Alicia Thompson will earn more in base salary than her predecessor when she takes over as superintendent of Wichita public schools in July, but her total financial package will be slightly less.
On Monday night, the school board unanimously approved a three-year contract with Thompson.
It will pay the new superintendent a base salary of $240,000 a year. She also will receive a $780-a-month car and mileage allowance, $525 a month for “professional, civic and incidental expenses” and a $25,000-a-year contribution to her retirement, bringing the total package to $280,660.
The contract will make her the second-highest-paid superintendent in Kansas.
The Shawnee Mission district in Johnson County paid its superintendent $301,136 for the 2015-16 school year, according to Kansas Department of Education data.
Thompson’s five-page contract looks very much like that of current superintendent John Allison.
Allison’s base salary is $229,408 a year. He receives a monthly car and mileage allowance of $750 a month, $500 a month for incidental expenses and a $25,000 yearly retirement contribution.
In 2013, the district began contributing another $18,660 a year toward Allison’s retirement fund in the form of KPERS “service credits,” bringing his total annual financial package to $288,068.
Board member Lynn Rogers said Thompson’s contract would keep Wichita competitive among urban school districts.
“Because we recruited from within, many times people have the idea that we can do this on the cheap,” Rogers said. “We’ve learned in the past, from previous superintendents, that when that happens, people are recruited and stolen away from us.”
Rogers said he has heard grumbles through the years about what the board pays its superintendent, particularly the additional stipends for mileage and incidentals.
“We added both of those so the board doesn’t have to micromanage the superintendent,” he said.
He said Wichita is “still … on the low end” in regard to the superintendent’s salary and benefits package “if you compare us to districts around the country, and that’s who we’re competing with.”
“People need to understand that we’ve taken this very seriously – not only the selection but the payment capabilities and components of the salaries – to be competitive so (Thompson) can stay here long term,” Rogers said. “Longevity makes a difference in student achievement.”
When Allison was hired in 2009, a clause in his contract required that he earn a doctorate in education by August 2012. In February of that year, board members amended the contract to say he was “encouraged to obtain” his doctorate and that the board “will consider increasing the superintendent’s base salary by an appropriate amount” if and when he completed the degree.
Thompson, who currently serves as assistant superintendent for elementary schools, earned her doctorate from Wichita State University in 2015.
Board president Sheril Logan reiterated Monday what she and several other board members said when they appointed Thompson last week.
“I believe with all my heart we could have gone out to the nation and done a national search and not found a better candidate,” Logan said. “She is the right candidate for the right time in Wichita.”