UPDATED December 7 to include new information about superintendent candidate interviews scheduled by Northwest ISD.

In just the past year, dozens of Texas school superintendents have stepped down, and more may soon be following them.

Some have retired. Others have moved to other districts or transitioned from high-paying public school positions to even more lucrative jobs as consultants or with organizations that profit from public education.

Shake-ups among school district administrations have kept local trustees and executive search firms busy as they look for potential candidates to fill the open superintendent slots.

The pipeline for new superintendents is limited. Districts often recruit from within their existing administrative staff. School boards may also poach superintendents from other districts, setting off a cascade of searches. Some search firms recruit candidates nationwide.

More than a dozen of the state’s 1,200 districts are actively searching for new superintendents to fill positions that are open now or will be by the end of the 2022-23 school year, according to a list maintained by TexasISD.com.

Once school boards narrow their superintendent candidates to a “lone finalist,” state law requires the name to be public for 21 days before the candidate is officially hired.

Superintendents often receive super-sized salaries.

In 2021-22 (the most recent school year for which the Texas Education Agency reports data), four Texas superintendents took home base salaries above $400,000; another 55 were paid at least $300,000 a year.

The lucrative salaries are supplemented by benefits like insurance; pension contributions; and allowances for cars, phones, housing, and continuing education. Superintendents’ contracts often include hefty bonuses as well—all provided at taxpayers’ expense.

Top 12 Active Superintendent Searches

1. Austin Independent School District is looking to fill the vacancy left by Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde, who quit in May after less than two years on the job to take the top administrator job in Dallas ISD, where she previously worked.

Austin ISD trustees are also searching for another interim superintendent. Their first appointee, Anthony Mays, was hired to be superintendent of Alief ISD starting in January.

The district says it will name a new interim superintendent by December 15. Trustees are still considering superintendent search firms.

Elizalde’s base salary as superintendent of the 74,000-student district was $342,756.

2. Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District in North Texas is searching to fill the vacancy left by Superintendent John Chapman, who was hired in September as superintendent of Comal ISD.

Trustees named Associate Superintendent Brian Moersch as interim superintendent during the search, which the district hopes to complete by March 2023. The district hired law firm Leasor Crass to conduct its superintendent search.

Chapman’s last reported salary to head the 25,000-student district was $311,596.

3. Ferris Independent School District in Ennis County is searching for a new top administrator following the “unexpected retirement” of Superintendent James Hartman in September.

The 2,600-student district named Assistant Superintendent T.J. Knight as acting superintendent.

Arrow Educational Services is conducting the search for a permanent replacement. Applications are due January 6.

Hartman’s reported 2021 base salary was $197,000.

4. Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District in Tarrant County is searching to replace Superintendent Robin Ryan, who announced in September he would retire at the end of this school year after 13 years in the position.

May’s local elections resulted in the North Texas district gaining a conservative majority of trustees. They can now select a fresh top administrator for the 14,000-student district.

Trustees named Deputy Superintendent Brad Schnautz to serve as interim superintendent starting in January. The district hired Leasor Crass to conduct its superintendent search.

According to the latest TEA data, Ryan’s base salary is $327,769.

5. Highland Park Independent School District, located within the conservative Park Cities enclave of Dallas, began searching for a new top administrator when Superintendent Tom Trigg announced in October he is resigning at the end of the school year.

Trigg’s reported base salary as of October 2021 was $320,000. A voluntary exit agreement signed in October also commits district taxpayers to forgive at least $655,000 of the remaining $750,000 on a real estate loan made to Trigg.

Highland Park parents who want the 7,000-student district to focus on classical education and core academics objected to district trustees hiring “woke” search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, which has a record of controversial recommendations.

6. Joshua Independent School District, a 5,800-student district south of Fort Worth in Johnson County, is looking to replace Superintendent Fran Marek, who announced in May she is retiring at the end of 2022 after 33 years in the district—the last 10 as superintendent.

Marek will transition to the position of superintendent emeritus for the remainder of her employment with the district through June 30, 2023, which allows her to continue collecting a salary and benefits while the district also pays a new superintendent. Her most recently reported base salary was $203,000.

More than 1,500 people signed an online petition started in April that called on the district to terminate Marek.

Leasor Crass is conducting the search for Marek’s replacement.

7. McKinney Independent School District in North Texas joined the list of districts in search of a new top administrator after embattled Superintendent Rick McDaniel announced last week he planned to retire sometime this school year.

Board members met Tuesday to discuss preliminary plans for a superintendent search. Several trustees favored using a search firm; two trustees recommended hiring consultant Mike Moses, who is working on Northside ISD’s superintendent search.

Board President Amy Dankel said ideally the board will select a lone finalist by April, giving staff certainty before the end of the school year in May.

Dankel and trustees Lynn Sperry and Stephanie O’Dell are up for re-election in May and will face challengers. Completing the superintendent search before May assures that the current board, and not any newcomers, get to make the selection.

The search process is expected to appear on the agenda for McKinney ISD’s next regular board meeting on December 13.

McDaniel’s current salary as head of the 23,000-student district is $365,000, one of the highest in the state.

8. Midland Independent School District in West Texas is searching to fill the vacancy left by Superintendent Angelica Ramsey. She quit in September after less than two years on the job to become superintendent of Fort Worth ISD.

Chief of Administrative Services Kellie Spencer is serving as acting superintendent of the 26,000-student district during the search.

Trustees reportedly interviewed five candidates out of 18 applicants, and they will interview the top three this week before choosing a lone finalist.

Law firm Walsh Gallegos is conducting the superintendent search. According to the district’s timetable, December 28 is the earliest the new hire can be confirmed.

Midland ISD recently raised Ramsey’s salary to $310,00. Her new contract with Fort Worth ISD pays a base salary of $335,000.

9. Northside Independent School District in San Antonio is searching to replace Superintendent Brian Woods, who announced in October he is retiring effective June 2023 after 30 years with the district—the last 10 as superintendent. Woods and Northside ISD are under investigation for alleged illegal electioneering in the district’s May bond election.

According to his contract, last updated in July, Woods’ base salary to supervise the district of just over 100,000 students is $350,535.

Northside’s superintendent search is being conducted by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) Executive Search Service under the direction of Mike Moses and David Thompson, who will interview candidates in February.

10. Northwest Independent School District, located north of Fort Worth with about 29,000 students, has been in search of a new top administrator since September, when Superintendent David Hicks died unexpectedly after only four months in the position.

Trustees named Michael Griffin, the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction and curriculum, as acting superintendent.

The board held a special meeting on November 28 to consider superintendent candidates. Two more special board meetings are scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday for trustees to interview and consider candidates.

According to the district’s website, trustees are again using Leasor Crass as their search firm.

Hicks previously worked as superintendent of Sherman ISD. That district promoted from within, elevating Deputy Superintendent Tyson Bennett to the top administrative spot in May.

Northwest ISD’s previous superintendent earned $309,000.

11. Southwest Independent School District in San Antonio is looking for a new top administrator for the 13,000-student district.

Superintendent Lloyd Verstuyft is leaving at the end of the school year after 27 years in the district—the last seven as superintendent.

His final contract—signed in July 2022 and ending June 30, 2023—pays Verstuyft a base salary of $290,000, plus additional benefits “in consideration of the Superintendent voluntarily resigning his position.”

TASB is conducting the search for a replacement. The district expects to announce a lone finalist in January.

12. Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent John “Hal” Harrell announced in October he would be resigning in the wake of community outrage over how district officials responded during the deadly school shooting in May.

The 4,100-student district named Gary Patterson interim superintendent and elevated Harrell to superintendent emeritus so he can continue to collect his salary and benefits during the district’s search for a new superintendent. Harrell’s last reported base salary was $169,158.

Walsh Gallegos and others are conducting the search, which the district projects will conclude in April.

Other school districts searching for superintendents, according to TexasISD.com, include Adrian, Boyd, Hubbard, Jourdanton, Kenedy, Knippa, Lefors, Liberty, Mercedes, Midway, Paradise, Somerset, White Oak, and Wills Point.

TASB also lists Groesbeck, Lamesa, and Sierra Blanca ISD as superintendent search clients.

Potential Superintendent Shuffles

Peaster Independent School District, a rural district in Parker County with about 1,700 students, may or may not be in the market for a new superintendent. The district appointed Keith Scharnhorst as acting superintendent in October, after Superintendent Lance Johnson reportedly requested a temporary leave of absence.

Johnson has drawn both praise and controversy since his hiring in January 2020. During COVID, he left the choice of masking up to students and their parents. “We stand on biblical truth, live by faith, use common sense, and expect personal responsibility,” he said.

During a special meeting on November 30, the Peaster ISD board met in closed session for more than four hours to discuss the superintendent’s contract, but took no public action.

“The whole town is in an uproar over this,” said one Peaster mom. She said Johnson is under attack from some school officials for focusing on traditional academics and blocking woke ideology.

Johnson’s base salary in 2021-22 was $160,650, according to TEA data.

Seagraves Independent School District, southwest of Lubbock in the Texas Panhandle, may soon be looking to replace Superintendent Joshua Goen. Last month, the district placed Goen on paid administrative leave after learning the FBI was investigating him for unspecified reasons that district officials characterized as serious.

Goen’s contract, last updated in January 2021, includes a base salary of $115, 726.

Recent Superintendent Shake-Ups

Just before Thanksgiving, Clear Creek Independent School District—a 41,000-student district south of Houston—chose former Superintendent Karen Engle to replace outgoing Superintendent Eric Williams, who stepped down amid complaints from parents about leftist indoctrination in their children’s classrooms.

Engle had been serving as interim superintendent since Williams announced in July he was taking a leave of absence and resigning effective January 2023.

Williams formerly headed the liberal school district in Loudoun County, Virginia. Clear Creek ISD hired him in 2021 at the recommendation of search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, which has come under fire for “woke” recruiting policies and recommending candidates with histories of poor performance and misconduct. This time around, the district chose not to hire a search firm.

Williams’ base salary for the 2021-22 school year was $345,409, according to TEA data. As superintendent emeritus, he continues to receive a salary and benefits, and his voluntary retirement agreement guarantees a $199,000 severance payment.

Clear Creek was the latest in a string of high-profile superintendent shake-ups over the past year.

In January 2022, superintendents of two of the largest school districts in Texas—Dallas and Fort Worth—announced they were leaving their lucrative jobs. They were among the most notable North Texas districts changing superintendents. Others included Denison, DeSoto, Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Lewisville, Little Elm, Mesquite, Plano, Richardson, and Sherman.

A few more may be announced before the end of the year.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.