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School superintendents’ pay often reflects rankings

By Myra Bean

The adage “you get what you pay for” seems to work for public school superintendents.

Mississippi Today recently released annual salaries of Mississippi public school superintendents for the 2018-19 school year.

Local superintendents’ salaries at the time the data was gathered $146,000 for South Panola’s Tim Wilder and $100,000 for North Panola’s Dr. Cedric Richardson. Wilder is the 30th highest paid superintendent of the 154 released by the Mississippi Department of Education. Both have since had salary adjustments by their respective boards.

The flip side of those coins is the school ratings the school officials have been able to spearhead in their respective districts. South Panola is now a B rated district, improving from a C last year.

Under Wilder’s leadership,  South Panola School District  has steadily improved in the state’s annual  Accountability Rankings, moving from D in 2016 to within a few points of A in the most recent rankings.

No other school district in the state has shown the percentage of growth in academic measurements as South Panola since 2016.

North Panola, this year,  maintained its C rating, although two of its schools were given F scores.

South Panola School Board President Jerry Cooley said he and the other trustees are ecstatic with the work Wilder is doing for the school district. Cooley was very effusive in his praise for the superintendent who is in his sixth year of leading the district.

“We grade him as excellent,” Cooley said. “He is doing a great job. We went from a C district to a B district and it was all under his leadership. We are happy with him and proud of him. Our goal is to get every school to an A.”

Richardson has been over North Panola since July 2014. The board granted him a raise at the beginning of the school year.

Richardson just went through one of the toughest things he has had to do since becoming superintendent and that was the closing of the Crenshaw Elementary School due to lack of attendance and the extra money it takes to run the school in the far northwest portion of the county.

The median salary for superintendents in 2018-19 was $115,000, according to Mississippi Today.

The highest paid superintendent was Corinth’s Edward Childress whose school district rated a B. So did Tupelo School District whose superintendent Robert Picou makes $209,220.

In other comparisons, Desoto County’s Cory Uselton makes $195,000 and his school district has an A rating.

East and West Tallahatchie are F school districts. East’s superintendent Darron Edwards make $121,000 and West’s superintendent Christoph Furdge makes $90,000.

Tate county’s Daryl Scoggin is paid $110,000 and his district is a C. Senatobia Municipal School District is a B and under the direction of James Foster, a former South Panola High School principal, who receives $132,000.

Quitman county School District pays Evelyn Jossell $100,000 and the district is C rated.

Petal School District pays Matthew Dillon $190,000 and is an A district. Dillon is also a former South Panola High School principal.

Lafayette County School District and Oxford School both are A rated school districts. Lafayette superintendent Adam Pugh is paid $128,400 and Oxford’s Brian Hervey is paid $159,150.

Coahoma pays Ilean Richardson $81,000 and Clarksdale Municipal School pays Dennis Dupree $133,100. Both schools have been rated F for the past two years.

One of the lowest paid superintendents, Billy Ferguson in Carroll County School District, is paid $21,305 with a D rating. Perry County only pays Gregory Dearman $18,634. The school has a C rating.

From the information gathered, higher salaries are not always guaranteeing a respectable school rating.

The schools paying $91,000 and higher show these rating results:

A schools = 28

B schools = 34

C schools = 32

D schools = 17

F schools = 12

School districts which are paying their superintendents $90,000 or less break down:

F schools = 6

D schools = 2

C schools = 4

B schools = 1

A Schools = 2