The next Spokane Public Schools superintendent is expected to be paid about $17,000 more than the current district leader.
The school board plans to approve Shelley Redinger’s contract at Wednesday’s board meeting. Her total compensation – salary and benefits – is $240,000. Current Superintendent Nancy Stowell, whose last day is June 30, retires as the 19th-highest-paid superintendent in Washington with total compensation of $222,906.
To determine the appropriate amount to offer Redinger, the board considered Spokane’s cost of living and researched total compensation of the state’s 75 largest school districts, as well as those nationally.
“We felt 19th-highest paid was too low for the second-largest school district in Washington,” said Bob Douthitt, board president. With the raise, Redinger will rank 13th among the state’s superintendent salaries.
The board approved the amount unanimously, Douthitt said. In fact, “There was some willingness to go higher. But after considering the cost of living, we decided to stay at $240,000.”
Although Redinger, 44, is relatively young, the board chose not to lowball the offer.
“If you are trying to build a relationship, you want to treat them fair,” Douthitt said.
Based on the most recent data, the highest-paid superintendent in Washington – at $362,914 – led the Lake Stevens School District, which had 7,526 students. The second-highest-paid was the leader of the state’s largest district, Seattle, at $295,792; Tacoma School District’s leader received $277,774.
Highline School District, with a student enrollment of about 17,400, recently hired former Seattle School District interim superintendent Susan Enfield. Her total compensation is about $286,000.
The district leadership position is often compared to that of a CEO, with multimillion-dollar budgets and thousands of employees. When Spokane Public Schools began its search in January for Stowell’s replacement, business leaders emphasized the need to offer reasonable compensation to draw the right candidate.
Rich Hadley, the chief executive of Greater Spokane Incorporated, said the board’s decision shows they are “looking to be competitive.”
He added, “I would say they were disciplined in their approach in recruiting someone.”
Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank, has often been vocal about compensation for school administrators.
But with new leadership comes hope for change, said Chris Cargill, a spokesman.
“Superintendents can have an enormous impact on a school district and a community that make them well worth the money,” he said. “We are encouraged by a fresh face and new ideas. Simply managing the status quo is not worth it, from our perspective.”
The district’s union, Spokane Education Association, has also criticized pay levels at the central office.
But “if this is the second-largest district, and she’s the 13th-highest paid, it sounds comparable,” said Jenny Rose, SEA president. “We want the best for our kids.”