Analysis: 202 public school superintendents paid more than $100,000 a year

A CapitolBeatOK examination of public school data has found a total of 202 public school superintendents who are paid more than $100,000 a year. Of that group, 22 make more than $147,000, the salary of Oklahoma’s governor. 

CapitolBeatOK has studied fresh data, accurate as of April 14, for the salaries of local school superintendents in Oklahoma, 2010-11. The information was gathered by state officials for state Rep. David Dank, an Oklahoma City Republican, who provided the information to CapitolBeatOK. 

The highest pay among the 22 best-paid superintendents goes to Kirby Lehman of Jenks, earning total compensation of $266,917 this year for supervising a district of 10,371 students. Lehman has 530 certified staff, with a student/staff ratio of 19.6-1. The cost per student for his salary is $25.74.

On a per student basis, the best-compensated superintendent among the top 22 was Gloria Griffin of Millwood, making $155.67 per student in her charge. Griffin had total compensation of $170,149, with a student enrollment of 1,093. She supervised 80 certified staff, with a student/staff ratio of 13.7-1.

The second best-paid on a per student basis in the top 22 is James Sisney of Sperry. He gets $120.15 per student, with total compensation of $147,300, in a district with 1,226 students. He supervises 88 certified staff. The student/staff ratio in Sperry is 13.9-1.

Among the best-paid 22 superintendents in Oklahoma, the lowest compensated on a per student basis is Oklahoma City’s Dr. Karl Springer. He is paid $4.05 per student, with a student/staff ratio of 18.7-1. He has 2,300 certified staff, and a total enrollment of 42,989. His total compensation is $174,114. 

The second lowest-paid school superintendent on a per student basis, in the top 22, is Keith Ballard of Tulsa, the state’s second largest school district. Ballard receives total compensation of $210,416 for overseeing the district of 41,501 students and 3,300 certified staff. His student/staff ratio is 12.6-1; he costs taxpayers $5.07 per student. 

The 22 highest paid public school superintendents in the state of Oklahoma, and their salaries, are:

Kirby Lehman, Jenks, $266,017

David Pennington, Ponca City, $229,029

Catherine Burden, Union, $222,474

Keith Ballard, $210,416

Joseph Siano, Norman, $187,989

William Scoggan, Midwest City-Del City, $185,623

Jarod Mendenhall, Broken Arrow, $176,314

Lloyd Snow, Sand Springs, $174,428

Karl Springer, Oklahoma City, $174, 114

David Goin, Edmond, $170,977

Gloria Griffin, Millwood, $170,149

Leigh Beauchamp, $166,787

Douglas McDaniel, Deer Creek, $162,486

Ruth Carr, Ardmore, $160,802

Shawn Hime, Enid, $156,295

Paul Hurst, Putnam City, $155,180

Robert Wood, Bixby, $152,648

Gregory Kausbam, Noble, $150,856

David Cash, Locust Grove, $150,538

Clark Ogilvie, Owasso, $150,102

Michael Garde, Muskogee, $149,751

James Sisney, Sperry, $147,300

Each of the foregoing school district superintendents is paid more than Oklahoma’s governor, who earns $147,000 a year. 

In addition to these 22, another 180 superintendents earn more than $100,000 a year.

In all, public records for 531 superintendents were studied. Among the superintendents making less than $100,000 a year, several are well compensated on a per student basis. 

A total of ten superintendents earn more than $1,000 per student they supervise. One of these superintendents has total compensation of over $100,000 per year; the other nine come in below $100,000 a year. Still, the nine are paid handsomely on a per student basis. In the Plainview district, Superintendent Ronald Murphy brings in $3,459.65 per student. With 17 students and six certified staff, the system has a student/staff ratio of 2.8-1. Murphey’s total compensation is $58,814 a year.

Previously, CapitolBeatOK examined common education spending at the district level, poring over state government records and some district data. 

Three issues stood out in that investigation.

The first is the number of separate school systems, even in some of Oklahoma’s smallest communities. Oklahoma towns and cities generally have their own schools and often their own districts, even if other systems are only 10 or 15 minutes away. 

Second – keeping in mind the first issue  — a startling number of small towns have multiple school districts. The community of Stilwell, for example, has seven districts in a town with a population of 4,000. 

Third, and perhaps most surprising, rural school systems enjoy low student/teacher ratios, usually around 11-1. Statewide, the average is reported as 16-1. But the state standard is 20-1. 

In her State of the State address, Governor Mary Fallin spoke in broad terms about the need to seek more modern approaches, and to bring fiscal discipline to all of government. She said: 

“Our state is now confronting yet another challenging budget year. But with that challenge comes the opportunity to seriously examine how we conduct the people’s business. It is time to ask the probing questions, the ‘why’ questions – why have we done it like this for years and why can’t we consider a different approach – a new approach – a modern approach. And, yes, we must be courageous and willing to move forward each time we find a better way, a better solution for the benefit of the people of Oklahoma. We will undertake new methods and we will constantly strive to improve what we do and how we do it. And let there be no misunderstanding – we will act, because the status quo is unacceptable.”