School superintendent salaries in northeast Kentucky range from $85,000 in Elliott County to $128,732 in Ashland, according to contracts posted on the Kentucky Department of Education website.
Seven months after a call for greater transparency by State Auditor Adam Edelen and Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, all 173 school districts in Kentucky, including the ones in Boyd, Greenup, Carter, Elliott and Lawrence counties, have posted superintendent contracts online.
With the contracts posted in one easy-to-find location, Kentuckians can find salaries, benefits, vehicle allowances and other perks of school districts’ top executives.
The documents reveal Ashland’s Steve Gilmore is the highest paid superintendent in northeast Kentucky. His base salary is $128,732, which includes 20 paid leave days. Gilmore also receives a $500 per month auto allowance.
At the other end of the scale, Elliott County’s Thomas Potter gets an $85,000 salary. His mileage is reimbursed at the standard district rate and among his perks are a laptop and cell phone allowance of $75 per month.
Fairview’s Bill Musick, superintendent of the smallest district in the region, receives the second-highest salary, $118,000. Next in line are Steve Hall in Greenup County at $116,000 and Ronnie Dotson in Carter County at $115,000.
After that come Mike Armstrong in Lawrence County, $110,000; Brock Walter in Boyd County, $101,000; Sean Horne in Russell, $100,000 and Larry Coldiron in Raceland-Worthington, $95,000.
If those amounts sound generous, compare them with superintendents in Kentucky’s largest metro areas: Donna Hargens in Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, makes $276,000 per year and Thomas Shelton gets $240,000 annually as superintendent in the Fayette County district, which includes Lexington.
Under some contracts, superintendents may negotiate periodic raises while others call for pay hikes linked to those received by faculty. Most of the contracts stipulate salaries can’t be cut.
The contracts typically call for districts to pay expenses, including for seminars and professional programs and for professional dues.
The education department began collecting the contracts in July and uploading them to the website in September, spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said.
To find them, go to the department website at education.ky.gov and click on “Districts” in the horizontal black bar near the top of the page. Then click on “District/School Support” near the middle of the next page, then on “District Financial Reporting” in the menu on the left side of the page after that.
Doing so reveals a drop-down menu and from that menu click “Superintendent Compensation.”
Clicking on contract links opens PDF files of the contracts themselves.
The website is set up so districts can post updated contracts whenever a superintendent is hired or rehired, Rodriguez said.
There also is a link to Holliday’s contract; his base salary is $225,000 per year.
Posting the contracts is good for districts, said Boyd County board chairman Bob Green. “We don’t want to hide anything from the public. We’re a public institution and the public should know.”
The database stems from spending scandals involving superintendents in Dayton Independent and Mason County districts. Superintendents in the districts were found to have received unauthorized compensation.
Holliday and Edelen in March called for greater transparency and more oversight of spending.
Putting contracts online in one easy to find location would simplify oversight, they said.
Information required for posting includes:
Monthly travel allowances.
Exclusive use of a district vehicle, including if for personal use.
Use of district fuel or district credit card to purchase fuel, including if for personal use.
Payment or reimbursement for cell phone and internet service.
Leave time and maximum leave allowed to accumulate.
Reimbursement for personal retirement service credit.
Payment or reimbursement for retirement annuity.
Payment or reimbursement for educational tuition assistance.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.