GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The men and women who run Michigan school districts make big bucks — some more than others — and some of the highest-paid superintendents are right here in West Michigan.
In fact, half of the 10 highest-paid superintendents in the state are in West Michigan, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy — a number that has increased over the past few years.
The 10 Michigan districts with the highest compensation for their superintendent this year:
- Kalamazoo Public School District: $325,204
- Plymouth-Canton Community Schools: $319,845
- Grand Rapids Public Schools: $319,707
- Rockford Public Schools: $297,353
- Genesee Intermediate School District: $295,515
- Oakland Intermediate School District: $293,427
- Jenison Public Schools: $285,176
- Portage Public Schools: $284,491
- Bloomfield Hills School District: $284,014
- Walled Lake Consolidated Schools: $281,241
However, some of the district leaders 24 Hour News 8 spoke with are skeptical that the Mackinac Center’s numbers are an accurate representation of what superintendents are actually making.
In 2012, just two West Michigan school districts — Kalamazoo Public Schools and Rockford Public Schools — were in the top 10 for superintendents earning the highest compensation packages in the state, according to the Mackinac Center’s database. Since then, Grand Rapids Public Schools made a major jump. The district was ranked in the 30s in 2012 but third this year.
GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt credits Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal’s 26 percent salary increase from $157,127 in 2012 to $198,000 in 2016 to a couple of factors, one of which is that she’s in high demand.
“Teresa’s worth every penny,” Helmholdt said. “She’s the best of the best of superintendents in this state. What she’s accomplished here with GRPS and the success of our GRPS Transformation Plan is absolutely remarkable.”
He said she has received several competitive offers in and out of state. She was first hired as interim superintendent in 2012. The district kept her pay at the same rate until she renewed her contract, at which point GRPS increased her salary to match what the previous superintendent was making.
“She’s top talent and top talent, you know, a lot of times comes with appropriate compensation,” Helmoldt said.
Jenison Public Schools also jumped several slots on the list. Superintendent Thomas TenBrink’s compensation package increased by roughly 10 percent in four years, according to the database. But Thursday, he told 24 Hour News 8 he was had doubts about the quality of the database’s numbers from 2012.
“In 2012, many boxes that they were trying to collect information were left empty,” TenBrink said. “Because they were leaving boxes empty, it wasn’t an accurate depiction of what they refer to as whole compensation.”
He said his health insurance wasn’t included in the database in 2012. Now it is, which is increases his overall compensation package by thousands of dollars.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy did put a disclaimer on his database that not all information is provided because it represents only what the center was able to find through Freedom of Information Act requests.
“We do the best we can to collect all the information that’s available and report it as accurately as possible,” said Ben DeGrow, the director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.