"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

On the Taxpayer Dime: The Lucrative Financial Life of some Missouri Superintendents

KMOV recently ran a series of stories on highly paid superintendents in the state. The highest paid superintendent is Dr. Tom Williams in the Kirkwood School District. His annual salary is $242,000 for his base and $42,000 in other benefits. The Kirkwood School District has 5,000 students.


The School Board president stated Kirkwood community is a proud community. The reporter asked if KSD wanted to have "bragging rights" to have the highest paid superintendent, which the president denied. The president stated KSD sees Dr. Williams as an investment and district residents have high expectations for its students.

The Hazelwood School District superintendent, Dr. Steve Price, makes $235,000 plus benefits, and 180 sick days even before he started on his job. It is the second largest district in the county with 19,000 students and nine assistant superintendents. The Hazelwood spokesperson believes he deserves a high salary because of the number of students in that district.

The Hazelwood spokesperson raises an interesting argument. Why does Dr. Williams make so much money for such a small district? How did the KSD Board come to the decision to become the district with the highest paid superintendent? The reporter noted that Ladue, Clayton and Parkway South had higher ACT test scores with lower paid superintendents.

While the Kirkwood School Board should be honestly answering these questions to KSD taxpayers, I imagine Brentwood residents would like to know why the Brentwood superintendent makes such a high salary:


Brentwood School District Superintendent Charles Penberthy makes $216,000 a year plus benefits. The number of students in Brentwood for the two elementary schools ,one middle, and one high school totals 803. Neither Dr. Penberthy or a spokesperson would appear on camera to answer questions on the basis for his high salary for such few students.

We are not casting dispersions on any of these superintendents. I don't believe KMOV questioned their capabilities or integrity as superintendents. Taxpayers are demanding answers from their school boards regarding fiduciary responsibility in a recession.

KSD is having a tax rate hearing Monday night. At the last tax rate hearing, approximately 80 people attended, with the vast majority in opposition to an increase. Long time residents stated they were unable to pay any more taxes to the school. They had been long time supporters of KSD, but they stated they were being taxed out of their homes where they had lived for fifty years. The Board raised the rates then, and I expect it will raise them again after the hearing Monday night.

The people who pay the taxes who support the schools are becoming increasingly angry when they do not receive valid answers from valid questions. What does being "proud" have to do with behaving fiscally responsible? Taxpayer pleas to reduce spending are not heeded. Citizens would like to see Boards make a conscious effort to control and/or cut the budget, rather than expand them. These Boards are microcosms of what is occurring on the Federal level.

Provide us the answer to the question: Why are these superintendents receiving such high salaries, especially in the time of a severe recession? The financial resources to fund the schools are not infinite. It's OUR money and taxpayers are tapped out.

School Boards are made up of elected officials and are answerable to the taxpayers. Citizens are demanding the truth and transparency of the decisions made behind closed doors. All parents have high expectations of their school superintendents. Just because Kirkwood is a "proud" community doesn't mean it's a rich community. Taxpayers do not have the money for stunning salaries and benefits for schools. That's the lesson plan for ALL these districts paying hefty salaries for public officials.

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