Attorney Vidal Martinez has played a role in negotiating contracts for every Houston superintendent going back decades.
Martinez is not working with Richard Carranza -- the San Francisco superintendent scheduled to be appointed the Houston Independent School District's new boss Thursday -- but predicts Carranza's contract will be a sizable one.
"You're the chief policymaker and you're the chief executive and you're the chief manager and you're responsible for aid and an enormous amount of public dollars come into your coffers," Martinez told abc13. "It's one of the more difficult jobs that you could possibly have. And that's why you have four- or five-hundred-thousand dollar packages."
Terry Grier, who was in HISD's top job for nearly seven years before leaving in March, made a base salary of $300,000 plus bonuses which at times brought his take-home pay to as high as $425,000 annually.
It's unlikely that Carranza's salary will be that high, Martinez said. He makes $310,000 at the San Francisco Unified School District. And school sources suggest that Carranza's contract will be written with less emphasis on bonus pay.
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Around the Houston area, several public school superintendents earn north of the $300,000 mark. Ted Oberg Investigates examined more than a dozen contracts using the state's Open Records Act.
John Henry at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD brings in $348,00 a year. Lance Hindt at Katy ISD makes $375,000 annually. Bret Champion at Klein ISD has a $340,000 salary. And Pasadena ISD's Kirk Lewis makes $318,000.
Go north to Dallas ISD and Superintendent Michael Hinojosa there makes $335,000. This is Hinojosa's second stint as DISD's boss -- he had retired in 2011 -- so he collects a $200,000 pension on top of that.
"How are they worth that much money?" Martinez said. "When you divide up the budget by the number of moving pieces. You know you have 215,000 kids... the district covers about one hundred square miles and you've got probably 40 different locations with another 20,000 employees.
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"You are the C.E.O. of a multifaceted corporation and you're responsible for every single day for getting the lights turned on, the teachers in place, and the students taught."
Other superintendents in the area who make close to $300,000 include Scott Muri at Spring with a $285,000 salary and Elizabeth Celania-Fagen at Humble ISD with a $298,000 salary.
Salaries aren't the only thing negotiated. Like Grier, bonus pay can be part of a superintendent's deal. The superintendents at Spring Branch ISD and Galena Park ISD have bonus pay options written into their contracts. Galena Park ISD chief Angi Williams has written into her contract that if teachers there get a raise, she gets the same percentage pay hike.
The Aldine ISD superintendent has in her contract that she gets a laptop for both work and personal use as well as Internet access. Grier had a car and driver available for him. Many other superintendents get a travel allowance or a monthly allowance for expenses.
There doesn't appear to be to be a boilerplate method to determine a superintendent's salary.
For example, Ted Oberg Investigates compared superintendent salaries on a per-student basis. Grier ran a district of more than 200,000 students. His salary came to around $2 per student. Texas City ISD Superintendent Cynthia Lusignolo gets a $159,000 salary and a $8,400 commuting allowance. She earns $27.59 per each of her more than 6,000 students.
"These guys are famous in their in their professional, educational circles and I don't doubt they got into this because they truly do want to make a difference but they don't want to get underpaid." Martinez said. "And the the boards don't want to overpay, so you've got that delicate balance."
At the end of the day, there is no "mathematical formula," Martinez said.
"It gets more into a personal formula," he said. "You want this person? This is what it's going to take to bring them. If you want Dr Carranza, he's going to have a substantial package."
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