Thursday, February 21, 2013

Oakland County superintendents among top paid in the state

Many superintendents work pretty hard for their salaries. I know that when I worked in Atlanta many supers made far more than the supers here. This especially occurred in districts that were not the most desirable. 

Oakland County superintendents among top paid in the state

Farmington school district’s school superintendent is ranked as having the fourth highest salary among the top school leaders in the states, according to a list of salaries released by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Two Oakland superintendents rank in the top 10 and a total of five are in the top 20 among Michigan’s 606 school districts.

The amounts listed as salaries include a combined total of base salaries plus all fringe benefits that can include health insurance, pension, 401K contribution, retirement contribution, car allowances, annuity and expenses. The size of the district is not always a factor.

Ranking as fourth highest paid superintendent in Michigan, including benefits  such as retirement contribution, is the 11,763-student Farmington Superintendent Susan Zurvalec, with a salary of $277,867.
The other Michigan districts with the highest salaries is Utica at the highest salary of $300,789; the Rockford district at $290,445; the Kalamazoo district at $280,469; and Wayne-Westland district at $273,875.

The Troy school district is among the top 10 statewide with a salary of $273,615. In the top 20 statewide are the Bloomfield Hills district with a $259,763 salary; the South Lyon district at $259,260, and the Birmingham district at $253,396.

"Our district houses programs that do not appear in other districts," explained Shira Good, spokeswoman for the Bloomfield Hills district. " For example, our district houses a few county-wide center programs, has fiscal and physical responsibilities for the International Academy, and maintains both a forty-acre Nature Center and fully operational Farm.

"Our superintendent is more than just the CEO of our school district.  He also serves as the instructional leader and creates the path forward for our entire school community," Good said, Thursday.

Oakland Schools Superintendent Vickie Markavitch is the third highest paid among the state’s intermediate school superintendents, with a salary of $246,183, putting her at 24th in the overall state ranking, according to the Mackinac survey. Kent and Ottawa county intermediate district superintendents recieve higher compensation.

Kent Barnes, superintendent of the 3,600-student Holly school district since the early 1990s, has the distinction of having the lowest total compensation among Oakland County superintendents and is 386th statewide, with a salary of $130,814. This includes his $5,031 for pension or annuity and no other fringe benefits. A handful of other districts show a lower base pay, but fringe benefits bring their pay higher.
“I’ve had the same salary the last four years,” said Barnes, who plans to retire in June.

“I can’t ask people to take a salary reduction or have their salary is remain the same and take a salary increase,” said Barnes, whose district’s Holly High School, was named as one of the two Oakland County high schools noted by the Michigan Department of Education as “Beating the Odds.’’

However, Barnes has no criticism of other superintendents or districts for their higher salaries.

“I’m sure local districts pay their superintendents appropriately for the needs of their job,” he said. “I’ve never begrudged anyone what they made. That is between the board of education and the community.

“I don’t stay at Holly because of the salary,” Barnes said. Besides wanting to do the best for Holly students, Barnes said he also stays, “because I enjoy the community and I enjoy the civic groups I’m in. After I retire in June, my family and I are going to remain here.”

 Frank Reed, board president for Farmington school district,  was not available for comment Wednesday, not did other districts comment.

On Thursday, Markavitch said, "Given the scope, reach and uniqueness of the work done by school superintendents, the salaries paid are well earned. I am proud to be part of this educational community that puts student achievement and community service above all else," said Markavitch, who is superintendent of the intermediate district that serves all 28 of the county’s public districts. 

However, George Ehlert, president of the Oakland Schools Board of Education, said in an Oakland Press report about superintendent salaries last year that he thought the superintendents deserved their compensation.

“It is a tough, tough job to be a superintendent,” Ehlert said. “When you look at the number of issues confronting schools, all the cutbacks, Every district is losing staff at the same time demands and expectations are increasing,” he said.

Ehlert also pointed to Oakland County as being one of the wealthier in the nation with residents having high expectations of their schools and their school district leaders.
Salaries at 10 of the school districts had been frozen as of last year’s report on superintendents. And most of the 11 new superintendents hired in the past year made considerably less than their long-time predecessors.

Michael Van Beek, director of education policy for the Mackinac Center, said, “While compensation for superintendents only amounts to about 1 percent of public school spending, the public should have easy access to this particular information.

“As CEO of districts and often the highest paid government employee in a local community, superintendent pay deserves an extra level of public scrutiny.”

Also, Van Beek added, “Taxpayers deserve to know what kind of value they’re getting out of publicly funded schools and that includes everything from the superintendent on down.”

Superintendent compensation in other Oakland County districts as reported in the new data base include: Southfield $238,062; Rochester $235,679; Avondale $234,656; Novi $233,128; Berkley $232,049; West Bloomfield $230,798; Lamphere $226,675; Royal Oak $2220,432; Walled Lake $220,352; Ferndale $217,143; Waterford $213,577; Clarkston $206,941; Huron Valley $203,068; Oxford $199,70; Clarenceville $187,140; Oak Park $184,567; Lake Orion $169,017; Madison $159,462; Clawson $146,000; Hazel Park $139,079; and Holly $130,814. New Pontiac Superintendent Brian Dougherty’s salary was not listed. But a previous report indicated he has a base salary of $145,000 plus $500 in expenses and the incentive of a $5,000-401K contribution and a merit amount based on performance.

Brandon Superintendent Lorraine McMahon said her compensation, listed as $170,943 in the Mackinac Center data bank is incorrect. It should be listed as about $140,000, McMahon said, because she does not get retirement contribution of $24,452 listed by the center and her insurance is $5,500, not $12,591 as listed.

The Mackinac Center’s new online database that is available to the public, provides detailed compensation data for every conventional and intermediate school district superintendent contract, union contract, district-level funding and spending statistics and an apples-to-apples high school achievement database that adjusts test score results based on socioeconomic factors.

The superintendent compensation database can be found at

Contact Diana Dillaber Murray at 248-745-4638 or or follow her on Twitter at @DDillybar