Oklahoma school superintendents earn more than $52 million this year

Oklahomans will spend about $52 million this year on superintendent salaries for the more than 500 school districts and charter schools in the state. In embattled districts, such as Midwest City-Del City, superintendent salaries face extra scrutiny.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND and TRICIA PEMBERTON Modified: March 6, 2011 at 8:08 am •  Published: March 6, 2011
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The Midwest City-Del City School District has threatened to lay off 200 teachers and plans to close two elementary schools to save money, but its superintendent earns more and has more high-paid assistants than colleagues in much bigger school systems.

Mid-Del Superintendent Bill Scoggan's total compensation of $185,623 is part of $52 million being spent this year on superintendent salaries for the more than 500 school districts and charter schools throughout the state.

Mid-Del has five assistant superintendents, the most of any district in the state, each earning more than $100,000, and is considering hiring a deputy superintendent to help in the transition as Scoggan plans to retire June 30.

By comparison, Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer, who manages the state's largest district, with 42,000 students, took a $27,000 pay cut in 2010, bringing his total compensation to $174,000. Three people on his staff have the job title of assistant superintendent.

Both Tulsa and Oklahoma City school boards made significant cuts in the number of assistant superintendents last school year. In Oklahoma City, four top-level administrators were laid off, or empty positions were eliminated, for a savings of roughly $400,000.

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard said Tulsa went from having eight area and deputy superintendents to having one chief of staff and two associate superintendents. In total, he said, the district saved $5 million in the central office, entirely from salaries.

There are currently eight positions in the central office that make more than $100,000, he said.

“We're not a business. We're not corporate. We don't pretend to be,” Ballard said. “I would say, too, our overall percentage of administrative costs is pretty low.”

Ballard said he has the exact same salary he had last year, $256,000, which makes him the second highest paid administrator in the state at the second largest district in the state.

In Mid-Del, school board member LeRoy Porter said that when the board hired Scoggan in 2005 and later authorized a pay raise, it compared his salary and other benefits with other 6A school districts in the state and tried to hit a midrange target.

“We try to keep our salaries competitive, because if we don't, we get someone in here for a year and a half and then we lose them,” Porter said. “We've lost administrators to Edmond, Mustang, Norman.

“You can't hire someone to manage 26 campuses, 1,500 teachers and 14,000-plus students and say, ‘I'm only going to pay you $50,000 a year.' You can't do that. You have to stay competitive. You have to take into consideration their experience and their knowledge.”

Porter said one of the assistant superintendents is over the district's technology center. He said Mid-Del is the only district in the state to have its own center. Others are in charge of instruction, finance, personnel and facilities.

Still, he said, administrative costs are the first area the board is going to look at when considering the budget for next year.

“We're going to consolidate, cut, redistribute,” he said. “We will start with administration first and then look at other programs.”

Overall, Oklahomans will pay assistant superintendents $9.3 million for the 2010-2011 school year.

Favor sharing

Lawmakers are proposing this year a bill that would reward neighboring districts for sharing a superintendent to cut costs.

“We're a great target,” said Steven Crawford, a former superintendent, who now heads the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration. “Most people have no idea what a superintendent does.

“It's a 24/7 job, 365 days a year. It burns a lot of people out, and it's going to always be the highest paid job in the system, and it should be.”

The top-paid superintendent is Kirby Lehman from Jenks Public Schools with a total compensation package of $266,917. The average salary for superintendents in Oklahoma is $95,937.

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