By Cody Harrell
Mason Times staff writer
MASON—A report on school superintendent compensation in Michigan shows a range of $300,000.
The collection was published in late February 2013 by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Media Relations Manager Ted O’Neil said that the purpose of the database was to provide transparency for taxpayers who were concerned with the distribution of funds by school boards and superintendents.O’Neil said that superintendent compensation is determined can be affected by a number of factors that are worked out between the superintendent and school board members. Although compensation is not required outside of salary and pension, many districts offer annuity, health benefits, insurance, travel and other expenses.
The database breaks up the package into seven categories: salary, pension, travel, insurance, annuity, other and total. According to O’Neil and Mason Superintendent Mark Dillingham, “other” covers compensation not accounted in the first five categories. This could include costs for moving the family, vehicle allowances, expense accounts, bills, etc.
Dillingham, now in in his third year as a superintendent, said $1,500 was added to his compensation representing his longevity in the district. He is the first Mason schools’ alumnus to become superintendent and is ranked 230 in the database with a $167,769 compensation fund.
While taxpayers have called superintendent’s pay into question, Dillingham has experienced a frozen salary in his three years as superintendent. Furthermore, he took a pay reduction from his predecessor, who served eight years.
“I took less money than the superintendent before me and still take it because of the hard economic times,” Dillingham said. “My pay is not one of my top priorities.”
Stan Kogut of the Ingham Intermediate School District has also experienced frozen pay over the last three years despite continuing his eighth year of the job. Kogut works closely with all 12 superintendents in the county school district, including Dillingham.
“The challenge in making a database like this is it doesn’t give an indication on how difficult the job is or what is required,” Kogut said.
However, creating the database has proven to be more difficult than just compiling salaries and benefits. Linda Wacyk, the Michigan Association of School Administrators director of communications, has kept in touch with a number of superintendents concerning the new database. Wacyk reported that an initial review by some members revealed that 20 percent of superintendents in the state found flaws in the data.
Wacyk said that the inaccuracies were due to discrepancies of the pension rate, which is set by the state at around 26 percent. Although this is taken into account when developing a superintendent’s compensation, she said that it is generally affordable for a district.
“I think that in Michigan, we have to come to terms with how much it ‘ought to cost for kids to go to school,” Wacyk said. “They prepare students well for society and we have undervalued that in Michigan.”
While Kogut and Dillingham recognize the convenience of the database, they have been required to publish their salaries along with all teachers’ and administrators’ salaries since 2006. The Michigan Department of Education required school district websites to post salary information to advance public transparency. The salaries are indicated on each website by the purple Michigan logo labeled “Budget and Salary/Compensation Transparency Report.”
Still, Dillingham has expressed that the most important part of his job involves the 6,000 students in the Mason School District who are looking for a better education than parents can find anywhere in the state.
“My goal is a community of growth for our students. It’s a challenge, and I appreciate that challenge.”