High Pay, Few Students for Illinois Superintendents

Published March 1, 1998

Although Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul G. Vallas may have the most difficult school superintendent’s job in Illinois–that of turning around the performance of the state’s largest school district–he isn’t nearly the most highly paid superintendent in the state. While Vallas was paid $160,500 during the 1996-97 school year to oversee more than 430,000 elementary and high school students and more than 22,000 teachers at 563 Chicago public schools, Superintendent John E. Cahill was paid almost $30,000 more, a total of $190,124, to oversee just 1,359 elementary school students and 128 teachers at four schools in Lincolnwood Elementary School District 74.

In addition to Cahill, six other school superintendents in Chicago suburban school districts receive salaries that exceed Vallas’. According to data obtained from the Illinois State Board of Education by the Daily Herald, salaries for the 150 highest-paid Illinois school superintendents exceeded $109,000; those for the top 100 exceeded $117,000; those for the top 25 exceeded $141,000; and those for the top 10 exceeded $148,000. All told, 850 administrators oversee the state’s more than 1,000 school districts.

Under the terms of a school reform measure approved by state legislators last December, school administrator salaries in the future may be based on student performance on tests administered under the Illinois Goals Assessment Program. The linkage is an outgrowth of concern over a dramatic fall in IGAP reading scores since 1993, with tenth-grade scores falling 17 percent, and sixth- and eighth-grade scores dropping 14 percent. (See “‘Precipitous’ Drop Seen in Illinois Reading Scores,” School Reform News, November 1997.)

The Highest Paid Illinois School Superintendents
Rank Salary No. of Students No. of Schools Superintendent District
1. $190,124 1,358 4 John E. Cahill Lincolnwood Elementary District 74
2. $174,753 11,200 6 John Ashenfelter Northwest Suburban High School District 214
3. $167,570 2,642 4 Jacob Broncato Elmwood Park Unit District 401
4. $167,029 4,100 2 Jean B. McGrew Northfield Township High School District 225
5. $164,090 3,300 6 Sam Mikaelian Wilmette Elementary School District 39
6. $161,321 3,200 2 Jack B. Schoenholtz Leyden High School District 212
7. $160,500 430,380 563 Paul G. Vallas Chicago Public Schools
8. $148,972 2,700 6 Lawrence J. Golden Marquardt Elementary School District 15
9. $148,825 2,600 4 Douglas C. Parks Aptakisic-Tripp Unit District 102
10. $148,587 2,200 3 Robert Piwko Palos Elementary School District 118

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].