities, and (4) more of a strain on our health care system.

Maybe we should quit complaining about how much money superintendents and other school personnel earn and start thinking about what we expect them to accomplish. Most tax payers in a school district know the score of last Friday’s football game, but how many know the school district’s mission and vision? What type of school district are they trying to create and what are they doing to improve outcomes for students?

These kids are the key to the future prosperity of this country and the quality education of these students needs to be our top priority.

Once again, transparency is good and necessary in a democratic society but our local superintendents and other school personnel are not overpaid. If anything, when you consider the importance and scope of their work, they are under-compensated for what they do and for what they contribute to their communities.

T.C. Chappelear