Michael Van Beek on ABC-12
Education Policy Director Michael Van Beek discusses superintendent salaries on ABC-12.

Forget CEO salaries — the new controversy is over outsized salaries for public school superintendents. Mackinac Center resources have helped reveal that a few superintendents of small districts are receiving some big compensation packages. Following public outcry at these revelations, the two superintendents have announced their resignations.

When Flint’s ABC-12 discovered that the superintendent of 600-student Harbor Beach School District was being paid a $300,000 compensation package, they interviewed Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center’s director of education policy, for his take. Using data that the Mackinac Center routinely collects, Van Beek compared the Harbor Beach superintendent’s pay with that of district superintendents throughout Michigan. He found that this particular superintendent was being paid more than those in districts with more than 30 times the number of students.

After the Mackinac Center's online news site, Michigan Capitol Confidential, ran two additional stories about the Harbor Beach superintendent’s pay, the Huron Daily Tribune reported that school board meetings in Harbor Beach were packed with concerned residents. The superintendent promised in October to work part-time to save the district some money, and later in November announced he will resign after this school year.

Capitol Confidential also uncovered that the 2,000-student district of Coopersville also paid its superintendent on par with some of the largest and wealthiest districts in the state. His total compensation hovered around $311,000.

After this was reported by Capitol Confidential, The Grand Rapids Press revisited a story they ran in 2008 on superintendent salaries and discovered that the Coopersville superintendent had misrepresented his salary in their original story — in fact, he had grossly underestimated it. A few days after The Press unveiled this disparity, the Coopersville superintendent announced he would retire from the district at the end of the school year.