Good work if you can keep it

 The non-profit news site Texas Tribune apparently has unleashed a data-based investigation that has a lot of jaws flapping in the Lone Star State.

 Headed by former Texas Monthly editor-in-everything, New Yorker Evan Smith, the Tribune has an easy-to-use data grabber on which you can find the salaries of your local school superintendent or any in the rest of Texas. Hats off to the Tribune’s Matt Stiles and Brian Thevenot for an enlightening report.

 The information unleashed especially has many a neck reddening down here in Beaumont where it is little or no surprise that our sometimes controversial Beaumont ISD Superintendent Dr. Carroll Thomas is the state’s highest paid school executive.

 Thomas makes a very comfortable $324,212 per year. I would say what is most interesting about his salary is that it is earned for overseeing a district with 13,309 students.  The top four highest-paid supes following Thomas all have salaries in the 300 grand range. They oversee Fort Worth ISD (79,285 enrollment), Dallas ISD (157,352), Alief (45,230), and Houston (200,225 students).

 It seems much is made from other media using the Tribune’s information of “per-student” figures, the amount of dollars in salary per student, of each school leader. Maybe I am missing it, but I have yet to find much real significance in those figures other than in the “Gee Whiz” factor. The fact is a number of schools with smaller enrollments sometimes pay fairly handsome salaries to superintendents which would tend to skew the per-student number. Superintendent Fernando Castillo runs the Progreso ISD in the Rio Grande Valley’s Hidalgo County. The district has an enrollment of  2, 150 and Fernando draws a salary of $208,566. Thus, Castillo has a $97-per student figure while Daniel King who is superintendent of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD in the same county “earns” $7 per student with his enrollment of 30,618.

 A total of 214 superintendents who run schools ranging from 500-2,500 students are paid salaries ranging from the high $99,000s to more than $46,000. Those are actually some of the lower paid supes in the state.

 While some of the salaries seem out of whack, especially when looking at enrollment, they also have to be seen in context. Texas has what I consider to be an inequitable school academic grading system. On the other hand, there are a lot of things I would do different if I was the King of Texas.

 Socioeconomics also have to be figured into a rating a school in the state’s “accountability system.” Thus, a superintendent’s ability in ensuring that a school has a tolerable rating many times has to be seen through the lens of the racial and economic make up of a district’s students. For instance, Beaumont’s Thomas heads a school with a majority minority population that has improved its grade from “Academically Acceptable” to “Recognized.” The latter is the second highest of six accountability ratings the state pulled out of its a** uses.

 Of course, Thomas has detractors who accuse him of everything from cronyism to worse.

 I should be more involved and aware of our local school system. But I have no kids in school. I am more worried about the federal government, city government and state government, in that order. So I will leave it to those who support Thomas, racists who hate him because he is black, or those who have anywhere from a modicum of sense to brilliance who do not think Thomas is doing a good job but aren’t likely to lynch him.

 This I will say. There are a whole group of professions with people who make very tidy sums of money because they have difficult jobs that are very often looked at by the public with a keen eye and scrutinized by an elected board of officials of whom  every decision is a political one. This group include school superintendents, high school football coaches (I suspect some in Texas make more money than superintendents), city managers and police and fire chiefs in urban areas.

 Is Carroll Thomas worth the sum of money he is paid and which makes him the highest paid school chief in Texas? I don’t know. I think, honestly, the only way to say is to look at his record once he is replaced. But I know I wouldn’t want his job. I wouldn’t want the job of Beaumont West Brook head coach Craig Stump. Nor would I want the jobs of the Beaumont fire chief Anne Huff and police chief Frank Coffin. I wouldn’t mind if Beaumont’s city manager got a better-paying job elsewhere. But that’s another story for another time.