WSAZ Investigates: Superintendent Salaries
Tough job, great pay – WSAZ Investigates takes a look at how well school superintendents are compensated in our region.
While superintendents often are handed a ton of responsibility, they also can earn a ton of money.
In our region, they bring home some of the top salaries in their field across the country -- even as our teachers fight their way up from the bottom.
So how does this all sit with teachers? The answer is not so cut and dry.
While teachers in our three-state region still have a long way to go on the salary scale, our state superintendents -- especially in West Virginia and Kentucky -- are on the other end of that scale.
A recent report on the news website edweek.org shows newly resigned Kentucky State Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt was pulling in the seventh highest salary among his peers nationwide. Just five spots behind, West Virginia State Superintendent Steven Paine is ranked 12th. Ohio's Superintendent Paolo Demaria is in the middle of the pack at 26th.
West Virginia Sen. Bob Plymale, a Democrat from Wayne County and longtime member of the education committee, tells us they're not only competing with other states to find good superintendents, but individual counties and districts as well.
"Some of these superintendents in Georgia make $400,000,” Plymale said. “They're making more than the state super in that case. The competition for good people is that tough. If they want to get somebody who will move them where they want to, that's what they're doing."
So you might imagine after all the consternation at the capitals in both West Virginia and Kentucky, there would be some anger about top administrators taking home top salaries. But it's not so cut and dry.
"We don't disagree that that shouldn't get paid what they get paid,” said Vera Miller, an elementary school music teacher and president of the Cabell County Education Association. “We just think we need to bump the teaches up to a more competitive salary you match that proportion, not necessarily bring the superintendents down."
Miller says their main focus isn't administrative pay -- it's their pay, and keeping 55 united in lawmakers' faces.
“It’s not just going to be in the election year. It's going to be throughout their term,” Miller said. We're going to be very strong voices from here on out."
It’s the same story in Kentucky where several teachers told us they feel like their administrators are allies in their fight to move education reform to a whole new level. At last count, nearly 40 current and former teachers were running for seats in the Kentucky State Legislature.
There seems to be no begrudging superintendent paychecks. But teachers would definitely like to see their salaries move up on the national scale, too.
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Christine Campbell says the argument that states like West Virginia and Kentucky have no choice but to increase superintendent pay to compete with other states can and should be applied to teachers.
"Even if we don't look at the national ranking, and we just look at the regional, the focus should be on how we can compete with those states so we can keep people here in West Virginia, and not see this constant increase in vacancies,” Campbell said.
She add that the pay disparity issue extends to the county level, as well. She cited a recent audit that pointed out county superintendent salaries are recommended by their local boards and can see big bumps -- while a teacher with 25 years of experience, along with multiple degrees and awards, maxes out at $60,000 yearly.
They'd like to see that ceiling for teachers disappear.