A 38% “wage adjustment” for one Michigan superintendent has pushed his annual salary to nearly a quarter million dollars, or about $90,000 more than some counterparts in similarly sized districts.
“If we’re a top-tier school, which we are, we need to be competitive to attract and retain top talent,” Okemos Public Schools spokeswoman Shannon Beczkiewicz told the Lansing State Journal.
The “substantial bump” of more than $66,000 in annual salary for Okemos Superintendent John Hood from $175,389 to $241,475 was approved by the district’s school board during a special meeting in December that went largely unnoticed until this week.
The increase was among others for administrative assistants, and media and technology specialists, that were aimed at ensuring compensation is “comparable to the market,” Beczkiewicz said, though Hood’s take home pay now dwarfs superintendents in nearby districts and other “top-tier” Michigan schools.
The focus in on retaining Hood, who is responsible for “overseeing up to 500 staff, all the students and buildings,” Beczkiewicz said.
“It’s not just curriculum or facilities,” she said.
The district’s “top-tier” designation stems from its ranking as the fourth-best school district in Michigan in 2024 by the school rating site Niche, which makes its determinations based on public reviews.
Public reviews of the pay increase in social media comments, however, were not the best.
“This will go over well,” Kristi Middleton posted to X, the site formally known as Twitter.
“38% I’m sure all the hard-working teachers who are making him look so good got a similar raise in their last contract. This is mind-blowingly stupid,” Ryan Johnson added. “Just remember, you get what you pay for.”
Others online made reference to the district’s bungled handling of and ongoing controversy surrounding lead contamination at Okemos Public Montessori, which led to a flood of parent complaints at a board meeting last month. Much of that controversy centers on communications to parents of children in classrooms with elevated levels of lead in drinking water that failed to encourage them to get their children tested.
“The ball has been dropped and it is disappointing,” Kelly McCarty, mother of two at the school, said at the board meeting, according to Michigan Advance. “I’m scared for the teachers, the staff, the former students in that building and nobody has an answer except, ‘Don’t drink the water. We’re going to post some signs. We’re going to add some filters.’ That is a joke.”
Despite the questionable decisions under Hood’s leadership, he’s now the highest paid public school district superintendent in the county, and second highest among superintendents of similarly sized districts. Okemos schools has about 4,500 students.
The superintendent at the nearby East Lansing Public Schools with 700 fewer students is $168,853, while the 10,000 student Lansing School District superintendent’s pay is $206,360. At Grand Ledge Public Schools in neighboring Eaton County, the superintendent overseeing about 5,100 students has an annual salary of $152,524.
Even other larger school districts ranked above Okemos on the Niche site pay their superintendents significantly less, with Troy Public Schools’ superintendent the closest at $234,786 to oversee 12,000 students.
Data from the Michigan Department of Education shows Okemos, an affluent suburb of the state capitol, receives about $500 more per student than the state average at $13,465. The median household income in the city is $86,354, or about $20,000 more than the state median, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.