Here are Alabama’s 10 highest-paid principals: See what your county pays

Principal salaries in Alabama saw a record increase this year. Some local executives received more than $50,000 in raises. One surpasses the headmaster of the state.

The average salary for a local superintendent for fiscal year 2023 is $163,260, up from $152,279 the previous year, according to the most recent earnings reports from the Alabama State Department of Education.

That’s a 7% jump, the highest annual increase in more than a decade.

And in 2020, the state’s highest-paid superintendent, Wayne Vickers of Alabaster City, earned $235,707. Now in 2023, the highest-paid superintendent is Mobile’s Chreshal Threadgill, who earns $287,816.

“When you look at people who have the qualities you’re looking for in a superintendent and are willing to sit in that chair, it’s not a long list,” said Ryan Hollingsworth of the Alabama School Superintendents Association.

The pay rise comes amid record growth in the state education budget and after more than two years of navigating pandemic-related shutdowns and quarantines, labor shortages and academic recovery.

“I don’t think there’s a superintendent out there, and I don’t think there’s a member of the school board out there that isn’t exhausted from all the issues in and around COVID that they’ve had to deal with,” added Hollingsworth added. “…I don’t think it’s inconsistent with all of that if you put it in context and then look at what they went through.”

AL.com analyzed 12 years of state income data and compared superintendent salaries to K-12 enrollments, student performance and other school district data.

Income reports list the salaries of district, city, and charter school principals, except for the University Charter School principal, who is paid by the University of West Alabama. They do not include benefits or other contractual benefits.

Local teachers are typically paid through a combination of state and local funds. Superintendents’ salaries are paid entirely in local dollars. Their contracts and pay are usually approved by the local school authorities.

A record increase

For years, most local superintendents, with the exception of a few small, rural counties, easily made six-figure salaries.

The high end of that salary scale has continued to grow this year, with 25 district leaders earning more than $200,000, up from 17 last year and 12 in 2020.

Threadgill, who runs the state’s largest school district, remains Alabama’s highest-paid local superintendent.

It’s bringing in a total of $287,816 this year.

Threadgill is followed by Eddie Tyler of Baldwin County, Alabama’s third-largest school district. Tyler will make $275,251 this year.

Tuscaloosa City Schools’ Mike Daria, who received a contract extension and $55,869 salary increase this school year, jumped to third place with a salary of $272,755.

See the change over time below. Click here if the visualization is not running.

Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey, who heads the state Department of Education, will make about $276,000 this year.

Education leaders say the increases are not surprising given the state’s recent investment in record increases for teachers and additional school staff.

“That’s to be expected this year of all times after we’ve had these historic raises,” said Amy Marlowe of the Alabama Education Association, which has been studying pay trends for decades. “If you just look, well, they got 7% ​​and everyone else got 4%, then yes [it seems alarming]but if you do the math and look at the dollars, it’s even more even.”

Marlowe said it’s important to keep in mind that teachers’ salaries, especially in recent years, can vary widely based on experience levels and job location. Superintendents also don’t get consistent raises like teachers, analysts at the Southern Regional Education Board found.

The average pay rise for superintendents was at its lowest just before the pandemic began, at 1%.

Data shows wages have continued to fall in some counties.

Superintendents in Thomasville, Tuscumbia and Winfield City are among the lowest paid in the state, but annual salaries for these positions have fallen since 2020.

Salaries also fell this year in Roanoke, Andalucia, Oxford, Alexander City, Bullock County, Oneonta, Macon County and Phenix City. In some places, this may be because that position has recently been filled or has been taken over by an interim member who has received a lower salary.

In six counties, pay stayed the same from one year to the next. Salaries rose in the remaining 124 districts, with four superintendents earning more than $50,000 more than a year earlier.

High pay increases, according to Hollingsworth, could be due to the superintendents’ experience and low turnover.

Recent studies put the national turnover rate at around 25%. Hollingsworth estimates that about 15% of Alabama school systems have a new superintendent or are actively looking for someone to fill the role.

“When that knowledge and experience goes out the door and goes, it’s sometimes difficult for a district to replace that,” he said.

salary trends

The data shows that superintendent pay isn’t just about a district’s academic achievement — although that can be a factor.

In high-poverty counties that had above-average past school year achievement rates, superintendent salaries ranged from $109,373 in Clay County to $175,000 in Phenix City.

Among schools with low poverty and high achievement, salaries ranged from $197,892 at Pike Road City to $247,510 at Mountain Brook.

More often, the type of district, its size, student demographics, and other trends play a role in district leader compensation.

“Those who earn the really high salaries are either in the really affluent counties or those with the largest student populations,” Marlowe said. “Not so much, but a third factor is how long they’ve been superintendents.”

As a rule, city district superintendents earn more than county district superintendents. Appointed superintendents in Alabama have also historically earned more than elected superintendents — a trend that’s being mirrored statewide.

Less than a third of Alabama school principals are women, although women make up more than three-quarters of the teaching staff. They earned, on average, about $13,000 less than the average male superintendent, not counting years of experience or other demographics or county-level data.

While larger districts generally pay their leaders more, this is not always proportional to the number of students they serve.

Threadgill, in Mobile, earns the lowest per-student salary, bringing in about $6 per student in the 50,000-population district.

Christie Findley of Huntsville City Schools received the lowest salary per student among city superintendents at $11 per student. Huntsville City Schools is Alabama’s largest city school district and the fifth-largest system overall, with 22,561 enrolled students.

With the exception of ACCEL, i3 Academy and LEAD Academy, Charter Leaders outperformed all other district superintendents in pay per student.

The highest per-student salary among charter school executives was $1,768 per student at the Alabama Aerospace and Aviation Academy, a new charter with a small enrollment of 80 students.

Look up your superintendent’s salary in the table below. Can’t see the table? look at it here.

Education reporter Trisha Powell Crain contributed to this report.

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