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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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.”

Contributing: Database Editor Paul Monies

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