As Collier County School District superintendent, Dennis Thompson’s $230,000-a-year paycheck will be larger than the annual salaries of Vice President Dick Cheney and Gov. Charlie Crist.
But don’t think that makes Thompson the highest paid schools superintendent in Florida. Thompson will still draw less than the schools chiefs in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, among others.
When the Collier County School Board approved Thompson’s contract on a 3-2 vote last week, his annual salary of $230,000 was the highest a superintendent had received in Collier County.
School Board Chairman Steven Donovan was quick to point out that Thompson’s salary, which is about $33,000 higher than fired Superintendent Ray Baker, was loaded at the front end to compensate for some of the things he won’t be getting as superintendent.
He won’t, for example, see a $750-a-month car allowance. He will not receive health care for the rest of his life, but will be on the district’s plan until he is eligible for Medicare. He will not receive a bonus each year for doing a good job. Instead, he will receive whatever percentage of salary increase the rest of the administration receives.
School Board member Kathleen Curatolo wasn’t as sure. She voted against Thompson’s contract, saying his salary is excessive.
"There is nothing that has shown me he is of the caliber to earn a quarter of a million dollars in salary," she said at a special board meeting Monday. "This is a 20 percent increase over the last superintendent’s salary."
Thompson’s salary is not the highest schools superintendent salary in the state, nor is it the lowest.
Donovan said Thompson is worth the money.
"He has the education, the experience and the results," he said Friday. "There was a little give and take about what it should be, but I think this is what the market will bear."
The superintendent’s position in the schools is performance-driven, and the superintendent serves at the will of the board.
So what does that translate to for Collier County taxpayers?
When Thompson starts his new job Monday, he will oversee 48 schools with more than 40,000 students and an annual budget of more than $1 billion.
As per his contract, Thompson will be responsible for the district as its chief executive officer, which also means he will represent the interests of the School Board and the district with the community. He must also work with the School Board, district personnel, parents and community members to develop short and long-range goals "with clear criteria for determining effective achievement and evaluating outcomes consistent with the board’s strategic plan," according to this contract.
Thompson will be the one, according to his contract, to provide leadership, guidelines and direction to implement the board’s policies, while directing how the district plans and finances the maintenance of existing and new schools.
He will have to provide educational leadership to ensure quality teaching and learning, according to the contract. Thompson will also have to establish and maintain "an effective community relations program," according to the contract.
Thompson will inevitably begin work on those things when he reports to work Monday.