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Are Harlingen school administrators paid too much?

September 10, 2018 GMT

HARLINGEN — Some people in the community have questioned whether the school district has too many people in administrative positions, administrators who are being paid too much as a whole. However, a comparison with other school districts of similar size seems to prove that’s not the case.

The Harlingen school district, which serves about 18,000 students, has 83 administrators with a total base pay of more than $7 million. That’s 6.2 percent of the district’s total average base pay of $115.9 million.

A total of 1,272 teachers receive a total base pay of $66.1 million. That’s 57 percent of the district’s budget for personnel. Districts around the state appear to have comparable numbers.

The Beaumont school district, which serves more than 19,000, has 105 administrators drawing an average base salary of $8.1 million. That’s about 8 percent of the district’s total base pay of $100.6 million.

A total of 1,184 teachers receive a total base pay of $57.1 million. That’s about 56 percent of the district’s budget for personnel.

In Bryan, the district serves about 16,000 students. It employs 101 administrators with a total base pay of $7.3 million which is about 7 percent of the district’s budget of $92.8 for all personnel.

The district’s 1,107 teachers earn a total base pay $51.4 million. That’s 55 percent of the district’s total budget for personnel.

Harlingen employs 29 principals who earn a total base pay of $2.5 million.

The district’s 37 assistant principals earn a total base pay of $2.7 million. A total of 311 paraprofessionals earn almost $6 million, and the district’s 15 educational diagnosticians earn $910,667. The superintendent receives $277,866. Paraprofessionals support students and teachers in the classroom. Educational diagnosticians work within the special education program.

‘Success points’

Alicia Noyola, chief academic officer for the Harlingen school district, said numerous success points indicate the district has highly-qualified people. It’s more about quality versus quantity.

“We’re very strategic about what we hire and what that individual brings to the table in terms of impacting the success of students and what skill set they bring forward,” she said. “Everybody plays a role in the success of students.”

In Bryan, 23 principals are paid $1.8 million, and 42 assistant principals are paid $2.5 million. The district employs 204 paraprofessionals for an average base pay of $3.6 million. Its eight educational diagnosticians are paid more than $472,000 and the superintendent receives a salary of $184,450.

Beaumont pays its superintendent an annual salary of $249,000. The district pays 19 principals $2.5 million a year, and its 42 assistant principals are paid $2.6 million annually.

Beaumont’s 293 paraprofessionals are paid $5.4 million. The district pays its 18 educational diagnosticians a total base pay of $1 million.

Test scores

But are these districts getting what they pay for in terms of test scores?

Noyola, the chief academic officer, Noyola, the chief academic officer, said too many variables make it impossible to answer that question.

“The running of a school district is so complex, and the needs of students can be very different,” she said. “It’s so multifaceted, whether you’re looking at curriculum, whether you’re looking at staff. It’s very hard to generalize specifically why one school district may be doing a little better than the other.”

The Harlingen district continues to score well on the Texas Education Agency’s accountability ratings, faring well in comparison to districts of similar size. Harlingen has 17 elementary schools all of which Met Standard on the 2017 accountability ratings. Fifteen of them received distinctions. That’s 88 percent.

Noyola said student success is a group effort.

“It doesn’t hang on just one person, it doesn’t hang on just the principal or just the teacher,” she said. “Whether that’s our district administrative staff or specialists, everybody plays a role in educating our students.”

However, despite similar numbers in Harlingen, Beaumont and Bryan fell short of student performance in comparison.

Bryan has 14 elementary schools. One school did not meet expectations on one performance index. Five of them received distinctions. That’s 35 percent.

Beaumont has 13 elementary schools. Out of those 13, seven did not meet standard on one or more performance indexes. That’s 53 percent.

However, four schools achieved distinctions. That’s 30 percent.

Numerous variables play into the success of a school district and its students. Sources of funding, the economic status of students, and the number of administrators are a few of the many factors that play into student performance.

Districts do what they can with the resources available.

twhitehead@valleystar.com