Superintendent Frustrations Grow, but Intangible Rewards Remain High

By Solomon, J. D. | District Administration, October 2012 | Go to article overview
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Superintendent Frustrations Grow, but Intangible Rewards Remain High


Solomon, J. D., District Administration


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The nation's K12 school superintendents are increasingly fatigued and frustrated by pressures to accomplish more in their districts with less resources. For most, though, personal commitment to public education helps overcome sources of stress stemming from many aspects of their jobs.

That's the top-level finding of the 2012 Public School Superintendent Salary & Career Report, which was prepared by the District Administration Leadership Institute (DALI), the professional development arm of District Administration magazine. The DALI report's conclusions come from a survey of U.S. superintendents and in-depth interviews with selected superintendent-members of the Institute and other district leaders.

"We had three goals in producing this annual report," says Randall Collins, executive director of DALI. "First, we wanted to collect data about superintendent compensation that can be used as a baseline for comparison in future reports. Second, we wanted to provide education executives with information regarding the trends in salary and benefits. Third, and perhaps most important, we wanted to identify the key sources of frustration for superintendents and provide guidance in how to address those stress points." The report found that frustrations superintendents face tend to fall in three key categories: Keeping the ship afloat: Balancing under-funded budgets mandates; closing academic achievement gaps; improving employee morale; shoring up aging infrastructure; and dealing with unexpected enrollment shifts.

Politics, negotiations and diplomacy: Working with unprepared or politically motivated board members; handling labor disputes and employee termination proceedings; and coping with tmsupportive or entitlement-minded parents.

Personal stress. Working extraordinarily long hours; performing tasks previously handled by subordinates lost to budget cuts; facing increasingly frequent job changes; and coping with stagnant salaries.

Regarding compensation, the report found that superintendent salaries vary widely. According to the report's national survey, leaders of districts with fewer than 1,000 students earn an average of just over $100,000, while superintendents of districts with 25,000 or more students earn an average of almost $190,000.

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The survey results were based on responses from a sample of 397 superintendents representing a cross-section of districts that reflect the geographic and demographic diversity of all school districts nationwide, The survey was conducted for DALI earlier this year by Martin Akel & Associates, a professional polling and data analysis company.

"The salary figures we found were interesting," says Collins, "but what was more significant was the story behind the numbers. Increasingly, superintendents--regardless of their actual salary--are finding themselves in the difficult position of having to defend their compensation against sentiment among community members and even some board members that they earn too much money."

Conversely, the DALI report found that many superintendents believe they don't earn enough money given the growing pressures and demands of their jobs. Over 60 percent of the sur-T respondents said they expect no pay increase next year, and several of the superintendents interviewed for the report said that pay cuts are becoming more common.

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Superintendent Frustrations Grow, but Intangible Rewards Remain High
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