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1998-1999 Salary Survey

Boards bearish on salaries

By Max E. Pierson and Robert F. Hall

Your board of education soon will be reviewing administrator performance and attempting to determine an appropriate compensation for past performance and future efforts. Salary determination can be a difficult process, influenced by salary levels and economic conditions in the local community. Often, salaries are set with inadequate information about current salary levels in the state or information about supply and demand. Further, since school administrators may be the highest-paid public officials in many communities, a small percentage raise may result in a large dollar increase.

Whether your board is considering what salary to offer a new superintendent, or what increase to offer an incumbent, remember that the job market for superintendents and principals is a national market.

Several new factors have entered into the mix of issues which boards of education need to remember when setting salaries. They include administrative caps, performance contracts, and an apparent decreasing interest on the part of educators in becoming a superintendent. A recent poll of students in the superintendent program at Western Illinois University indicated that only 50 percent of those students in the program actually wanted to become superintendents. The rest of the students wanted to become central office personnel (curriculum directors, personnel directors, or chief school business officials). This, coupled with the fact that total enrollment in the WIU superintendent program over the past ten years has remained constant, even in light of the large number of 5 + 5 retirements, is creating a seller’s market for qualified superintendents.

Conversations with consultants who conduct superintendent searches show that this trend is not unique to Illinois. For example, Iowa educators are predicting that half of the sitting superintendents in that state will retire by the year 2002 and another one third will retire by 2007.

A national shortage of superintendents may be looming on the horizon. Some suggest that alternative certification will provide the necessary supply, at a reduced cost. This reasoning overlooks the fact that once the candidate has completed the alternative certification program, then she or he has a standard superintendent certificate. That means that after one year of training, the newly certified superintendent will be able to work anywhere in the state of Illinois.

A better approach may be for boards of education to choose employees now who have the desire, qualities and drive to become a superintendent and then to support, encourage and groom those people for the position. It may even become necessary to give the employees time off to complete comprehensive internships and/or financial support to complete advanced training.

What is the going rate for a superintendent? The tables on these pages show high, low and mean salaries on a regional basis.

Superintendents’ salaries

        The highest reported superintendent’s salary in the state is in a high school district. Salaries generally increase as we move from the south to north, with markedly higher salaries in some suburban areas. High school district chiefs usually are the highest paid (state mean of $114,208), followed by elementary superintendents ($98,445) and then unit district superintendents ($89,081). This is the first year that the average salary for all superintendents in the state broke the $90,000 figure, with the average salary at $96,053. Sixty-four percent of the superintendents in the state are making between $72,251 and $119,855.

When viewed by region throughout the state (all district types grouped together) the average superintendent’s salary increased around 8.1 percent. Note that there are many exceptions to this general statement. High school district superintendents’ salaries in the southwest only increased .3 percent, while similar salaries in the west central and east central increased by 14.3 and 9.8 percent, respectively. Elementary superintendents’ salaries in the northeast region only increased by 3.5 percent, while salaries in the southeast and southwest increased by 19.5 and 19.0 percent, respectively. Unit district superintendents’ salaries in the northeast only increased by 3.1 percent, while those in the west central and southeast increased by 11.9 and 13.0 percent, respectively.

Principals’ salaries

        Salaries reported this year are based on a sample of the salaries of 823 principals out of the approximately 3,900 building principals in the state. In some cases, the data should be viewed with caution because of relatively small sample sizes (middle school principals in the southeast and southwest). The average salary for all principals ranged from $59,915 in the east central region to $79,418 in the northeast region.

In many cases, the reported increase in average salaries is quite substantial. The smallest reported increase for high school principals was 11.8 percent in the east central region and the largest increase was 34 percent in the northeast. For middle school principals, the smallest reported increase was 3.1 percent in the west central region and the largest increase was 33.6 percent in the southeast region. The reported increase for elementary principals ranged from 6.2 percent in the northeast to 14.8 percent in the southwest.

Generally speaking, high school principals still make more than middle school principals who make more than elementary school principals. The highest reported salaries for high school principals ranged from $135,138 in the northeast region to $81,320 in the east central region. For middle school principals the highest reported salaries ranged from $100,908 in the northeast to $77,675 in the east central. Among elementary school principals the highest reported salaries ranged from $108,844 in the northeast to $77,630 in the east central. Average salaries for high school, middle school and elementary school principals in the northeast region are again the highest in the state. The lowest reported average salary for principals at all three levels was in the east central region.

Recommendations

        The job market for superintendents and principals is really a statewide and, in some cases, national market. Because of the new administrative cost caps, boards of education should maintain salaries in the range appropriate to the type and size of the district and meaningfully evaluate the superintendent. If the current superintendent is not performing at the level necessary for retention, then do not reduce the salary or withhold raises, but instead either terminate or do not reemploy that individual upon the expiration of the contract. Failure to do so could severely restrict the options of the board of education in the ensuing candidate search.

Communities and boards which value quality leadership and wish to attract and retain such must be prepared to offer salaries which are competitive with the average salaries being received statewide. Boards are cautioned that if or when they promote employees from within the district, the employees should receive salaries comparable to those they would receive if they moved to another district. If they don’t, they will.

Superintendent salaries
Region
Respondents
High
Low
Mean
% Change
Northeast
24
$165,123
$82,748
$132,755
+3.3
1997 data
42
$167,029
$72,080
$128,490
Northwest
6
$115,464
$75,495
$92,757
+1.7
1997 data
9
$116,674
$72,134
$91,192
East Central
3
$96,580
$88,300
$92,221
+9.8
1997 data
8
$95,004
$69,000
$83,973
West Central
7
$145,091
$84,100
$103,519
+14.3
1997 data
7
$118,900
$80,099
$90,575
Southeast
3
$94,835
$59,091
$82,810
+6.9
1997 data
4
$94,000
$65,320
$77,478
Southwest
3
$104,720
$71,837
$87,057
+0.3
1997 data
6
$104,211
$71,522
$86,771
 
Elementary
Region
Respondents
High
Low
Mean
% Change
Northeast
91
$156,726
$51,686
$112,111
+3.5
1997 data
167
$228,162
$57,500
$108,332
Northwest
21
$104,933
$51,708
$74,873
+8.6
1997 data
36
$112,860
$45,000
$68,970
East Central
10
$90,988
$62,944
$77,154
+14.9
1997 data
23
$90,221
$41,667
$67,173
West Central
25
$125,966
$64,235
$86,738
+8.9
1997 data
27
$116,969
$56,525
$79,641
Southeast
4
$95,422
$62,000
$78,274
+19.5
1997 data
7
$83,696
$43,200
$65,490
Southwest
10
$101,833
$49,000
$82,223
+19.0
1997 data
32
$96,660
$45,109
$69,071
 
Unit
Region
Respondents
High
Low
Mean
% Change
Northeast
27
$132,422
$62,145
$104,595
+3.1
1997 data
34
$134,982
$64,619
$101,420
Northwest
27
$132,065
$63,700
$88,939
+8.5
1997 data
63
$124,970
$56,416
$81,946
East Central
32
$114,626
$64,834
$83,798
+8.3
1997 data
72
$105,243
$53,500
$77,339
West Central
46
$120,879
$62,842
$88,435
+11.9
1997 data
79
$120,000
$59,782
$79,052
Southeast
27
$110,512
$62,000
$84,633
+13.0
1997 data
39
$105,250
$48,024
$74,865
Southwest
16
$106,936
$58,115
$83,068
+8.5
1997 data
34
$105,470
$52,580
$76,563

Principal salaries
All Principals
Region
Respondents
High
Low
Mean
% Change
Northeast
343
$135,138
$42,375
$79,418
Northwest
109
$95,062
$44,945
$69,383
East Central
74
$81,320
$44,880
$59,915
West Central
156
$127,471
$43,250
$63,522
Southeast
94
$90,612
$41,675
$61,876
Southwest
47
$111,543
$44,475
$68,690
 
School Type
Elementary
492
$108,844
$41,675
$68,331
Middle School
144
$100,908
$43,050
$70,610
High School
186
$135,138
$43,250
$77,073
 
High School
Northeast
62
$135,138
$49,645
$94,917
+34.0
1997 data
50
$128,927
$47,900
$70,820
Northwest
34
$92,566
$44,945
$72,505
+18.1
1997 data
46
$90,822
$40,276
$61,380
East Central
18
$81,320
$47,282
$62,683
+11.8
1997 data
31
$77,271
$37,799
$56,062
West Central
35
$127,471
$43,250
$66,888
+13.9
1997 data
48
$86,171
$41,000
$58,720
Southeast
22
$90,612
$45,680
$66,473
+21.2
1997 data
14
$75,269
$45,000
$54,867
Southwest
47
$111,543
$44,475
$70,256
+13.0
1997 data
23
$90,362
$43,303
$62,186
 
Junior High or Middle School
Region
Respondents
High
Low
Mean
% Change
Northeast
50
$100,908
$43,050
$80,384
+3.8
1997 data
40
$96,478
$47,000
$77,428
Northwest
21
$95,062
$48,913
$68,486
+13.7
1997 data
8
$71,557
$53,804
$60,244
East Central
14
$77,675
$48,760
$62,179
+11.5
1997 data
45
$73,800
$28,119
$55,776
West Central
39
$82,826
$46,703
$63,340
+3.1
1997 data
17
$84,087
$50,000
$61,428
Southeast
12
$84,718
$48,048
$64,845
+33.6
1997 data
6
$62,499
$43,500
$48,550
Southwest
8
$92,764
$54,000
$73,954
+19.5
1997 data
6
$78,010
$50,767
$61,905
 
Elementary School
Region
Respondents
High
Low
Mean
% Change
Northeast
231
$108,844
$42,375
$75,049
+6.2
1997 data
140
$102,294
$46,350
$70,680
Northwest
54
$91,174
$45,143
$67,768
+14.2
1997 data
38
$84,185
$45,000
$59,321
East Central
42
$77,630
$44,880
$57,974
+9.3
1997 data
45
$68,440
$31,667
$53,035
West Central
82
$79,300
$48,692
$62,173
+8.9
1997 data
40
$77,380
$42,285
$57,104
Southeast
60
$89,949
$41,675
$59,597
+9.4
1997 data
27
$73,897
$37,802
$54,473
Southwest
23
$89,026
$46,000
$65,838
+14.8
1997 data
26
$78,136
$44,000
$57,343

Max Pierson was a school superintendent in Illinois for 15 years and is now professor of Educational Administration at Western Illinois University. Robert F. Hall was a school business manager in Iowa and is now professor of Educational Administration at Western Illinois University. The authors wish thank Connie Wise, Don Corrigan and the staff members of the Department of Research and Policy, Illinois State Board of Education for their contributions towards this article.

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