Superintendents Super Salaries: A WAFF 48 News special report

Published: Nov. 17, 2010 at 6:24 PM CST|Updated: Sep. 26, 2016 at 1:50 PM CDT
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By Bobby Shuttleworth - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - According to statistics released by the Alabama department of education, Dr. Ann Roy Moore, Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, has a high salary.

That salary is one which has some people, especially teachers like Pam Hill, seeing red.

"I think that for almost $200,000, including a $9,600 supplement, that she's getting paid well. We have 23,000 students in our system. We have 49 schools. She's the highest paid superintendent in Alabama," said Hill.

Doug Martinson is the outgoing president of the Huntsville School board, and an eight year member. He says there is a reason for Dr. Moore's seemingly high salary.

[Click here for information by school district (PDF)]

"We eliminated an assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent position," Martinson explained. "The deputy superintendent hasn't been filled in several years. The assistant superintendent retired about a year ago and that was not replaced."

He says that is a cost savings of about $200 thousand dollars in salary and benefits.

No doubt, these are tough times for Alabama schools with budgets being cut. That can mean fewer teachers and programs in schools. Despite budget cuts, nearly 200 school superintendents in Alabama bring home six figure salaries.

[Click here by superintendent's salary by district (PDF)]

Huntsville has the fifth biggest school system in Alabama and the state's highest paid superintendent. State figures show Dr. Moore makes $197,685 a year to run a system of 54 schools with 2,900 employees teaching more than 23,000 students. Dr. Moore also gets a $9,600 travel allowance.

"People always talk about the salaries, but if you look, we're running a $200-million business with 3,000 employees and 120,000 students. It's a big job and a CEO position. It's comparable to any CEO position," added Martinson.

The next closest in pay among Alabama superintendents is the $190,000 Jefferson County pays its top educator. Dr. Phil Hammonds makes $7,000 less a year despite running Alabama's second largest school system with 13,000 more students than Huntsville schools.

The president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, Jennifer Parsons, says Hammonds is dedicated to making sure the most money possible goes into the classroom and they have to twist the long-time educator's arm to take any pay raises.

"His contract was probably the most difficult to negotiate because he really didn't want anything but the bare minimum," said Parsons. "He wanted bare minimum salary. He wanted bare minimum benefits. We had to as a board say, 'you work for us and we're going to do nothing less than this,'" said Parsons.

Lawrence County's superintendent is on the low end of the scale when it comes to superintendents pay in Alabama. Heath Grimes makes $109,000 a year. He says it's a job that often requires 80 hour work weeks.

Some who work with Grimes say he does the work of three people, but he says he hears from critics who believe he makes too much with a six-figure salary.

"There's someone to handle each department and each specialization. In Lawrence County that's not the case," he explained. "I don't have an assistant superintendent so it all falls to me."

Only 16 superintendents in Alabama are paid less than $100,000. The lowest is $66,000 in Linden City.  The smallest systems often find it hard to shell out the money needed to recruit the best superintendent candidates.

Huntsville school board members know it takes top dollars to bring in top talent.

"We're going to have to pay somebody to attract them here, just as we pay teachers to attract them here," said Martinson. "We pay more than other systems in the state of Alabama to attract them here."

There is no doubt that Alabama schools are hurting financially, but local boards will be the ones to wrestle with where their money will be spent.

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