It seems like just about every year, we hear about budget shortfalls and school closures at the State's largest school district: Houston Independent School District, and this year is no different.
As per usual, elected school board trustees and administrators huff and puff, then point their fingers at state and federal governments as the reason for the shortages...but watching public testimony at last night's school board meeting led to a HUGE find!
One of the people who spoke mentioned how top-heavy they thought HISD was, and that many of those making the most money aren't in the classroom regularly, or even working on a school campus.
This led me to wonder: Who are these people in the big admin building on 290, and what do they do?
And.... HOW MUCH DO THEY MAKE?
What would you do if I told you there were over 300 administrators who make over $100,000 per year?
Well, you don't have to believe me because I brought receipts!
FYI, information on all government employees is public information and published on the Texas Tribune every year. If you'd like to be petty and search for people you know who work for the city, state, or a school district somewhere: HERE'S THE LINK.
It baffles me how we don't have money for musical instruments, school supplies for teachers, or additional resources for our most marginalized communities, yet we can write these checks.
Now, I'm about to get real petty as well and point out some staggering figures, and even put some names next to them, so don't be surprised if I suddenly disappear only to be found face-down in a bayou next week.
Who are these people?
Okay, it's not shocking that mariachi performer-turned-HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza takes home a breathtaking $345,000 per year since he's basically the CEO of a government entity that rivals the size of a city. It's an important job, and so far he seems to be doing well at it... but what is a School Support Officer SSO? Why do we need 30 of them at roughly $130,000 each? That's roughly $4,000,000 every year combined.
The top paid SSO is Matilda Orozco raking in $176,382.35 according to public records. According to HISD's web-site, School Support Officers report directly to Deputy Superintendents. The top paid Deputy Superintendent is Samuel Sarabia who gets a staggering $221,900 via direct deposit annually. Just to put that into perspective for those of you (like me) who wonders what that looks like on a check stub every two weeks, that's $9,245 every pay period.
HISD's Athletics Director brings home the bacon, too! Marmion Dambrino makes 135,000 leading the athletics department at the district.
As expected, principals round off this list bringing home a well-deserved $130,000 per year, but a little more digging shows a few more confusing job titles at the top-heavy-yet-cash-strapped district.
The district's Chief Student Support Officer is Mark L. Smith who's worked for the district since August of 1986---the month before I was born. I turn 31 this year. He's making it rain with an annual salary of $194,361 per year.
Now, with HISD's starting teacher salary hovering somewhere around $50,000 per year, that's literally less than HALF of what these top brass employees bring home. It does lead one to wonder: where's the focus? How are teachers--one of the most important components of the education system--paid so low?
Who sets this budget?
More importantly: Who's benefitting from it?
Taking yet a dive deeper into the numbers, I see that our custodians and bus drivers are paid a meager $25,000 per year on average.
That's not a living wage.
Before we close another school...
Before we lay off another cook in the cafeteria...
We need to look at some of the people that are living off the fat of the land at HISD.
We plan to discuss this and more at the Houston ISD School Board Candidates' Debate on October 14th from 4-6:30pm at the Sunny Side Multi-Service Center..
-By Durrel Douglas, Contributor
Durrel K. Douglas devotes his life to building community power and using it to fuel the movement headed toward Justice. He enjoys Tex-Mex, HBCU bands, and ratchet television. Durrel co-founded the grass-roots-led HoustonJustice.Org in 2014 to fight police brutality and disparate treatment in the criminal "justice" system. He currently resides in Houston where he produces a bi-weekly podcast and is learning to play the upright base. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org