Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Superintendent Compensation

There has been a discussion recently about superintendent salaries.  As I have researched this subject, I have concluded that our superintendent compensation is in line with national and state averages for large districts.

This article from the Salt Lake Tribune in 2010 examined the average salaries and how Utah compares to other states.  Across the country, superintendents' base salary averages $225,897 for districts with 25,000 or more students.

 "Alpine School District recently decided to adjust Superintendent Vernon Henshaw's salary to make it more competitive. Henshaw leads the state's third-largest district, but last year, he received the smallest compensation package among superintendents of Utah's five largest districts. "The Alpine Board of Education conducted a market analysis, comparing his pay with regional and national salaries. The board opted to give Henshaw a 5.3 percent raise for 2010-11, boosting his salary from $188,969 to $198,965, but still well below the national average."

"The bottom line is, we're competing with the Wasatch Front," said Board President Debbie Taylor. "People from out of state take one look [at Utah's per-pupil funding and large class sizes] and say, 'Never mind.'

In 2012 KSL reported "The Alpine School Board approved a new contract and pay increase for Superintendent Vern Henshaw on Tuesday. Henshaw will begin his 13th year as superintendent over the state's largest school district with a 2-percent raise, bringing his base salary to $211,335" The superintendent received the same percentage compensation increase as teachers in the district.
"To get quality, you have to be competitive," Taylor said. "People don't work for nothing. They want to be paid for their work. We are really very efficient with our money."

 A recent article in the Daily Herald compared gross compensation including benefits.  The large districts included in the analysis were:
  • "Alpine: 68,000 students, 5,010 full-time employees, ... superintendent gross compensation: $266,998"
  • "Granite: 67,700 students, 4,901 full-time employees, ... superintendent gross compensation: $245,000"
  • "Davis: 67,000 students, 4,000 full-time employees, ... superintendent gross compensation: $256,350"

It appears to me that the superintendent for Alpine district is receiving comparable compensation to other large districts in Utah.

I am highly committed to spending taxpayer dollars efficiently. Compensation decisions are always difficult, but they are particularly difficult when you look at the leader of a large organization. I am guessing that you have seen the impact a great leader can have on the vision and morale of an organization. I have been really impressed with the culture that Vern Henshaw has created in the district.

Almost every teacher is involved in continual improvement and student scores show that his approach is working. If his compensation were tied to increases in student scores, his compensation would be much higher than it is.

The district operates on a budget of around $400,000,000 per year. Most of this is teacher salaries. If a great leader were able to motivate employees to be even 1% more efficient, this would result in a $4,000,000 increase in net benefit to the students. I guess I use this to illustrate the importance of having a great leader for the organization. If you decided to save money by hiring a less effective
leader with perhaps a $100,000 lower salary, you would be able to hire 2 additional teachers (this would lower the average class size by only 0.04%). And yet if it lowered teacher motivation by even 1%, this would be an extremely poor financial decision (you would save $100,000 and yet lose $4,000,000 in productivity).

I guess that it is difficult from even an individual employee perspective to justify paying lower than average salaries. You eventually lose the great employees that really make your organization

I would like more input on how to deal with salaries in the district. Although some items seem to have simple answers, I have looked at the budget in detail and I do not see any wasteful spending. Our business administrator is extremely careful with finances and in every case where I have thought I have spotted waste, I have received an explanation that shows that the budget decision was based on a valid and careful examination of the data.

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