News Story

River Rouge Not A Large School District, But Superintendent Paid $258k

There's a discrepancy between the amount reported by the district and by pension officials

Derrick Coleman, the superintendent of the River Rouge School District, is one of Michigan’s highest paid superintendents, even though his district is not considered to be a large one. River Rouge has 2,257 enrolled students.

According to the district’s website, Coleman’s salary went from $238,040 in 2017 to $258,521 in 2018, an 8.6% increase.

This made him the fifth-highest paid public school superintendent in the state in 2018.

Coleman did not appear in a list of the best-paid superintendents in a July 27 Michigan Capitol Confidential story, due to a discrepancy in official records. The school district’s website reports his salary at $258,521. But the Michigan Office of Retirement Services, which was the source of information in the story, shows Coleman earning a total salary of $172,600.

The state retirement office maintains individual pay data for purposes of calculating the pension and other post-retirement benefits owed to state and public school employees.

For any given employee, it’s very unusual for the retirement office to report a lower salary than the school district. This is because pensions are calculated by using not just an employee’s base salary; instead, the calculations include all the payments an employee receives, including extra pay for extra duties. For example, a teacher might be paid an extra $10,000 for coaching a high school sports team. That payment is included in the salary listed by the retirement office, but it does not necessarily appear in the salary figure released by the school district.

River Rouge School District, which sits on Detroit’s southern boundary, has three K-8 schools and one high school. In the latest Mackinac Center report card, its K-8 schools received grades of C, D and F, and the high school received an F.

To better compare the performance of different schools that enroll students with similar backgrounds, the Mackinac Center report card adjusts the average scores attained by each school to reflect the socioeconomic background of the students it serves.

Since Coleman took over as superintendent, the district's enrollment has increased from 1,232 in 2012-13 to the 2,257 students in the just completed school year.

Neither the River Rouge School District nor the Office of Retirement Services responded to an email seeking comment.