According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Cypress-Fairbanks (Cy-Fair) Independent School District spent more than $431,000 on their superintendent, Dr. Mark Henry. But how is the district doing on the STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) test and the state accountability system? And how wisely does the district spend citizens’ tax dollars?

Dr. Mark Henry has been a superintendent since 1991 and has been with Cy-Fair ISD since 2011. In total, he has 39 years of experience. Even with Henry’s high salary, the district’s administrative expenditures account for 1.8 percent of the total budget (approximately $18 million).

In 2019, the Cy-Fair district received an overall grade of B on the state accountability rating. The students performed 3 percent higher than the state average in the third-grade reading STAAR test, with 79 percent of the overall students passing. Only 30 percent of those students received “masters grade level” scores, meaning they are expected to succeed in the following grade with “little or no academic intervention.”

Students still performed well on the reading STAAR test through the eighth grade, where the overall passing rate was 86 percent. However, there was a drop in scores when students took the English End of Course exam (EOC) in ninth grade; the passing rate dropped to 78 percent, and only 16 percent of students obtained a “master” score.

The district states that 55 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged, and more than 16,000 students are bilingual. Forty-five percent of the students are Hispanic, 22 percent are white, 19 percent are black, 9 percent are Asian, 3 percent are mixed race, and 0.5 percent are Native American.

The district had 22 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists and 69 commended students.

While the district seems to have capitalized on the efficiency of Dr. Henry’s leadership, as evidenced by the students’ STAAR test scores, the district is spending a lot.

Cy-Fair is an extremely large district, with 92 school campuses and approximately 115,000 students enrolled. According to its state of the district pamphlet, the district has spent more than $3 billion on bonds since 2014.

“This has allowed the district to continue to upgrade, expand, and provide even more opportunities for students and the community,” the district argues. Over the past summer, the district spent more than $204 million on renovation projects, which included spending $10 million on replacement campus furniture.

This year, the district passed a budget of more than $1 billion. With this spending, Cy-Fair adopted a tax rate of $1.3555 for the year, a decrease of 8 cents since 2018. With this tax rate, the district was able to give raises to the entire staff for the last nine years and spend only $8,412 per student.

The district also allows for a 20 percent local optional homestead in addition to the $25,000 state homestead exemption.

Dr. Henry is not the only superintendent making more than the president; Carroll ISD’s superintendent also boasts a salary of more than $400,000. In fact, 51 Texas superintendents make over $300,000, and an additional 14 superintendents still make more than Gov. Greg Abbott’s salary of $153,750.

The question remains: Should Dr. Henry—or any superintendent—make more than the governor of Texas or the president of the United States?

Tera Collum

Tera Collum has 13 years experience as a government and economics teacher in Texas public schools. She recently was the director of The Travis Institute of Educational Policy and Teachers for Texas.