Charleston County schools (2nd-largest district in S.C. with 44,126 students)

Nancy McGinley

Superintendent

$223,022

Bill Lewis

Chief operating officer

$169,621

John Emerson

District attorney

$156,907

Mike Bobby

Chief of finance and operations

$156,633

Lisa Herring

Chief academic officer

$140,000

The top five highest paid employees in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester school districts combine to make nearly $2.6 million.

Berkeley County schools (4th-largest district in S.C. with 30,085 students)

Rodney

Thompson

Superintendent

$163,800

Brantley Thomas

Chief financial officer

$116,520

Archie Franchini

Deputy superintendent

$113,495

Karen Whitley

Associate superintendent

$110,343

Kevin O’Gorman

Chief academic officer

$108,500

Some say that’s what it costs to get the best leaders possible, while others contend they make too much money. Still others say they’re not sure and want to study the issue further.

Dorchester 4 schools (64th-largest in S.C. with 2,208 students)

Jerry Montjoy

Superintendent $106,000

Jeffrey Thompson

St. George Middle School principal

$91,800

Morris

Ravenell

Clay Hill Elementary school principal

$91,800

Nancy Britt-Stevens Director of human resources

$88,987

Elixzina Goodwin

Director of technology

$88,423

Charleston County School District appears to be home to some of the biggest money makers. The combined salaries of its five top earners was about $846,000, more than $80,000 higher than the combined wages of top earners in any other South Carolina district.

Horry County schools (3rd-largest district in S.C. with 38,960 students)

Cynthia Elsberry

Superintendent

$211,191

Rick Maxey

Chief support services officer

$127,938

Cynthia Ambrose

Chief academic officer

$124,338

Edward Boyd

Chief information and accountability officer

$124,338

Jeffrey Riddle

Chief finance and human resources officer

$124,338

Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley appears to make more than any other school superintendent in the state.

Richland 2 schools (5th-largest district in S.C. with 25,964 students)

Robert

Davis

Interim chief financial officer

$149,570

Cheryl Washington

Deputy superintendent

$143,718

Roosevelt Garrick

Chief human resources officer

$135,934

Debra Hamm

Interim superintendent/chief information officer

$129,379

Fred McDaniel

Chief planning officer

$124,770

The Post and Courier requested current salary information for the highest-paid workers in Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester 2 and Dorchester 4 schools. The newspaper asked for that same information from the state’s other large districts — Greenville, Richland 2 and Horry — as well as comparative data on their district enrollment and achievement.

Dorchester 2 schools (8th-largest district in S.C. with 23,347 students)

Joseph Pye

Superintendent

$167,123

Sean Alford

Assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction

$124,400

Linda Huffman

Assistant superintendent of personnel and administration

$122,400

Allyson Duke

Chief financial officer

$117,460

Glenn Huggins

Executive director of elementary education

$114,760

McGinley defends salaries

Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley balked when asked whether she’s worth the money she’s paid.

She initially responded by saying she wouldn’t answer the question but then said the evidence of what has been accomplished while she’s led the district was available.

“I think my salary is consistent with other superintendents with this level of responsibility,” she said.

McGinley, who leads the state’s second largest school district of more than 44,000 students, makes $223,022. That’s more than any other leader in the state’s five biggest districts. Coming in at No. 2 is Greenville County School Superintendent William Royster Jr. at $219,305; he leads the state’s biggest district with more than 72,000 students.

Superintendents’ salaries can be affected by a number of factors, such as student enrollment and cost of living.

Generally, central office staff make more money as the student population of the district increases.

And the cost of living in Charleston County is one of the highest in the state, according to a living wage calculator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When three other top paid South Carolina superintendents’ salaries were adjusted for Charleston’s cost of living, McGinley made more than two of them.

Charleston has attracted attention in recent weeks for giving $10,000-plus salary hikes to two of its administrators. The top five leaders in Charleston make a combined $846,183.

McGinley doesn’t think workers are overpaid, and she said the raises were needed because those leaders weren’t being compensated adequately for their level of responsibilities.

She pointed to accomplishments in each area they oversee, such as managing more than $1 billion in building construction, growing the district’s rainy day fund to $42 million, saving money by handling legal issues in-house and boosting student achievement.

“We don’t compete with small districts,” McGinley said. “We compete nationally. We’re competing against the top 100 districts in the country. If you want the best, you have to pay fairly. And I think we have some of the best leaders in the state and, would venture to say, the country.”

The district has hired a company to evaluate the salaries of all employees and determine whether those wages are appropriate for their positions. Those results are slated to be released this fall.

Of Charleston County School Board members, Elizabeth Moffly is perhaps the district’s biggest spending critic. She’s interested in seeing the study results, but she said she thinks the district’s top staff, from the superintendent down to principals, make too much. Those same employees wouldn’t be paid as much if they worked in the private sector, she said.

She cited two recently hired principals who will make more than $100,000 per year.

“It seems excessive,” she said. “I think the salaries are high, but we are all waiting for this mysterious salary study.”

She’d rather see bigger wages for those who are doing the work in classrooms, she said.

Both school board Chairman Cindy Bohn Coats and Vice Chairman Craig Ascue said they wanted to see the study before giving their opinion on the salaries for top district staff.

“I understand that there will always be some people, including board members, who are opposed to a salary, regardless of whether or not that salary is commensurate with the position,” Coats said. “No one on this board is saying all top administrators make exactly what they should and we don’t want to look at this further. We are saying the issue of fair compensation should be discussed.”

Coats said she also has concerns with the district hiring staff and providing raises that puts them at the high end of the pay scale. She’d like to review the procedures for creating those pay scales as well as the process of determining workers’ pay, she said.

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.