CUSD chief gets pay bump, new 3-year contract

The Chandler Education Foundation posted this birthday greeting on Twitter in March, wishing “Happy Birthday to our leader, Superintendent Frank Narducci” (Twitter)

The Chandler Unified School District is among the best performing in the state. The man who leads the district is being rewarded for that.

The Governing Board gave Superintendent Frank Narducci a new three-year contract at its May 10 meeting that makes him among the highest paid school superintendents in the state.

Narducci still had a year left on his first contract that would have paid him a base salary of $215,000. The new deal pays him an annual salary of $250,000. That contract begins July 1 and expires June 30, 2026.

Salaries of superintendents are not readily available for every district in Arizona. However, among the seven largest districts, only Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat earns a higher base salary at $268,636.

All five members of the Chandler Unified Governing Board were asked by this newspaper in an email why they chose to give Narducci a new deal now.

Two responded, with one saying the reporter should ask the others. The other member quoted the district’s statement.

“Arizona law allows Governing Boards to renegotiate contracts with superintendents within 15 months before the expiration of the current contract,” the district said in a statement.

“This allows for continuity of leadership which typically promotes stability of a district and student success.”

Chandler Unified fared well in the most recent state Auditor General’s report on school districts. It scored better than statewide averages and peer-district averages in all three state assessment tests (math, English language arts, and science).

CUSD students earn tens of millions of dollars in scholarships each year and are recognized both statewide and nationally.

The district also exceeds the state average in teacher pay. However, CUSD ranks 41st overall in teacher pay in Arizona, and 17th among Maricopa County school districts. CUSD’s average teacher salary is $63,584.

Many with higher teacher pay are much smaller and in very rural communities. Among East Valley districts, Chandler Unified ranks third in teacher salaries, behind Tempe Union High School and Mesa Public Schools.

The Auditor General’s report also noted that CUSD ranks below both state and peer averages for administration costs. CUSD spends $801 per student on its administration. The state average is $1,088 and the peer average is $921.

Peer average is how the district ranks among others that are about the same size. Chandler Unified is the second largest in Arizona, behind Mesa. Tucson Unified is third, about 100 fewer students than Chandler. Tucson spends $1,026 per student for its administration. TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo earns a base salary of $230,000.

There are other perks that come with being a school district superintendent.

Narducci also gets an auto allowance to cover his expenses. It was $850 per month in his first contract. He gets a slight increase in the new deal to $900 a month.

The district also must contribute $16,200 per year to an annuity for Narducci’s retirement. That’s the same amount it was in last year’s deal.

He’s getting an increase from $9,000 to $10,000 for his administrative stipend. Many of the other benefits that Narducci received in his first contract are the same in his new deal.

The district pays up to $5,000 for his professional membership fees and professional development programs. He gets up to $5,000 of his cost interacting with the community reimbursed. And the district pays for a $500,000 a year life insurance policy.

If you add the base salary, annuity payment, and administrative stipend, Narducci will earn $276,200 a year. CUSD has about 42,000 students.

Mesa Public Schools has about 64,000 students. Its superintendent, Dr. Andi Fourlis, has a lower base pay but higher annuity than Narducci. She does not, however, receive an administrative stipend. Her total compensation package (salary, annuity, stipend) totals $262,680.

She is also eligible for performance-based pay of more than $18,000 per year.

Governing Board member Kurt Rohrs moved during the meeting to have Narducci finish out his first contract before starting at the higher rate, but keep the expiration date the same so that the superintendent would get only two years at the higher salary.

Arizona law limits school districts to offering superintendents no more than a three-year contract.

Board Member Barb Mozdzen rejected amending her motion to approve Narducci’s contract. Since there was no second to Rohrs’ motion, it was not voted on or accepted.

Other than that motion, the Governing Board had little to say on why they were awarding Narducci a new contract or offer any thoughts on his performance during the public meeting.

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