Another raise for Wichita superintendent puts her financial package above $300,000

Since taking the helm of the state’s largest school district last year, Superintendent Alicia Thompson has seen her base pay increase more than 11 percent — from $240,000 to $266,864.
Since taking the helm of the state’s largest school district last year, Superintendent Alicia Thompson has seen her base pay increase more than 11 percent — from $240,000 to $266,864. File photo

A pay raise for Wichita teachers will mean another significant pay raise for the district’s top administrator.

Superintendent Alicia Thompson will make an additional $12,344 a year — an increase of 4.85 percent — which brings her total financial package to $307,524 a year.

Wichita school board members unanimously approved a new teacher contract during their regular meeting Monday.

The contract, announced by district and union officials earlier this month, raises teacher pay by 3.65 percent and includes compensation for additional experience and education, known as steps and tracks.

District officials said the average increase for teachers, including steps and tracks, under the new contract is 4.85 percent — so that’s the raise Thompson received.

A clause in Thompson’s contract says her salary “will be automatically increased each year to an amount that is equivalent to the percentage amount of increase that the School Board approves for teachers.”

Other administrators, such as building principals and assistant principals, received a 3.9 percent raise.

Alicia Thompson, superintendent of Wichita public schools, rode the bus with students to Minneha Elementary on the first day of school. (Aug. 15, 2018)

This year’s contract with school district service workers — para-educators, custodians, food service workers and others — includes a 3.65 percent raise.

Thompson is starting her second full year at the helm of the state’s largest school district. Since replacing John Allison last year, her base pay has increased more than 11 percent — from $240,000 to $266,864.

In addition to her salary, Thompson receives 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.

Shortly before Monday’s vote, board member Ben Blankley said he had heard from some constituents who “were looking for maybe less of a percentage increase for administration.”

But he opted to support all the raises.

“I work at Spirit — I’m a cog in a machine, and I’ve got lots of managers,” said Blankley, an engineer at Spirit AeroSystems.

“But they’ve got families, too. They’ve got bills to pay, just like our administration has got families and bills to pay as well,” he said. “Any dollar that goes into our payroll is money that’s spent right here in our city. ... And so I’m pushing for salary increases across the board where we can.”

Board member Ernestine Krehbiel said this year’s raises should send a message that the board values district employees.

“We did the best we could and even pushed a little beyond what we maybe should have,” she said.

“If we could ... we would put banners all over town and say, ‘These teachers, these staff people — they are making the future,’” she said. “And this was the best we could do to make that statement and to make it public.”

In other business Monday, the board approved its 2018-19 budget, which includes an additional $57 million in base state aid, special education funding and targeted state grants.

The district’s new budget is almost $740 million.

Susan Willis, the district’s chief financial officer, began her presentation by addressing general concerns about administrative pay.

“We do look at these wage packages in totality, and we try to keep the packages somewhat comparable,” she said. “Knowing that every (employee) group has its own unique pieces, we try to keep the overall value in a ballpark.”

Administrators’ across-the-board pay increase is higher than teachers’ because administrators don’t receive longevity bonuses, Willis said. Longevity pay, which teachers receive after 14 years with the district, ranges from 3 percent to 12 percent of a teacher’s salary depending on his or her years of experience.

“Administrators are a unique group because they do not receive a longevity bonus,” she said. “It’s not apples to apples (when) we’re looking at the pieces that go into compensation.”

Alicia Thompson, the first Wichita superintendent who attended school in the district, spent the first day of school visiting classrooms and talking about her vision for the district. (Aug. 23, 2017)