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Superintendent pay rising
faster than salaries of teachers
Also considerably faster than rate
of enrollment increases

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark editor

The salary of the Park Hill superintendent is rising at a faster rate than the salary of district teachers.

Park Hill Superintendent Dr. Jeanette Cowherd will earn an annual base salary of $218,400 in the 2017-18 school year. It's a four percent increase over the 2016-2017 school year.

According to a three-year employment contract, Dr. Cowherd's salary can increase anywhere between 2.5 and five percent for the 2018-2019 school year and anywhere between 2.5 and six percent for the 2019-2020 school year.

Gayden Carruth was paid $149,904 in 2003, student enrollment has increased 18.923 percent from 2003 to 2016.

Today, Park Hill has two high schools, a LEAD Innovation Center, three middle schools, 10 elementary schools, and an early education center, serving over 11,000 students and 839 teachers and 56 administrators.

Superintendents serve as the chief executive officer of a district and enforce all school policies and procedures. Their responsibilities include overseeing the administration of all the schools in the district and selecting and directing educators and administrators in the district.

Mike McCarty of Kansas City, a patron in the Park Hill district, said there is a huge disparity between a four percent raise when someone is making hundreds of thousands of dollars versus a teacher making around $40,000.

“A four-percent increase of $194,000 adds $24,400 to her paycheck, but a 2.6 percent increase of someone earning less than $40,000 is strikingly less,” said McCarty.

But does a steady uptick in enrollment merit the salary increase?

Park Hill officials say district growth isn’t the only consideration in increasing the salary of the superintendent.

“While the growth of the district is a factor in the change in superintendent compensation, it is not the driving factor. When the board hired Dr. Cowherd we looked carefully at the market rate so that we could attract and retain a superintendent of the caliber that our Park Hill community told us that it demanded. Dr. Cowherd's salary is within the range for that market rate,” said Janice Bolin, president of the Park Hill Board of Education.

Bolin added: “The job of a superintendent has expanded greatly. The accountability, regulatory, academic and personnel requirements have all increased dramatically. Also, as the board has moved toward a more transparent superintendent contract, a greater percentage of the superintendent's total combination was in the base salary in 2016 than in 2003.”

On the topic of contract transparency, Bolin is referencing a fact exposed in Landmark articles in February of 2013. The 2011-12 salary for the district superintendent had been reported by the district as $239,000, but The Landmark reported when several bonuses and other forms of compensation are included the contract of then-Superintendent Dennis Fisher actually cost Park Hill taxpayers $453,000.

Park Hill teachers, support staff and administrators will receive average raises of 2.6-percent this year and 2.5-percent for the 2018-2019 school year.

The wage increases are similar to the pay increase teachers received last year.

School officials said the consecutive wage increases were determined by an Interest Based Bargaining Committee comprised of five teachers and four administrators. After meeting five times, committee members reached a wage and insurance agreement, which was later approved by the board of education.

The wage increase will affect about 839 teachers and 54 administrators.

The average teacher salary in Park Hill is $58,383. That is a 27 percent increase from 2003.

Some may argue the salaries of superintendents are rising disproportionately to that of teachers.

But when it comes to compensating teachers, a number of factors influence the pay scale. Teacher and administrator pay varies depending on their level of education and number of years of experience.

According to the proposed increase, a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree could earn anywhere from $38,545 to $41,633 this year and $38,870 to $41,987 during the 2018-2019 school year.

A mid-career Park Hill teacher with several years of experience and a master's degree could earn $66,389 this year and $66,827 during the 2018-2019 school year.

Last year, a substantial number of teachers hired possessed a master's degree and received compensation above and beyond the base pay of a teacher with a bachelor's degree. Park Hill also compensates teachers for years of experience acquired at other districts.

Still, there is also a sizable salary variance among teachers and principals.

The base pay for high school principals will range anywhere from $109,443 to $145,645 next year and $110,838 to $147,502 during the 2018-2019 school year.

The earning potential for middle school principals will range anywhere from $96,650-$125,770 next year and $97,882 to $127,374 in the 2018-2019 school year.

Elementary school principals can make $74,595 to $98,645 next year.

During the 2015-2016 school year the average building administrator’s salary was $108,232.

The district's single largest expense is compensation, including wages and benefits, which accounts for 75 percent of all operating expenses.

Experts say expenses per student have gone up 29 percent over the past 10 years, largely due to the increased costs of goods and services provided at schools.

District officials say compensation expenditures are estimated to cost $108.7 million next year.

“The cost of the compensation increases in 2017-2018 is expected to be $978,500, and in 2018-2019 is expected to be $1.03 million,” said Nicole Kirby, district spokesperson.