Something is wrong here!By TIM BEELAND,
Why in the world would Mississippi, of all states, have the highest paid superintendent of education in the nation? That’s a good question.
Citing trade publication Education Week, a story in the Jackson Clarion Ledger last week, reports that Mississippi Superintendent of Education Carey Wright, with a salary of over $300,000 is the highest paid superintendent in the whole United States. The average, the story says, is $174,000.
Wright is way above average! In pay that is.
This at the same time that our legislators refuse to fund education in this state to the standards they, themselves, set by law. Something is wrong there!
We hear it all the time. “Too much, administration at the top, not enough emphasis on the children and teachers in the classroom. Wright’s salary seems to verify those comments.
A reader called me last week here at the office asking who Carey Wright was and where she came from. “Didn’t she have some trouble in her past,” the lady asked.
I couldn’t remember the answer to any of her questions, but in the back of my mind there was something lurking, so I tried to do a little research.
Wright came to our state after a 41-year career as a teacher, principal and administrator. She went from a long career in well-regarded Maryland schools to the District of Columbia in 2009, rising to chief academic officer under a controversial boss.
Wright applied for a number of superintendent jobs, becoming a finalist but missing out on posts in Des Moines, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska before landing the job in Mississippi.
Other than being passed over for the other positions, I didn’t find any skeletons in her closet, not that they do not exist, however. We all have some!
Wright did flip- flop last year on the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education’s recommendation that public schools allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify. She at first supported the federal guidelines and then under pressure of Gov. Phil Bryant and calls from Republican leadership to resign, reversed her decision. “I am instructing the Mississippi Department of Education to follow the lead of state leadership and take no action at this time regarding the non-regulatory guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education,” she said at that time.
It is interesting to note at this point, too, that Wright makes more than Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann combined.
Which takes me back to the phone call last week. The reader, a retired educator — after 30-something years I believe she told me — said “I sure hope Tate Reeves doesn’t run for governor.” She doesn’t like his stand on education nor the governor’s, I presume, as she continued, “and this one we have now, I voted for him the first time, but....”
In all honesty, I think, a lot of the perceived controversy around Wright — other than that whopper of a salary — comes not from her background, but rather from the fact that the State Board of Education does just about everything they do in secret. Wright was hired from a pool of five, I think, after closed door interviews which just naturally leaves folks wondering.
It seems to me that if we are going to pay someone over $300,000 a year out of taxpayers dollars — again more the than the top three elected officials in this state combined — we the people ought to be able to do a little vetting ourselves. I think most of us are tired of having things rammed down our throats without any say-so whatsoever.
That, however, probably isn’t going to change anytime soon. Especially with the state board of education. But, as the caller said, “we’ve got to do something about this.”
I did ask her to write a letter to the editor. She said she might. You all should too!
For the record, Florida’s superintendent is the second highest paid in the nation with a salary of $276,000. Louisiana comes in third with a salary of $275,000. Colorado is fourth at $255,000 and the state of New York ranks fifth at $250,000. The lowest is Arizona at $85,000 per year.