Houston Schools Superintendent Highest Paid In State — Or Is He?

The Houston Chronicle conducted a study and published its results in mid-March. As part of the Sunshine Week open-records program of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the newspaper surveyed the compensation packages of superintendents across the state, finding that ten regional superintendents in greater Houston exceed $199,000 in annual salary.

They narrowed their research to Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Galveston and Brazoria counties, looking only at the base salaries for superintendents. Though many compensation packages include car allowances, retirement packages, and performance incentives, such perks would be more difficult to compare. Each contract is negotiated individually and perks vary from contract-to-contract for superintendents.

The study, which focused on the 2004-2005 school year, found that the Houston schools superintendent, Abelardo Saavedra, is the highest paid at $278,100; however, the Houston schools also is the largest district in Texas with a student population of 208,945. That means Saavedra was paid a little more than $1.33 per student.

Second to the Houston schools superintendent is Louis Stoerner at Alief. Stoerner made $271,500 with an enrollment of 45,571 students. Stoerner was paid a little more than $5.95 per student.

Next is David Anthony at Cy-Fair, the second only to the Houston schools as the largest school district in the state. Anthony made $250,000 with an enrollment of 80,000 students. He was paid a little more than $3.12 per student.

Of the smaller school districts, Heath Burns at Angleton was the lowest paid with $117,700 for 6,559 students; however, Burns earned approximately $17.94 per student. La Porte’s Michael Say earned $186,720 for 7,623 students — that is almost $24.50 per student.

Obviously, superintendent salaries do not match up to the student populations. Compared to the Houston schools superintendent’s salary, it looks as though it would be more lucrative to work for the smaller school districts.

Mary Barrett, assistant director for the Texas Association of School Boards, stated that some smaller school districts want larger district experience and have to pay more to get it. She also said that other factors impact the salary offered to superintendents, other than student enrollment.

Paul Wilson, associate executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrator, stated superintendents earn their pay. Superintendents, such as in the Houston schools with its large student population, is worth the salaries set by local trustees.

In many areas, the school district represents the largest business operation and the largest employer. Superintendents must manage both money and children — the two areas about which taxpayers most care. It is an enormous responsibility with a strong potential for public criticism and constant scrutiny. For districts, such as the Houston schools, the job is very demanding, dealing with many internal and external challenges.

After seeing these numbers, perhaps the Houston schools will give Saavedra a raise.

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