The school superintendent, called CEO after the school/business takeover, is considered the superman or woman of the school district. Sometimes they are elected, but more often they are appointed by school boards.
There are still some great school superintendents. But there are many others who seem to be less a public servant (superintendent) and more high-priced executives (CEO). They earn exorbitant salaries and lovely perks while they cut teaching positions, resources, and services.
Superintendents might now come from careers outside teaching where they have never worked in the classroom. Many attend the Broad Academy. These individuals make a different kind of leader–one who focuses on data collection, high-stakes testing, and management of student behavior.
One can easily see that many school CEOs are really all about privatizing public schools and weakening the teachers union.
More recently they might work to replace teachers with digital instruction.
In 2014, Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy lost his job partly due to ethical violations and his involvement with the district’s $1.3 billion iPad program.
In many places, these so-called supermen and superwomen are treated like royalty. Here are just some of the noted perks superintendents might get.
- half million dollar salaries
- pension benefits
- extra vacation time or paid leave
- security details
- personal vehicles and drivers
- bonuses of upwards of $30,000
- home loans
- large life insurance premiums
In this time of school accountability, why does the top person in charge not be held to higher standards on behalf of the students, parents and teachers they are supposed to serve?
In Prince George’s, Maryland the superintendent is paid $290,000, much more than Maryland’s governor who is paid $150,000. Many superintendents make more than governors. So why isn’t that salary contingent on the super—man in this case—making sure everything goes right in the school district?
Prince George’s has a Head Start program that badly mistreated children, and they have had to cut the jobs of 500 teachers. They’ve had other problems too.
Move on down to North Carolina where the super people, as of 2013, got six-figure salaries and thousands of dollars in special perks which included: cars, gym memberships, money for mortgage payments, and extra vacation time. One super woman there got a rent free house with a $4,300 fence to keep her dogs from running away.
In Memphis, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson, a lawyer not an educator, looked on as board members debated whether he should get a bonus. Hopson gets an SUV and a $269,000 salary.
Hopson is given credit for raising test scores, but the district still shutters schools. When schools are turned over to charter groups (in Memphis called the Achievement School District), also funded by the public, they get a separate superintendent–also paid for with tax dollars.
Shouldn’t a public school superintendent’s salary be contingent on their saving struggling public schools and keeping them open?
While the board debated Hopson’s salary, they also threatened eliminating teacher retirement. But Hopson got his $15,000 bonus anyway. This is someone who at one point threatened to cut the health benefits of retired teachers claiming there was not enough money in the budget. HERE.
So what is it that these super people do that warrants the glamour? Most of these officials have a huge staff that does a lot of the work found in the superintendent’s job description.
Here is a definition provided by the Chronicle of Higher Education:
A school superintendent is the chief executive officer of a school district. A superintendent is usually hired by the school board of the district. As the CEO, superintendents have general management responsibilities, including hiring of senior staff. They typically oversee education standards and student achievement, plan budgets and allocate resources, and also act as the point person for interactions with government agencies.
School superintendents treated like super people who stand on the wreckage of a poor school district, make the general public distrustful of public schools in general.
Better scrutiny is called for.
I would love to hear what superintendents do well and also about those who make school cuts while they enjoy life’s luxuries.
There is a need for good leaders in a public school system, but their employment should be that of a public servant not a high-powered executive. And exorbitant perks while teachers lose their jobs and school resources and programs are cut or mismanaged is inexcusable.