During a Friday meeting, the Anniston Board of Education unanimously approved a $167,144 annual contract with benefits for Darren Douthitt, who the board hired as superintendent last week. He’s set to start work in Anniston Feb. 17, replacing retiring current superintendent, Joan Frazier.
Attempts to reach Douthitt for comment Friday were unsuccessful.
Anniston school board president Bill Robison said that while Douthitt's pay is high compared to some of his counterparts in the state when based on the number of students in his schools, the cost is worth it.
"We could have gotten a bargain-basement superintendent, but we would have had a bargain basement result," Robison said.
According to salary figures the Alabama Department of Education released in October, Douthitt's base pay of $132,600, which does not include benefits, ranks him as the 40th-highest paid superintendent among the 135 superintendents in the state. The figures did not include fringe benefits, such as insurance and travel expenses. Frazier is paid a base salary of $107,100.
However, based on Anniston’s enrollment at the time of the report, which was 2,079 students, Douthitt will earn about $63.22 per student per year for his efforts, making him the fourth-highest paid superintendent among his 39 counterparts whose actual salaries are higher. By comparison, Mobile County Superintendent Martha Peek, the highest-paid superintendent in the state at $204,000, makes just $3.50 per student in a school system of 58,226 students.
In nearby Oxford, Superintendent Jeff Goodwin had an annual base salary of $160,777 and a student enrollment of 4,188 students, earning him $38.38 per student, according to the Education Department's report.
Robison said the Anniston school system is in need of leadership to help it improve in areas such as low enrollment and graduation rates.
"I feel that we needed to get a superintendent in here that is of the expertise and background that will deal with some of these issues that we have," Robison said. "Per student capita, our contract runs more, but if he produces what we need, that is money well spent."
Board member William Hutchings said Douthitt will be a good fit for Anniston and the school system.
"He will try to bring the community together and he's going to show them his sincerity," Hutchings said.
The board approved the contract on Friday after postponing the decision Thursday in an attempt to renegotiate some of the benefits with Douthitt. Board members Mary Klinefelter and C.K. Huguley had a few objections, including offering Douthitt an automatic stipend for travel expenses without documentation.
"I think it's unwise to make it a stipend," Huguley said.
The contract was changed, stating the board will reimburse Douthitt up to $500 in travel expenses each month as long as he provides receipts.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.