Education professionals always earn significantly less than what they could earn in the business world or in other professions. That is a fact.
Headmasters of not for profit independent schools are no exception. When you consider the enormous expectations made of these dedicated individuals, most headmasters' compensation is far below comparable levels in other fields. How far below? Significantly! The average compensation of the top 500 CEO's is in the millions according to Executive Paywatch. Headmasters' compensation averages about $200,000.
On the other hand many headmasters earn more than some public school superintendents do. The average salary without benefits for a superintendent is $160,000. Now, college presidents by contrast make significantly more than private school headmasters. They average about $400,000 with a dozen or so well over $1,000,000 in annual compensation.
Compensation Information Sources
The Form 990 which a non-profit school files is similar to a tax return. It contains the information about headmasters' compensation. Unfortunately, to make sense of figures you have to examine several different pages of the filing. The elements of the compensation packages are complex and are contained under many different expense headings. If the school is a 501(c)(3) not for profit educational institution, it must file a Form 990 with the IRS annually. The Foundation Center makes these returns available online.
Note: the cash salaries are somewhat misleading as most of these key employees receive significant allowances for housing, meals, transportation, travel and retirement plans apart from their cash salaries. Figure an additional 15-30% for allowances and/or non-cash compensation. The gross amount in many cases exceeds $500,000.
Here's a sampling of headmasters' base salaries ranked from highest to lowest.
- Episcopal High School, Alexandria, VA $425,101
- Milton Academy, Milton, MA $386,720
- Rye Country Day School, Rye, NY $365,119
- Hackley School, Tarrytown, NY $362,000
- President, NAIS, Washington, DC $329,757
- Western Reserve Academy, Hudson, OH $329,000
- Phillips Academy, Andover, MA $328,826
- Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH $324,005
- Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, MA $321,823
- Forsyth Country Day School, Lewisville, NC $319,318
- Harvard-Westlake School, North Hollywood, CA $313,000
- Greensboro Day School, Greensboro, NC $304,158
- The Brearley School, New York, NY $300,000
- Lancaster Country Day School, Lancaster, PA $299,240
- Poly Prep Country Day School, Brooklyn, NY $298,656
- Georgetwon Day School, Washington, DC $296,202
- Culver Academies, Culver, IN $295,000
- St. Mark's School of Texas, Dallas, TX $290,000
- Hathaway Brown School, Shaker Heights, OH $287,113
- Madeira School, Maclean, VA $286,847
- The Dalton Schools, New York, NY $285,000
- Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, CT $283,920
- Choate School, Wallingford, CT $282,987
- Punahou School, Honolulu, HI $274,967
- Far Hills Country Day School, Far Hills, NJ $274,300
- Groton School, Groton, MA $258,243
- North Shore Country Day School, Winnetka, IL $250,000
- Avon Old Farms School, Avon, CT $247,743
- The Peddie School, Hightstown, NJ $242,314
- Kent School, Kent, CT $240,000
- Episcopal Academy, Merion, PA $232,743
- Cranbrook Schools, Bloomfield Hills, MI $226,600
- University School of Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI $224,400
- McCallie School, Chattanooga, TN $223,660
- Middlesex School, Concord, MA $223,000
- Sidwell Friends School, Washington, DC $220,189
- Ransom Everglades School, Miami, FL $220,000
- The Masters School, Dobbs Ferry, NY $216,028
- Greenwich Country Day School, Greenwich, CT $210,512
- Harvey School, Katonah, NY $200,000
- The Hill School, Pottstown, PA $216,100
- Taft School, Watertown, CT $216,000
- Shore Country Day School, Beverly, MA $206,250
- Miami Country Day School, Miami, FL $200,000
- Village School, Pacific Palisades, CA $210,000
- Lake Forest Country Day School, Lake Forest, IL $188,677
- Hillel School of Metropolitan Detroit, Farmington Hills, MI $156,866
- Annie Wright School, Tacoma, WA $151,410
- Foxcroft School, Middleburg, VA $150,000
- Ravenscroft School, Raleigh, NC $143,700
- Forman School, Litchfield, CT $142,500
Are Headmasters' Compensation Packages Justifiable?
A good headmaster deserves to be well-paid. The head of a private school must be a top-notch fund raiser, a superb public relations person, a fine administrator and a dynamic community leader. How lucky we are to have talented educators and administrators who lead private schools rather than manage a Fortune 100 enterprise. Many of them could make 5 or 10 or even 20 times as much as they currently do.
Trustees need to review their key employees' compensation packages annually and improve them as much as they can. It's extremely important to attract and retain talented administrators in our private schools. Our children's future depends on it.