DOWNTOWN — The Glendale Unified School District is home to the highest paid superintendent in Los Angeles County, according to a survey released by the county’s Office of Education last week.
Some of the 80 school districts surveyed did not submit responses, but Supt. Michael Escalante’s $273,188 compensation package topped the list by more than $16,000.
Glendale Unified is the sixth largest school district in the county, with 26,746 students, which is less than one-twentieth the size of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which pays the county’s third highest salary.
Los Angeles Unified, which is the second largest school district in the nation and serves more than 688,000 students, pays its superintendent, Ramon Cortines, $250,000, according to the survey.
The county’s second highest salary of $256,343 went to Supt. Donna Perez of the Alhambra Unified School District, which serves 18,749 students.
Previous county surveys had only ranked most districts by salary, but this year’s report asked all respondents to account for total compensation packages.
Glendale Unified had the second highest salary to former Los Angeles Unified Supt. David Brewer in last year’s survey, but Cortines has since taken over the role at a lower rate than Brewer’s $300,000 package.
Escalante’s pay in the survey — which had previously taken into account total compensation, as with this year — was recorded as $245,220 in 2007-08.
The superintendent contended that the figure was an error, but said he could not recall when he received the increase to the current $273,188.
Members of the Glendale Unified Board of Education were not familiar with Escalante’s total compensation figures, but defended his salary as a necessity, even though the district’s $186-million budget is far smaller than the $13.4-billion Los Angeles Unified general fund.
“I think that we are working with a superintendent who has done an utterly and completely outstanding job of creating stability and guiding the board to fiscal responsibility,” board President Mary Boger said.
Other school districts had not been as prudent in their fiscal planning as Glendale Unified has been under Escalante, which has allowed the board to avoid teacher lay offs, she added.
“I am unfamiliar with LAUSD’s pay structure, but I do know how many teachers they let go,” she said, referring to the 2,500 teachers that Los Angeles Unified is considering laying off.
“We, on the other hand, did not notice any of our teachers [for layoffs].”
Board member Joylene Wagner, who said Escalante had been recruited by other districts because of his ability to effectively run schools, also defended his salary.
His compensation package has additional value because it has allowed the board to benefit from his insight, which has saved jobs in the long run, Wagner said.
“Given all that he has saved us, and all that he has done for our district, we want to keep him,” she said.