Some heads of elite private schools in the greater Washington area and elsewhere in the country are earning more than a half-million dollars in combined salary and other perks, according to tax forms the schools file with the federal government. The head of an Alexandria boarding school earned more than $630,000 in 2009-10.
Most private schools are, of course, not elite and the people who run them don’t make anywhere near these kinds of salaries. Neither, on average, do public school superintendents.
For example, according to the latest available data from the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization representing a coalition of 66 of the nation's largest urban public school systems, the average salary for superintendents in CGCS increased from roughly $154,000 in 1999 to approximately $239,000 in 2010. (It said that accounting for inflation, by reporting in 2010 dollars, average CGCS superintendent salaries increased from $201,000 in 1999 to $239,000 in 2010, a real increase in earnings of 19 percent since 1999.
D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who succeeded Michelle Rhee last fall as chief of the 46,000-student system, earns a salary of $275,000, the same amount Rhee made when she came to run the D.C. school system in 2007 (along with a $41,250 signing bonus and annual bonuses of $27,500 if she met specific targets). Henderson, however, won’t get a bonus unless the mayor specifically requests one for her.)
Jack Dale, superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school system in the greater Washington region with 175,000 students, had his contract extended in 2009 for four more years with a base salary of $292,469, up more than $50,000 from when he took the helm in 2004. (He also earned in the first year of the new contract an additional $65,500 of deferred pay invested in two retirement accounts.)
Joshua Starr, the new superintendent of the 144,000-student Montgomery County Public Schools, is earning an annual base salary of $250,000 (and received $30,000 for relocation from Connecticut) and — annually but subject to review — $35,000 in deferred compensation and $18,750 toward his retirement.
Even with overall packages that top $300,000, these superintendents don’t make as much as some heads of private schools that have only a fraction of the students in a school system.
As tuitions at some of these schools have risen well above $30,000 a year, the schools’ leaders are earning bigger salaries than ever, in part because the job has become more complicated and the pool of candidates has become smaller than in years past. According to people involved with schools’ head searches, the job used to be one of educational leader but today requires them to be strong fund raisers, decisive decision-makers and effective communicators — all skills that superintendents and corporation heads are supposed to (but don’t always) possess.
Here’s a list of some elite schools with the salaries of their heads and other details. All of the information comes from 990 forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service and found on www.guidestar.com. In each case, the latest available form on guidestar is used, and the date is noted (because they are not all of the same). The most current salaries may be higher than those listed here.
Internal Revenue Service forms reveal most, but not all, compensation.
Religious schools are not required to file these forms. (The last 990 form that www.guidestar.com shows from Sidwell Friends School, a Quaker school where President Obama’s two daughters attend, is from the tax year 2003-2004.)
Base compensation: $334,585
Bonus and incentive compensation:$163,118
Other reportable compensation: $24,265
Retirement and other deferred compensation: $42,867
Nontaxable benefits: $66,242
Base compensation: $369,245
Other reportable compensation: $2,772
Retirement and other deferred compensation: $22,000
Nontaxable benefits: $59,267
*Susanna A. Jones, head of Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, a non-sectarian girls school of about 645 students in grades 3-12. For the tax year July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010, she earned:
Base compensation: $233,613
Other reportable compensation: $22,762
Retirement and other deferred compensation: $51,188
Nontaxable benefits: $83,241
Peter Branch, former head of Georgetown Day School , in Washington D.C., a coed non-sectarian school of about 1,000 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. For the tax year July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010 (his last as head of GDS), he earned:
Reportable compensation from the organization: $445,950
Estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations: $87,503
*Richard T. Ewing Jr., head of Norwood School in Bethesda, a coed school of 490 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. For the tax year July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010, he earned:
Reportable compensation from the organization: $293,367
Estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations: $104,364
Base compensation: $244,700
Other reportable compensation: $29,862
Retirement and other deferred compensation: $74,261
Nontaxable benefits: $82,393
Base compensation: $414,403
Retirement and other deferred compensation: $24,140
Nontaxable benefits: $13,462
*Barbara L. Chase, head of Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., a coed boarding high school with about 1,100 students. For the tax year July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2009, she earned:
Reportable compensation from the organization: $386,213
Estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations: $183,523
(In the same tax year, Amy C. Falls, the chief investment officer of Phillips Academy, earned $450,754 in reportable compensation from the organization plus nearly $27,000 more in other compensation.)
*Tyler C. Tingley, who was the former principal of Phillips Exeter Academy , a coed boarding school serving 1,000 students in grades 9 through 12, and post-graduate level, in Exeter, N.H. The tax year July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2009, was his last year as principal, during which he earned:
Reportable compensation from the organization: $1,016,538 (a significant portion in deferred compensation)
Estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations: $136,910
For the year before (July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008), Tingley earned:
Contributions to employee benefit plans & deferred compensation plans: $264,752
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