August 2011
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School Superintendents: Fresno vs. Peoria

Have you heard about this? The school superintendent in Fresno County, California, Larry Powell, is a hero to taxpayers nationwide:

Some people give back to their community. Then there’s Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell, who’s really giving back. As in $800,000 – what would have been his compensation for the next three years.

Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than a starting California teacher earns.

“How much do we need to keep accumulating?” asks Powell, 63. “There’s no reason for me to keep stockpiling money.”

…[Powell asked] his board to allow him to return $288,241 in salary and benefits for the next three and a half years of his term. He technically retired, then agreed to be hired back to work for $31,000 a year – $10,000 less than a first-year teacher – and with no benefits.

Setting aside for a moment Powell’s generosity, though, take a look at his salary and responsibilities compared to District 150’s superintendent:

  Fresno Supt. Peoria Supt.
Schools 325 28
Districts 35 1
Students 195,000 13,021
Salary $288,241* $198,000**
*Including benefits | **Not including benefits

The school board also awarded District 150’s superintendent a $10,000 bonus this year. It seems the Fresno superintendent has a much bigger responsibility. If you run the numbers, you’ll see that Peoria’s school system is less than 7% the size of Fresno’s by enrollment, yet our superintendent’s salary is almost 70% the size of Fresno’s — not including benefits.

Am I suggesting that our superintendent should only get 7% of what Fresno’s makes (it comes to a little less than $20,000)? No, of course not. But I am questioning whether $198,000 is too high, given the size of our school district. If the Fresno superintendent thinks he’s overpaid at $288,000, and his school district is nearly 14 times the size of ours, then it seems we may have a problem — especially when you factor in the cost of living. According to, Fresno is 26% more expensive than Peoria, housing in Fresno is 75% more expensive than Peoria, and a salary equivalent to $198,000 in Peoria would be $250,371 in Fresno.

I’m sure I’ll be accused of comparing apples and oranges, but it does make a taxpayer wonder if our salary scales for administrators are too high. And oh, that there would be more public-sector workers like Powell — ones who would say, “There’s no reason for me to keep stockpiling money,” and voluntarily take a pay cut for the sake of better government service.

119 comments to School Superintendents: Fresno vs. Peoria

  • teachingrocks

    Sharon, you are so right to question those thinking maps. Several PD days were spent “teaching” the teachers how to use them. It is an expensive set of graphic organizers, one of which is a Venn diagram. They are supposed to be used exclusively and across the grade levels. The teachers were given binders with information about each one of them. Teachers signed for their binder and had to turn it in at the end of the year. I heard they were very expensive. The maps are supposed to be used in all subjects. My question was the same as yours—how much did these things cost?

  • Sharon Crews

    TeachingRocks, yes, I have all the FOIA’d data–just haven’t compiled it yet. In addition to the thousands of dollars to pay for these “extra” instructional materials to a North Carolina company. I, also, have the records as to how much these people from North Carolina were paid to come to Peoria for professional development–it is outrageous. At least, the teachers to whom I have talked seem to think they already were using graphic organizers that suited their purposes just fine. This was a gift to North Carolinians as far as I can tell.

  • Dunlap Observer

    Frustrated – It was quite easy once we got into Dunlap schools. I should have clarified that.

  • week textbooks

    ..Tweedle dee dee..just waiting for textbooks, hmmmm

  • Sharon Crews

    Which textbooks (and grade level) are not distributed yet? Are their old ones that haven’t been redistributed or new ones?

  • Teach

    We had a Science series that was only about 2-3 years old. Books still look new, but we got a NEW series. Does Lathan have a family member working for Houton-Miflin? She has started way too many initiatives and I have never been so confused in my life. We were all told last spring that ALL of our students would be tested for interventions the FIRST week of school. Well, here we are, still waiting….how can we “group” our students (the way they want it done), when we don’t know the cut scores from the screenings? I won’t even discuss trying to write lesson plans. The entire district is a mess, but hey, give her a $10,000 bonus for WHAT?

  • teachingrocks

    Where does this money for these new books come from? Teachers are needed in classrooms which have over 30 kids and they’ve spent money to replace nearly new textbooks and not recalled pink slip teachers. Any logic in that? NOPE!

  • Sharon Crews

    Note to C.J. first–I am on now but only after somehow outfoxing all the messages–I still can’t get on site easily.
    She doesn’t have a family member working for Houghton Mifflin; however, Dr. Owen Roberts of Houghten Miflen did the audit (paid for by Houghten Miflen) and, thus, the $700,000 order for books, social studies and science books (which definitely) were not needed. I have gotten the information from a reliable source. However, the district refused to give me any of the information about Dr. Roberts and his work for the district–or the deal, etc. I’m still trying. In the hands of the Attorney General right now. Also, I don’t know the actual amount for the books. Dr. Kinney threw out the $700,000 figure one night at a board meeting–don’t know if it’s for just social studies or science books included in the total.
    I’m about to conclude my compilation of travel expenses. Over 40 trips were listed as “no charge” and no funding source. (I would like to know who pays for 150 trips that don’t come out of any budgeted funds). But there were trips to about 247 conferences/workshops, etc., taken at a cost of $349,000 last year–from various funds. That total doesn’t include the cost for subs. which was $17,000 and some figures weren’t given to me. 124 trips by central administrators and 555 by principals and teachers, etc.

  • week textbooks

    My school still waiting for old textbooks to be redistributed from other schools. Most subject areas missing 20 -30 books per grade level bc of shifting populations.

  • RU Kidding

    Sharon…thank you for all the hard work compiling the information from the FOIAs. You should be paid for all of your work. It certainly puts a little transparency in the district, even if it comes from citizen-Sharon.

    If only the school board was looking into all of these issues…might make them appear credible. In the meantime, keep up the good work!

  • mortified

    Sharon deserves 10,000 dollar bonus!

  • whatever

    Mortified….I agree. Sharon has earned HER bonus.

  • RU Kidding

    Great idea, mortified!!!

  • Sharon Crews

    Skip the $10,000, I just want to be able to get on this site without spending five minutes outfoxing all the error messages! 🙂

  • Needs Advice

    This is the first time all week I’ve been able to read or access this site. What’s going on? Is someone mad at PC?

  • teachingrocks

    I too am having issues with getting on here. It keeps telling me something about a the script? Beats me, but I hate not being able to see what’s going on.

  • Sharon Crews

    Teachingrocks, I have explained that message to C.J.–he has tried to resolve the problem, but I am still having it, too. When I do get on after all sorts of manevuering, I am never certain what I did so that I can repeat the process.

  • big-n-italian

    just letting everyone know i am experiencing the same problem with the website.

  • Needs Advice

    After clicking “no” 3X in response to the script question, I can get into the blog.