Superintendent pay sparks headlines

COOPERSVILLE, Mich. — School superintendent salaries made headlines in Coopersville and Livonia recently, as school board members defended compensation of about $300,000 and $199,000, respectively, in those districts.

School board members told media that the high pay reflects job performance and the need to compete for the best superintendents, while others said such pay levels aren't appropriate during tough economic times, according to The Detroit News and The Grand Rapids Press.

Coopersville Area Public Schools Superintendent Kevin O'Neill, who is retiring this year, received total compensation of about $311,000 in the 2009 tax year, according to information posted at the district website and reported by Michigan Capitol Confidential. He is the highest-paid K-12 superintendent in Ottawa County based on comparisons done by The Press.

In Livonia Public Schools, the school board gave Superintendent Randy Liepa a $50,000 pay hike on Oct. 18, raising his 2011-2012 compensation to about $199,000, The News reported. The district has closed 10 buildings and cut bus routes to save money, the report said. President Lynda Scheel said a search firm had approached Liepa recently and that dozens of openings are coming up in other districts, The News reported. 

The Detroit News, "Livonia board defends super's raise," Oct.20, 2010

The Grand Rapids Press, "At $262,797 a year, retiring Coopersville superintendent is by far highest paid school chief in West Michigan," Oct. 20, 2010

Michigan Capitol Confidential, "School Board Prez Says State's 3rd-Highest Paid Superintendent is 'Worth It'" Oct. 13, 2010