Email

2018-2019 Salaries Reported in January 2019

Superintendent Salaries: Data as a Piece of Art

By Lora Wolff and Denny Barr

Rarely would anyone other than a statistician consider a set of data to be a work of art. When the average person looks at a large data set, whether it be weather measures over time to prove or disprove climate change, returns on investment over time for stocks, or the compensation packages for superintendents in the state of Illinois, most would quickly get lost in the numbers and lose perspective on what those numbers really mean. However, just like a painting or a sculpture, data sets tell multiple and varied stories, depending on how a person looks at them.

Each year when we approach salary data, there is something new and different. The new and different this year was the data on full-time equivalency (FTE) for Illinois superintendents, which allowed for analysis on a more comparable level. The focus of this analysis is on superintendents with FTE of 0.9 or higher, with all other superintendent salaries excluded from the analysis. It is important to note that in previous years all superintendents were included in the analysis regardless of FTE. Including part-time superintendents, whose salaries could be assumed to have been on the lower end of the scale, decreased the average salary for all superintendents.

Because of the inclusion of FTE, we can draw a more accurate picture this year. Also because of this, making comparisons between 2018 data and previous years’ is cautioned.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 680 full-time superintendents and 189 part-time (with 0.1 to 0.89 FTE) superintendents  (see Table 1(Opens in a new window)). In addition to the part-time superintendents, four superintendents were excluded from the analysis: the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice superintendent, the Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer, and two superintendents with salaries that were outliers (one with a full-time salary of $15,000 and one with a salary $100,000 higher than the next closest superintendent, and a salary/benefit package on the high end as well). Excluding these four superintendents also made for a more accurate analysis.

Superintendent Base Salaries
The base salaries of Illinois superintendents from 2014 through 2018 is presented (see Table 2(Opens in a new window)). In each annual comparison, the median salary increased. In three of the four annual comparisons, superintendent salaries increased; in the other, from 2015 to 2016, the average salary was lower but by less than 1 percent. The 14.4 percent salary increase from 2017 to 2018, however, must be taken with caution, because, as stated, only full-time superintendents were included in the 2018 analysis. For the 680 full-time superintendents, the high salary was just over $300,000 (high school district), the average salary was $161,466 with the lowest salary of $71,400 (unit school district). 

When the reported benefits (bonuses, retirement, annuities, and other benefits) are included for full-time superintendents, both the high salary ($379,424) and average salary ($193,400) increased while the superintendent with the low salary remained the same (see Table 3(Opens in a new window)). The high salary for the part-time superintendents ranged from a high of $220,000 to a low of $13,038. Salary and benefits for the part-time superintendents ranged from a low of $15,613 to a high of $251,978. Table 3 also shows the variable in the FTE and the resultant salaries that led to the exclusion of the part-time superintendents in the analysis.

Superintendent Base Salaries by District Type
Analysis of superintendent base salaries and base salaries plus benefits was done by district type: elementary, high school, and unit (see Table 4(Opens in a new window)). For the elementary district superintendents, the high salary was $298,135 ($371,112 salary plus benefits). The average salary was $173,601 with the low salary of $78,064. The median salary of $174,431 ($207,831 salary plus benefits) was close to the average salary.

High school district superintendents, numbering 85, had the highest salaries in all four areas. The highest salary was $300,104 ($379,424 salary plus benefits), with an average salary of $190,897, the lowest salary of $101,418, and a median salary of $183,345 ($225,102 salary plus benefits).

The greatest variability in superintendent salaries when examined by district type was for the 317 unit district superintendents. The high base salary for unit superintendents was $290,038 (salary plus benefits $335,827). The low salary was $71,400 with an average salary of $149,932 (salary plus benefits $169,455). The median of unit district superintendents was $134,842 (salary plus benefits $159,803).

Base salaries were also compared at five percentiles (see Table 5)(Opens in a new window) for three years. At all percentiles the 2018 superintendent salaries were higher in 2017. Again, this is likely due to the exclusion of the part-time superintendents.

Regional Base Salaries and Base Salaries/Benefits
An analysis of the 680 reported salaries was also conducted by six regions (see Figure 1(Opens in a new window)): East Central, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, and West Central. The highest salary and salary plus benefits was in the Northeast region (see Table 6(Opens in a new window)). The Northeast region also had the highest average salary and salary plus benefits. The East Central region had the lowest high salary, almost $100,000 lower than the Northeast region. The East Central region also had the lowest base salary of $71,400; that reported salary plus benefits was the same.

In presenting elementary district superintendent salaries (high salary and average salary) for three years by the six regions (see Table 7(Opens in a new window)), two regions (Northeast and Southeast) had lower high salaries in 2018 than in prior years. Again, readers are cautioned that the higher 2018 average salaries are likely due to the exclusion of 189 part-time superintendent salaries. 
Superintendent salaries for high school districts are similar to elementary districts, with the Northeast region posting the highest salary and highest average salary. However, the Southeast region saw a decline in the high salary of over $23,000 and the Northeast region also had a decrease in the high salary. The Southwest region had no change in the high salary. 

The final analysis was for unit district superintendents by region. All regions saw an increase in the 2018 high salary over 2017. All regions except the Southeast region saw higher high salaries in 2018 than in 2016. Average unit superintendent salaries were also higher in 2018 in all regions; however, part-time salaries were not included in 2018.

Whether or not our superintendent salary studies can be considered a work of art is probably up for debate. However, just like a person viewing a painting or sculpture, each person comes to the data with a background and perspective, creates an interpretation, and then applies it to a unique set of local factors and priorities. We’ll leave further interpretation of the superintendent salary artwork up to the reviewer. 

Authors’ notes
From 1995 to 2007, researchers at Western Illinois University collected and compiled data on the salaries of district superintendents and principals in Illinois. The Illinois School Board Journal published a study of that voluntarily submitted data. With the introduction of mandatory reporting of administrator salaries, the data was unavailable for several years. In 2014, the Illinois State Board of Education made its data available to researchers. Since then, the series has resumed. The full series and resources associated with this article are available via the Journal resources page at blog.iasb.com/p/journal-resources.html.
Thanks to Jackie Matthews, ISBE Director of Media and External Communications and ISBE’s data analysis division for providing the raw data. Thanks to Jordan Arndt and Karolyn Ericksen, graduate assistants at Western Illinois University, for sorting the data.

Lora Wolff, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Educational Leadership at Western Illinois University and was previously superintendent for Keokuk Community Schools in Iowa. Denny Barr, Ed.D., is an assistant professor of Educational Leadership at Western Illinois University and the graduate program coordinator for the M.S.Ed. in Educational Leadership and principal endorsement programs in the Educational Studies Department.

 

Not the Same: Principal, Assistant Principal Salaries Vary by Region, District Type

By Lora Wolff and Denny Barr

Disparity can be defined as a lack of similarity. Anyone who grew up watching “Sesame Street,” knows the song that was played regularly on the show. The lyrics went something like, “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things is not the same. Can you tell me which of these things is not like the others by the time I finish this song?” In examining the principal and assistant principal salaries in Illinois by district type (elementary, high school, and unit) and by region (East Central, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, and West Central), “disparity” sums up the situation across the state. 

During the 2017-2018 academic year, there were 3,560 full-time principals with 556 part-time principals (0.1-0.89 full-time equivalent or FTE) (see Table 1(Opens in a new window)). To arrive at the most accurate comparisons, only the full-time principals were utilized for the data analysis. Additionally, the five principals from the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice were excluded from the analysis due to their specialized circumstance. 

In examining principal salaries from 2014 through 2018, the average salary increased each year as did the median salary (see Table 2(Opens in a new window)). Average salary increased by just over $10,000 in the five-year period, and the median salary increase by $8,600. There was some fluctuation in the high salaries with 2017 having the highest principal salary of $238,007.

Looking at principal salaries by district type, unit districts, with 2,307, had the largest number of principals, followed by elementary district principals at 1,105 and high school district principals at 148 (see Table 3(Opens in a new window)). The highest principal salary of $210,000 was earned by a unit district principal. However, and notably, unit district principals also had the lowest salary ($33,175), the lowest average salary ($106,916), and the lowest median salary ($95,410). High school principals had the highest average salary of $141,604 and the highest median salary of $143,356. 

Illinois regions as reported in this data indicate the more significant disparities (See Figure 1). The Northeast region reported 2,145 full-time principals with the five other regions ranging from 173 principals to 368 (see Table 4(Opens in a new window)). That highest salary of $210,000 was earned by a Northeast region principal. The Northeast region also had the highest average, $121,772, and median, $121,062, salaries. The lowest average of $83,447 and lowest median of $83,000 were in the Southeast region. The difference from the highest to lowest average salary among regions was just over $38,000.

The study presents the salaries by district type (elementary, high school, and unit) and also breaks down the numbers by each region (see Table 5(Opens in a new window)).

Elementary District Principal Salaries
A total of 1,105 principals work in elementary districts, with 82% located in the Northeast region. This distribution makes sense with the larger number of elementary districts in the Northeast region. The high salary of $187,899 and highest average salary of $114,561 were in the Northeast region. 

High School District Principal Salaries
The highest principal salary of $205,818 for the 112 reporting high school districts was also in the Northeast region; as was the highest average salary ($152,747) and highest median salary ($153,985). The lowest principal salary in high school districts was in the Southeast region, $111,647. The East Central region had the lowest average salary of $94,500 and lowest median of $94,041. It is important to note that when reviewing the high school districts’ salaries, five of the six regions had 11 or fewer full-time principals. 

Unit District Principal Salaries
A total of 2,307 principals worked full-time in unit districts with almost half of them serving in the Northeast region. The Northeast region had the high salary of $210,000, highest average salary of $124,509, and highest median salary of $127,327. There was a difference of over $89,000 from the largest high salary and the smallest high salary across the regions. The Southeast region had the lowest average salary of $82,397. The low principal salary for unit districts was in the West Central region ($33,175) with the lowest median salary ($77,080) in the East Central region. In examining the high, average, and median salaries a few generalizations can be made: Principals in the Northeast region had the high salaries, highest average salaries, and except for the elementary district principals, the highest median salary. The East Central region and the Southeast region had the lowest salaries in high salary, average salary, and median salary categories.

Assistant principals 
This is the first year that data for assistant principal salaries were analyzed. As depicted in Table 6(Opens in a new window), Illinois had 2,417 assistant principals during the 2017-2018 school year with 2,313 serving in a full-time capacity (FTE 0.90-1) with 204 part-time assistant principals (FTE 0.1-0.89).  In examining principals by district type (elementary, high school, and unit districts), the largest number of assistant principals, 1,395, served in unit districts (see Table 7(Opens in a new window)). The highest salary of $197,071 for an assistant principal was noted in a high school district, as was the largest median salary of $112,000. The greatest difference between the highest salary and the average salary for full-time assistant principals was in high school districts ($130,050). 

The Northeast region, with 1,699 or 73%, had the largest number of assistant principals (see Table 8(Opens in a new window)). The Northeast region had the high salary of $197,071, the highest average salary of $98,460, and the highest median salary of $95,509. The lowest average salary of $73,696 and the lowest median salary of $71,750 for full-time assistant principals were in the East Central region.  The final breakdown of the full-time assistant principal salaries was by type of district (elementary, high school or unit) and by region (see Table 9(Opens in a new window)). 

Elementary District Assistant Principals by Region
The vast majority, 92%, of assistant principals in elementary districts were in the Northeast region. The highest salary of $152,670 was in the Northeast region, as was the highest average salary of $83,699. The highest median salary was in the Southeast region and was $83,600. 

High School District Assistant Principals by Region
The Northeast region reported 260, the largest number of assistant principals in high school districts. The Northeast also had the high salary of $197,071, the highest average salary of $128,398, and the highest mean salary of $132,362. The East Central region had the lowest average salary of $72,921, and the Southeast region had the lowest median salary of $73,992.

Unit District Assistant Principals by Region
The majority of unit district assistant principals were also in the Northeast region, which also had the high salary of $156,271, the highest average salary of $98,906, and the highest median salary of $101,854. The East Central region recorded the lowest average salary of $74,383 and the lowest median salary of $71,779. The high salary for unit district assistant principals from the Northeast was higher than the principals’ high salaries in the other five regions. In some cases, the high salary in the Northeast was $110,000 higher than in other regions and the median salary was over $58,000 higher than in other regions.

This brings us full circle to the “Sesame Street” song. The principal and assistant principal salaries in Illinois demonstrate disparity as defined: they are not similar. Geography plays a part, and other factors at play include cost of living, community norms for salaries, and years of experience of the principals and assistant principals among others. The data relating to these and other factors were not available to us and as such, those factors are out of the purview of this analysis. And yet, as we imagined folks reading this article, some probably thought of more modern lyrics by Kyle, “Not the same, we are not the same. Not the same, we are not the same!” 

Authors’ notes
From 1995 to 2007, researchers at Western Illinois University collected and compiled data on the salaries of district superintendents and principals in Illinois. The Illinois School Board Journal published a study of that voluntarily submitted data. With the introduction of mandatory reporting of administrator salaries, the data was unavailable for several years. In 2014, the Illinois State Board of Education made its data available to researchers. Since then, the series has resumed. The full series and resources associated with this article are available via the Journal resources page at blog.iasb.com/p/journal-resources.html. Thanks to Jackie Matthews, ISBE Director of Media and External Communications and ISBE’s data analysis division for providing the raw data. Thanks to Jordan Arndt and Karolyn Ericksen, graduate assistants at Western Illinois University, for sorting the data. 

Lora Wolff, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Educational Leadership at Western Illinois University and was previously superintendent for Keokuk Community Schools in Iowa. Denny Barr, Ed.D., is an assistant professor of Educational Leadership at Western Illinois University and the graduate program coordinator for the M.S.Ed. in Educational Leadership and principal endorsement programs in the Educational Studies Department.