Superintendent Salary – Background and Data the BOE Used
This topic seems to generate more interest than any of the way more important topics surrounding education right now.
Since our TMZ news source is inclined to omit key parts of the context and history, here is a bit more of a factual overview:
Dr. Roberts had taken an 8% pay cut not after the millage failed, but after Governor Granholm cut our funding in the middle of the year as part of a way to address the major recession we were experiencing in Michigan. We were the only state that had not emerged out of recession from 2000, and our recession was exacerbated by the struggle our Big 3 auto manufacturers were suffering at the time, including potential bankruptcy that would have put Michigan into an unemployment range unlikely to be improved upon for decades and at a scale unseen in the US. Michigan already topped US unemployment during our search at 14.9%. This could have gotten much, much worse. While those of us that live here believe Ann Arbor is a great place to live, we had to be cognizant of what others might know about Ann Arbor and Michigan, generally. With a population of ~119,000, we didn’t assume everyone would know a lot about Ann Arbor.
Dr. Roberts then left the AAPS. He was able to find a job in North Carolina at an elite university-based program for math and science talented students with a student population of 650. His salary was $210,000. That was one data point that was very important to me when we had to then embark on a Superintendent search to replace him; especially given the size of the AAPS which has 16,500 students. This reinforced the notion that compensation is important in attracting top talent.
During the search, Robert Allen stepped into the interim superintendent role. We did not replace his prior role, but rather Nancy Hoover stepped up and everyone did a little more that year to try to get by since we continued to face annual operating reductions of 10% of our general operating budget.
We asked our search firm to conduct a benchmarking study in the US for other districts like ours: specifically, public schools that are in high-performing university towns. They did this study and cities like Cambridge, MA and Berkeley, CA were included. The median salary was $246,000. The BOE then set a target salary (we could have also used a range, but instead went with one number) of $245,000, which would be negotiable based on the experience level of the top candidate. Our top candidate, which accepted our offer, had 40 years of experience in education.
This was a data-driven approach that took in to consideration the macro economic situation, which was important in the context of this search, our town’s unique environment and our need to attract an experienced candidate. We did not feel this was a ‘resume-builder’ opportunity given the drastic cuts we expected to continue to face. We would need the best talent to help the AAPS get through the rough times ahead.
We anticipated that reductions would continue to be necessary, including to salaries of all of our staff, until Michigan decides to start investing in education again.