Top salaries for superintendents of Merced County's largest school districts range between $166,000 and $192,858, with the top salary belonging to Scott Scambray, superintendent of the Merced Union High School District (MUHSD).
Salaries for superintendents are negotiated among board members and the superintendent and vary from district to district. Factors that are usually weighed to determine the amount include prior administrative experience, level of education, cost of living and the size of the district where a person previously served.
According to the California Department of Education, Scambray's salary is on par with the state average for unified school districts the size of the MUHSD. The average is $191,156.
Scambray, a first-time superintendent, said there wasn't much of a negotiation when he took the job in 2008 because he hadn't served as a superintendent.
"There's a wide disparity between how people see the job of the superintendent and what they feel their role is," said Dave Honey, board member for MUHSD. "How people figure salaries for that position is different for all districts. Sometimes you can go by population, but it depends on what the board wants. For some of these people, maybe it's their first administrative job."
Rosemary Parga-Duran, the superintendent of the Merced City School District (MCSD), the largest district in Merced County, said when she took over as superintendent two years ago, she received the same package as her predecessor.
According to the CDE, the average salary for an elementary school district the size of MCSD is $178,938.
Duran's base salary is $175,000, but her contract has allotted her $2,400 for expenses and $6,000 for a car allowance, making her total salary $183,400.
She said she felt her package is fair for her 25 years of experience working at the district.
For some districts, size is not the determining factor for salary.
Former Livingston School District superintendent Henry Escobar had a salary of $205,141. According to his contract, which ended after he retired in June 2010, Escobar also received an additional $5,000 a year because he had been with the district for 36 years. On top of that, he received $6,000 a year for a vehicle allowance, according to the document.
The district has roughly 2,396 students. Los Banos, a district that has more than 8,000 students, pays its superintendent $168,856.
According to the contract, Escobar's salary was based on the number of successes he had as superintendent. Some include having the highest teacher salaries in the county, remaining fiscally solvent during tough economic times and maintaining small class sizes, according to the contract.
The current Livingston superintendent, Andres Zamora, earns $168,856.
"The board wants to be competitive with surrounding districts," Zamora said. "Our board has always wanted to attract the best people to Livingston. It's one of the reasons we have the highest-paid teachers in Merced County. I'm sure the board had a formula to offer a fair competitive salary."
Another factor that comes into consideration when negotiating salaries is the economic climate, Honey said. That climate affected Scambray's contract, Honey added. Typically, superintendents at MUHSD get annual step increases in their salaries, but he only received those for the first two years he was there.
"There's no more steps and nothing has been negotiated since then," he said. "It's a tough subject when there are cuts, because there are other teachers continuing to get their steps."
There's a worry, he added, that in such a case that a superintendent could move on to a school district that offers a more competitive salary.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.