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How New Orleans superintendent's $300K salary compares to other Louisiana school leaders

Incoming NOLA-PS superintendent Avis Williams during her board interview on March 29, 2022.
Aubri Juhasz
Incoming NOLA-PS superintendent Avis Williams during a board interview on March 29, 2022.

New Orleans’ new head of public schools will earn a base salary that’s $50,000 more a year than her predecessor when she takes over at the end of June.

Avis Williams’ annual salary will start at $300,000, with the opportunity for percentage-based raises and predetermined bonus payments if she meets specific performance objectives outlined in her contract.

Current superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. received a base salary of $250,000 a year when he signed his most recent contract in August 2017.

He has received a performance-based 3% salary increase each year since then, as stipulated in his contract. Coupled with additional salary increases applied to all central office employees, Lewis’ current salary is close to $290,000, according to school board president Olin Parker.

On Thursday, the district’s school board unanimously approved the four-year agreement, which is the maximum length of years that superintendent contracts are allowed to be in Louisiana and includes up to $12,000 in reimbursable moving expenses and $7,500 in temporary living expenses.

Williams is currently the superintendent of Selma City Schools in Selma, Alabama, a position she has held for five years. She has worked in public education for more than 20 years, including as a teacher, coach, principal, administrator and assistant superintendent.

“We believe our offer is grounded in both equity and data,” Parker said in a statement following the vote.

Williams’ starting salary of $300,000 is at the 75th percentile of superintendents in districts with 25,000 to 49,999 students, according to data from the American Association of School Administrators.

The district said in a statement that Williams’ contract is also in line with compensation packages recently offered to superintendents in similarly sized districts in the region, including East Baton Rouge and Jefferson parishes — though her starting salary is on the high end.

Sito Narcisse signed a $255,000 starting salary contract when he took the helm of EBR Schools last year, and James Gray was offered $10,000 more to start leading Jefferson Parish schools, the district’s largest public school system, in 2020.

Williams’ $300,000 base pay also puts her ahead of the state’s superintendent of education Cade Brumley who received a starting salary of $285,000 when he signed his contract in 2020.

Narcisse doesn’t have a performance-based pay raise written into his contract, but is eligible for a $10,000 bonus each year. Gray’s contract includes a 2% or 5% salary increase each year if he receives a satisfactory or excellent board rating. Brumley is eligible for an annual 3% raise.

Just like Lewis, Williams is eligible for $20,000 in bonus payments each year and a 3% pay raise once she enters the second year of her contract.

Bonus payments for the coming school year are contingent upon four board-established goals, which focus on facilities, finance, accountability and truancy and are each worth $5,000.

To receive a pay raise, $9,000 to start, Williams will need to receive an overall board evaluation of satisfactory or higher. If she receives a raise each year, her salary excluding benefits could be $328,000 by the end of her four-year contract.

Williams’ base salary also exceeds those paid to the CEOs of some of the district’s largest charter management organizations, according to financial data from the previous school year.

Lewis’ contract expires on June 30, and Williams’ begins July 11.

While the two technically won’t overlap, Williams is expected to work for the district as a consultant for up to 20 days to “ensure a smooth transition,” according to her contract.

She will be paid at a per diem rate based on her minimum annual salary, and the district will cover travel and any other related expenses.

This story has been updated at 8:00 p.m. on April 19, 2022 to include additional salary information.

Aubri Juhasz covers K-12 education, focusing on charter schools, education funding, and other statewide issues. She also helps edit the station’s news coverage.

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