New Boise superintendent receives $29,000 pay raise

Boise’s new school superintendent is receiving almost a $30,000 pay raise to take the district’s top job.

And that’s enough to make Coby Dennis one of the state’s highest paid school administrators.

Coby Dennis

Dennis began work as Boise superintendent on July 1. He will make $177,395 this year.

Dennis, a career Boise educator, had already been one of the state’s highest paid school administrators. In 2018-19, Dennis made $148,602 as the district’s deputy administrator.

Dennis was hired for the superintendent’s vacancy in December, just days after Don Coberly announced his retirement. Dennis was the only candidate Boise trustees interviewed for the vacancy, and he was hired minutes after he was interviewed in a closed-door executive session.

Dennis’ salary represents a slight decrease from the $178,256 Coberly made in his ninth and final year as Boise superintendent.

In an interview Wednesday, Dennis conceded that his salary could draw criticism. But he said the district has held the line of the superintendent’s salary since 2010 — when Idaho schools absorbed unprecedented state budget cuts, and when retired Boise superintendent Stan Olson’s $175,000-a-year salary became a campaign issue in his unsuccessful run against incumbent state superintendent Tom Luna.

And Dennis said Boise trustees have tried to build a “forward-thinking” salary schedule, for teachers and administrators alike. ”I think it recruits and retains good employees,” he said.

In 2018-19, Boise’s average teacher salary ranked third highest in the state.

Here are a few other superintendent salary thumbnails from across the state:

Blaine County: For several years, Blaine County Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes and Coberly have leapfrogged at the top of the state’s salary scale. Holmes appears poised to again take the top spot.

GwenCarol Holmes

She will make $180,208 this year, up from $176,054. This 2.4 percent raise is in line with other pay increases in the district, spokeswoman Heather Crocker said Tuesday. Blaine County teachers will receive similar raises, building on an average salary that tops Idaho’s 115 districts.

But Holmes’ raise could feed into a political firestorm. Critics launched an online petition drive calling for Holmes’ ouster, saying she has created a culture of fear while surrounding herself with “yes people.” In June, critics submitted more than 1,000 signatures to trustees.

West Ada: Mary Ann Ranells will receive $177,012 this year, up from $171,865 a year ago.

She has headed the state’s largest school district for more than three years.

Bonneville: Scott Woolstenhulme will receive $155,000 as superintendent.

Like Dennis, Woolstenhulme is an internal hire, who had worked in several administrative jobs in the Eastern Idaho district.

And like Dennis, Woolstenhulme will receive slightly less money than his predecessor. Chuck Shackett received $165,388 a year ago.

Coeur d’Alene: Steven Cook will receive $160,000, which is identical to his 2018-19 salary.

Nampa: On Tuesday night, trustees approved a 4 percent pay raise for Paula Kellerer, bringing her salary to $152,967.

Caldwell: Shalene French’s 2019-20 salary won’t be set until the district has a master contract agreement with teachers, spokeswoman Allison Westfall said Wednesday. A tentative agreement is in place, pending a union vote.

French made $153,282 in 2018-19.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story.  

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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