(WALA) - The school superintendent is the highest paid person within the education system. They have big jobs with big paychecks. Some school superintendents get large salaries plus built in bonuses and relocation expenses paid.
FOX10 News wanted to find out how much of your taxpayer money is going toward their salaries.
We gathered the salaries for each superintendent on the Gulf Coast. So the next time your superintendent is up for election or appointment, you can be informed and empowered to act.
View the salaries and benefits table here .
We started in Northwest Florida, where superintendents are elected.
- Escambia County's superintendent gets $128,000 a year
- Santa Rosa's top person walks away with $114,000
- The Okaloosa superintendent gets $120,000
But those people get the same benefits as any other Florida state employee, with no extra perks.
Malcolm Thomas is the superintendent for Escambia County.
"My health insurance is the same health insurance my bus drivers use," said Thomas.
Since he was elected, the legislature set his salary.
However, if he were working in a county with a similar population and student enrollment like Manatee, he could be making about $40,000 more. That's because the Manatee county position is appointed by a school board.
That means salaries are negotiable and that's the key difference for those who are appointed.
"I can argue both sides of the issue. I could argue for and against it," said Thomas.
He continued to say the financial aspect for appointed superintendents is not cheap.
"Financially you are going to pay more for an appointed superintendent."
Contract negotiation is a powerful tool for superintendents who are appointed.
So FOX10 News turned our attention to coastal Alabama and Mississippi, where most are chosen by a local school board.
Mobile County's Roy Nichols negotiated a $195,000 salary, reimbursement for moving expenses, and four week's vacation.
The Escambia County, Ala. superintendent's contract can not be reduced, although it can be raised regardless of how good or bad the economy.
In Baldwin County, Alan Lee got a $175,000 salary, $8,000 for moving expenses, and 15 vacation days.
Then, in Saraland, Lawrence Vickers got a contract worth $132,000 a year, three months of temporary housing while he moved to the area, and 15 days worth of vacation.
In Mississippi, Biloxi's superintendent gets a $159,000 salary, a district car, and his membership into a civic club of his choosing is paid for.
Appointed vs. Elected
According to state law, leaders in Alabama and Florida can choose between an elected or appointed superintendent. Of course, that would have to be put to a public vote.
Even though the pay for elected superintendents is usually lower, education leaders in Mobile County say appointing a leader prevents a power struggle between the board and superintendent.
"It removes the person who is primarily responsible for the efficient and effective operation of the schools from the political process," said Dr. Bill Foster with the Mobile County school board.
As of now, Dr. Foster said the Mobile County school board is looking for a new leader since Dr. Nichols announced he would be retiring soon.
Dr. Foster is a member of the search committee and said the board has always favored an appointed position even though negotiating high dollar salaries and perks are part of the process.
"The accountability factor for a superintendent is the fact that he or she is accountable to the taxpayers through the board and boards accountability is quite evident, because they are elected officials," stated Foster.
Dr. Foster admits the board's number one goal during contract negotiations is to get an experienced candidate.
"My concern is that we get the best person we can reasonable afford in this system," said Foster.
No matter whether the superintendent is appointed or elected, education leaders say bottom line, it's about who can get the job done.
Ultimately, the students are the ones affected the most regardless of the superintendent's take home pay.
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