How much are Alabama school superintendents making?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Do you know how much money the superintendent makes in your child’s school district?

They’re ultimately responsible for making sure your son or daughter is offered the best education possible.

But, many superintendents in Alabama are leading systems with schools on the “failing schools” list, while pulling in massive salaries that would shock many people. When it comes to making money in Alabama’s education system, superintendent is definitely the job to have.

Alabama’s superintendents make an average of $128,000 a year, with some locally making more than $200,000.

“That is absolutely ridiculous,” said Jefferson county resident Margaret Carmichael, when she first heard the salary of the superintendent in Jefferson county and other districts.

She was not only surprised to hear about the high salaries, but was upset that superintendents with failing schools were making that kind of cash!

“I think that’s terrible. They shouldn’t be allowed to get that much money for failing schools,” Carmichael said.

Trisha Crain, who runs the Alabama School Connection website, is an education advocate who says there isn’t a standard for superintendent salaries in Alabama.

“There is no formula to say that if you have this many students, this is how much a superintendent should be paid,” said Crain.

She said it’s surprising how many people don’t know what their superintendent makes.

“When I republish the list of superintendent salaries every year, I get board members reaching out to me saying: ‘I didn’t know our superintendent made that much money’. I’m thinking to myself, how could a board member not know that a superintendent makes that amount of money? But, I think in this state we just don’t talk about people’s salaries much,” Crain said.

According to the State Department of Education, Dr. Craig Pouncey in Jefferson County is the highest paid superintendent, raking in $228,000 a year. That doesn’t sit well with people WIAT spoke with.

“Jefferson County is talking about getting rid of teachers now, and I think it’s unfair because they’re paying higher wages to other people. If they’re gonna get rid of anybody, it ought to start at the top, instead of the bottom,” said Jefferson county resident Windom Lewis.

But, Dr. Craig Pouncey told WIAT 42 news he’s never been concerned about what a salary meant.

“It’s always been about working with kids and trying to make situations better. So, whether it’s justified or not, that’s for somebody else to determine,” Pouncey said.

But, should his large salary be questioned since his system has Center Point High School on the “failing schools” list?

“Anybody who tries to compare the work ethic or the abilities of someone based on the way schools may or may not be properly labeled don’t know what they need to know about public education,” said Pouncey.

The superintendent salary for Birmingham schools, which has seven on the “failing schools” list, is $202,155 per year. A permanent replacement for Dr. Craig Witherspoon still hasn’t been named.

Tuscaloosa City, which has Central High School listed as a “failing school”, pays their superintendent, Dr. Paul McKendrick, $198,900 annually. He declined WIAT’s request for an interview or statement.

Bessemer Schools superintendent, Dr. Fred Primm Jr., makes $135,265 a year, with Bessemer City High School on the “failing schools” list. He never responded to WIAT’s repeated interview requests.

Meanwhile, the superintendent of Anniston City Schools, Darren Douthitt, makes $132,600 a year, with Anniston Middle listed as a “failing school”. Douthitt’s official response to WIAT 42 news was: “I have a problem with the entire idea and philosophy of schools being called ‘failing schools’. Our school is not ‘failing,'” Douthitt said.

However, he did not respond to WIAT asking if his salary was justified.

Gadsden city schools superintendent, Dr. Ed Miller, makes $143,247 annually, with Litchfield Middle School on the “failing schools” list.

Dr. Miller gave WIAT this statement: “Gadsden City Schools seeks for every student to achieve and move forward in their learning. Though Litchfield was placed on the failing list, LMS has been moving forward and has improved in achievement for the past three years.  It is always the goal of Gadsden City for our students to make positive progress in achievement and we continue to strive for all of our students to do so.”

However, he too did not respond to whether his salary was justified.

Crain said evaluating salaries and determining if they’re justified should be something done by every school system in Alabama.

“I think it’s fair for a community to understand why a superintendent is being paid that much. What makes her or him that valuable to the system, and how is the board gonna hold that superintendent accountable?” Crain said.

Some school systems are incredibly small, yet the superintendent still takes home a hefty paycheck.

The Pike Road School System in Montgomery county pays their superintendent $165,000 dollars a year, yet the entire school system is only one school.

So, how much money does the superintendent make in your child’s school district?

Go to this link for a list of superintendent salaries from every city and county school system in the state of Alabama: http://alabamaschoolconnection.org/2015/02/10/superintendent-salaries-for-fy15/

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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