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.
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.
Jenks School Board President Jon Phillips said he's comfortable with Lehman's compensation.
“The thing that I think separates Dr. Lehman first and foremost is his tenure. This is his 22nd year at Jenks, which is by far the longest of any large district,” Phillips said. “Essentially, he's running a $60 million organization, and I know he works tirelessly.”
In the metro area, Norman's Superintendent Joe Siano makes the most with a total compensation of $187,989. Scoggan is the second highest-paid in the metro area.
Most didn't get raises
An analysis of superintendent salary data provided by the Education Department shows that some superintendents received raises last year despite statewide budget cuts. Some took pay cuts, and the majority remained about the same.
Superintendents in more than 100 school districts made at least $1,000 more than they did last year in the same position, including the superintendents in Crutcho and El Reno school districts, who received more than $10,000 raises.
Those figures may include increased amounts for health care and other benefits meted out by the state, not raises.
Ranet Tippens, El Reno superintendent, received almost a $17,000 raise this school year. It's her first raise in her four years, she said, and brings her to a total compensation of $130,072.
Tippens insisted some of her raise is in retirement and health insurance benefits, but she also said her salary has been among the lowest of similar 5A schools.
She also said she does three jobs now after the district cut central office staff by more than 50 percent. Tippens is now her own assistant superintendent of finance and the director of curriculum.
The district also cut 8 percent in certified staff, 10 percent in support staff and 8 percent in principal administration, she said.
“El Reno is down to bare bones and below the proposed legislative cap of 5 percent for administrative costs,” she said. “When you look at smaller districts, you have to look at all of the roles those people are filling.”
Superintendent Teresa McAfee of Crutcho Public Schools in eastern Oklahoma City received a $13,627 increase in total salary this year bringing her total compensation to $97,372.
McAfee said the board gave her a raise because the prekindergarten through eighth grade school had received almost a million for this school year in a school improvement grant given to underperforming schools. The school increased the length of the school day and she has been working long hours.
Oklahoma City's Springer explained why he took a pay cut last year.
“There were no salary increases, the central office took furloughs, we had layoffs,” Springer said of the last fiscal year, when 131 first-year teachers were let go. “The least the superintendent could do was look at his salary and adjust it.”
The award for lowest-paid superintendent goes to Terry Selman with Byars Public Schools in McClain County who is paid $33,000 total compensation, up from $20,000 several years ago.
Selman came out of retirement 12 years ago to try to save the 52-student, pre-K through eighth grade school district.
“The school was just about to go under and by saving what they save on my salary compared to other school districts ... we were able to accumulate $220,000 in reserves,” Selman said.
When he retired in 1998 from Wayne Public Schools, Selman said there was a strong criticism of how many superintendents there were across the state and their excessive salaries. He then made about $55,000.
“I was just going to throw in the towel, but the people here, they act like I was sent from heaven,” Selman said. “It's kind of nice to feel appreciated.”