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Salaries, benefits increase as school superintendents become harder to find

Diana Lambert


Superintendent candidates are in the driver’s seat in California, where openings are plenty and fewer veteran candidates are interested. The result is higher salaries, better perks and less experience required.

Superintendent pay in California has skyrocketed in the last decade, with salaries in some districts growing more than 60%, according to an EdSource analysis of 53 California superintendent contracts.

Contracts show salaries that range from $130,000 in rural McKinleyville in Humboldt County, where Julie Giannini-Previde leads a district of 928 students, to $441,092 in suburban Elk Grove, near Sacramento, where Christopher Hoffman is at the helm of a district of 63,000 students...

A survey of 2,443 superintendents nationwide by the School Superintendents Association showed a median annual salary of $156,468 last school year, with pay increasing at districts with higher enrollment. No comparative salary data is available for California, although the California Department of Education has salary information for 2021-22. That year, superintendents in unified districts with 10,000 to 20,000 students earned an average yearly salary of $278,268 and superintendents in districts with 20,000 or more students averaged $319,443 a year...

Superintendents of large school districts aren’t the only ones making big salaries. Some superintendents in smaller districts out-earned colleagues overseeing much larger districts. Bay Area superintendents Donald Austin of Palo Alto Unified and Michael Gallagher at Sunnyvale School District, who earn $378,000 and $374,000 respectively, make more than superintendents in much larger districts in the state, including San Francisco Unified. 

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