Superintendent Bryan Johnson speaks during a news conference unveiling the Hamilton County Schools' TNReady test score results and TVAAS scores at the Tennessee Aquarium on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. / Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter

Whether the Hamilton County school board approves a proposed contract extension and a raise for Superintendent Bryan Johnson tonight, Johnson is already the third highest-paid schools chief in the state.

According to the American Association of School Administrators' 2018-19 School Superintendent Salary and Benefits Survey, the national median base salary for superintendents by district enrollment ranged from $96,750 to $260,000 a year.

Johnson's new contract would bump the superintendent to $240,000 a year with the potential of up to $20,000 in bonuses and a $10,000 annual contribution to a retirement account, putting him at the upper end of the media salary scale.

But two Superintendents in Tennessee already make well above that.


Metro Nashville Public Schools

Interim Director of Schools Adrienne Battle was appointed after the Nashville public schools board bought out former director Shawn Joseph's contract in April 2019 and is paid the same $285,000 a year salary as her predecessor, according to The Tennessean. 

Battle is eligible to "cash-out" up to 15 days of accrued vacation each year and has access to a district-owned car through her tenure, which for now ends on April 15, 2021.

The largest school district in the state, Metro Nashville serves more than 81,400 students — 44.3% of whom are considered economically-disadvantaged according to the Tennessee Department of Education's 2019 State Report Card.


Shelby County Schools

Memphis' schools chief Joris Ray earns the same salary as Battle as part of the four-year contract he signed with the district in June 2019, despite leading a larger school district.

Shelby County Schools enrolls about 106,370 students — 59.8% of which are economically disadvantaged — and employs more than 7,400 classroom teachers. 

The $285,000 annual salary is the same salary ge made as interim superintendent and his predecessor, Dorsey Hopson, according to Chalkbeat tennessee. 

Per his contract, if Ray earns at least a satisfactory evaluation each year, he will be eligible to earn the same pay adjustments as other certified staff and he receives a 3% contribution — or about $8,550 — toward retirement each year.

Ray is also able to be paid for outside professional activities, such as speaking, writing or consulting  — someghinb Johnson asked go b added go his new contract. Ray is required to perform such activities on non-duty days like vacation days, weekends and in the evenings, according to his contract.

He also has use of a district-owned vehicle. Johnson's new contract allocates him a vehicle allowance of $825 a month, the same allotment included in his original contract approved in 2017. 


Knox County Schools

Despite heading up a larger district, with more than 59,220 students enrolled, Knox County Superintendent Bob Thomas makes less than Johnson currently is paid.

In 2017, Thomas was awarded a two-year contract with a base salary of $200,000 a year, which was extended for a third year in May 2019.

The current contract leaves room for the Knox County school board to extend Thomas' contract a fourth year through 2021 and guaranteed a 4% increase in salary in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

Hamilton County Schools is often compared to Knox County in terms of student enrollment, but Hamilton County's has a larger percentage of economically-disadvantaged students — 35.4% — compared to Knox County's 27.6%.

Thomas also receives a $600 a month vehicle allowance, according to his contract.


Rutherford County Schools

With about 45,570 students enrolled during the 2018-19 school year, Rutherford County is the closest comparison in size to Hamilton County's 44,370 students. Only about 1 in 5 students, or 20.7% of Rutherford students are considered economically-disadvantaged though.

Rutherford County's Director of Schools Bill Spurlock only earns about $160,224 a year, according to the district's 2019-20 budget though, despite a push for a $60,000 bump by the school board chairman Jim Estes last April, according to the Daily News Journal. 

Spurlock took the helm of the district in July 2018 for a three-year term, earning the same salary as his predecessor.

The Times Free Press has requested a copy of Spurlock's most recent contract from the district.

The Hamilton County school board is scheduled to vote on Johnson's contract extension today at the board's regularly scheduled monthly meeting. The 5:30 p.m. meeting will be held in the Hamilton County Department of Education's board room at 3074 Hickory Valley Road. 

Contact Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.


Adrienne Battle, Metro Nashville Public Schools
Base Salary: $285,000
Student Enrollment: 81,400

Joris Ray, Shelby County Schools
Base Salary: $285,000
Student Enrollment: 106,370

Bryan Johnson, Hamilton County Schools
[Current] Base Salary: $222,000/year
Student Enrollment: 44,370

Bob Thomas, Knox County Schools
Base Salary: $208,000/year
Student Enrollment: 59,220

Bill Spurlock, Rutherford County Schools
Base Salary: $160,224/year
Student Enrollment: 45,570