Board members did not describe contract terms as they approved them at a Thursday meeting. They released a salary number later and Smith’s contract late on Friday, when they said it had been signed and Smith’s reappointment had been approved by state officials.
Board members said Friday that Smith had earned the salary boost and that they were hopeful about his continued leadership of the 165,000-student system, which is Maryland’s largest and the 14th-biggest in the nation.
“The salary reflects the market in this area,” said board Vice President Brenda Wolff (District 5). “We have the largest system in the state and arguably the most complex — suburban, urban and rural, with all the problems of all three.”
“It’s fair compensation for a job that is 24/7,” she said.
The school board voted unanimously to reappoint Smith, 62, this month, with members lauding his efforts to expand opportunities for students across the increasingly diverse system of 208 schools.
Smith started in Montgomery at $275,000 a year in 2016 and got one raise, to $290,000.
Under this contract, he will also get annual raises equal to increases given to school system principals and administrators, and the board will review his salary when he is evaluated, to determine whether other raises are in order.
Smith will get 30 days of annual leave, 25 days of sick or personal leave a year and $48,000 a year in deferred compensation. The contract provides for the use of a vehicle, with reimbursement for gas, insurance, maintenance and repairs.
School board member Patricia O’Neill (District 3) said the size of Smith’s salary gives her pause in one sense, knowing how different it is from the lowest-paid employees of the school system. But she said a superintendency comes with long hours and crises large and small.
Smith is also highly experienced, she said — having served as the interim state superintendent, the state’s chief academic officer and a superintendent in Southern Maryland’s Calvert County.
“This is the most we have ever paid, but it is in keeping with the market rate for superintendents these days,” O’Neill said.
The $300,000-a-year threshold has been crossed elsewhere in the state and region.
Sonja Santelises, chief executive of Baltimore’s public schools, begins a second four-year contract in July at a base pay of $325,000 a year, up from $298,000, according to a spokeswoman.
In the Washington region, the Prince William County superintendent earns more than $330,000 a year, and the Fairfax County schools chief collects $311,526 a year, according to school district officials. Loudoun’s superintendent earns $306,204.
In Maryland’s Prince George’s County, the chief executive’s base salary is $302,000 a year.
Nationally, school systems vary widely by student enrollment, and leaders of the largest systems tend to get the heftiest paychecks, according to AASA, the School Superintendents Association.
Based on surveys during the past five years, the highest-paid 10 percent of superintendents — in systems of more than 25,000 students — earned $300,000 to $350,000 a year, said Chris Rogers, a policy analyst at AASA.
School board members have credited Smith for expanding access to prekindergarten, increasing language programs and improving career education. They pointed to other efforts, including an online “equity accountability” system that allows a detailed school-by-school look at student achievement by race and poverty.
“He deserved the opportunity to continue the work he’s begun,” board member Jeanette E. Dixon (At Large) said.