June 29, 2014

Pay Can Be Surprisingly Good for Rural Superintendents

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Salaries are a large share of district administrative costs and are often cited by critics of education spending.

Salary data for superintendents obtained by Oklahoma Watch shows that superintendents of larger districts earn the highest amounts. But when the pay is measured in dollars per student, the compensation for superintendents of some small rural districts appears fairly generous.

Reydon, Balko and Tenkiller public schools are examples where the superintendent makes six figures for overseeing a district with fewer than 300 students.

Phillip Drouhard of Reydon makes $116,041, including benefits, which translates to $936 per student. Larry Mills of Balko makes $103,608, or $682 per student, and Randy Rountree of Tenkiller makes $126,130, or $436 per student, according to state Department of Education data. Drouhard, Mills and Rountree could not be reached for comment.

At Taloga Public Schools in western Oklahoma, Superintendent Darci Lingle makes $80,682 to lead a district with 70 students. That gives her the highest dollar-per-student rate in the state, at $1,000 per student.

Lingle said in an email that superintendents in small districts handle a variety of duties. “I help with scheduling, policies, student discipline, staff development, drive a route as needed as well as other responsibilities,” she said, adding, “Our revenue comes primarily from local sources.” According to state data, Taloga’s funding is nearly $23,000 per student.

None of the four districts have exceeded their caps on administrative spending.

Steven Crawford, executive director of Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, said higher pay is often needed to draw people to districts like Taloga.

“In order to get the best candidates, you got to pay them enough to move out there,” Crawford said. “These are remote, isolated communities.”

Starting in 2014-2015, the highest paid superintendent will be the newly hired Robert Neu, of Oklahoma City Public Schools. He will earn $275,000, including benefits, or about $6 per student. The district’s enrollment last year was more than 45,000.

Nate Robson can be reached at nrobson@oklahomawatch.org