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Data dive: How much does a school superintendent cost?
Maggie Lee, The Current
Georgia’s 10th largest school system is starting a search for a new leader. Contracts and data from near neighbors and far peers suggests what the Savannah-Chatham County School Board can probably expect to pay the next superintendent, as well how educators get paid in comparison.
Superintendents negotiate pay and benefits individually with their school board. The two sides settle on contracts that last a maximum three years. A school board might pay a premium to keep a superintendent who’s getting good performance reviews. Or a first-time superintendent might not make so much. A budget for a car or other expenses may be part of the deal. Rich districts have more money to offer. Small-district superintendents may oversee only a few hundred teachers. In big districts, thousands of people report to a superintendent.
The very biggest systems of Georgia’s top 10 largest systems — Gwinnett, Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton — could hold Savannah-Chatham’s students, teachers and budget at least twice. Savannah-Chatham just barely makes the top 10 and is a little more comparable to Atlanta’s outer suburbs.
In top 10 systems, the going base pay for a superintendent (leaving out expenses, bonuses and any subsequent raises) starts at $274,434 — what Savannah-Chatham’s Ann Levett negotiated in 2021. The peak of the top 10 is behemoth Gwinnett’s $380,972.
Savannah-Chatham is the 10th largest school system in the state and the only top 10 system outside of metro Atlanta
But Savannah-Chatham is arguably also comparable to its nearer neighbors because it’s free from some of the costs, traffic and crowds of metro Atlanta.
In this group, Savannah-Chatham this time is the behemoth and could hold at least any two nearby systems.
And Levett has the highest base pay in the region — but not by much. Bryan Superintendent Paul Brooksher started his second decade at the top of his much smaller system in 2021 at a base pay just $6,000 less than Levett.
Among its neighbors, Savannah-Chatham is the largest school system, but superintendent pay doesn’t vary with system size.
Similarly, teacher pay is higher in metro Atlanta than on the coast, but teachers don’t negotiate their pay individually like superintendents do.
Instead, teacher pay across Georgia starts with the state’s annual educator salary schedule: a table listing minimum teacher base pay by the educator’s degrees, certifications and years of experience.
But most teachers take home higher pay than the state minimum because their district adds a “local supplement” to make the job more attractive.