DISD Homework: Is Mike Miles Underpaid?

What does Dilbert tell us about CEO compensation?


I enjoy myself a good Dilbert cartoon, like the one above. In fact, all the ones that come up under a search for “executive compensation” are pretty funny. (I’m going to start requesting a strong pony if I ever have enough leverage to be in a “salary negotiation” again.) But if we’re going to answer the question, “Is Mike Miles underpaid,” we need a few more market data points than number of stars users rated a particular Dogbert bit.

FWIW: When I’ve asked various interested parties in Dallas if Miles is underpaid, the answers ranged from “technically, of course,” to “he can straight-up go eff himself.” I’m no mathemagician, but I think there’s noise in that data set.

Let’s just look at his contract. Mike Miles makes $306,000 when you factor in his $6k annual gas reimbursement. There are other bonuses there for staying til 2017 (good luck!) and meeting some student achievement goals, but let’s stick to base for now.

Let’s compare that to 545 other districts in the state, using this handy TEA tool. That gives us the following spreadsheet, which I’ve filtered by “pay per student”:


The takeaways are obvious:

1. It’s good to be the Super in Malone ISD. Well done, Linda Buffe!

2. Mike Miles is paid the second-least per student in the state, just ahead of the Super in Houston ISD.

So what, you say! Houston and Dallas are so much larger than every other ISD, they only compare to each other. Well, I didn’t hear you making that argument when you said $185k was too much for Miles to pay his communication chief (the exact same at the time as Houston Comm chief), but okay! Let’s roll with it. What can we compare Dallas ISD to?

How about let’s say Mike Miles is really the CEO of a $1.5 billion company with nearly 20k employees? That work?

Then let’s go to the handy salary wizard at Salary.com and run some numbers. (They make it hard to copy and embed the results. Just make yourself an account, search for CEO, and run it yourself.)

Right now, the median salary of a CEO in the U.S. is about $740k.

But that’s not relevant, you say. That includes all those five-person Silicon Valley startups where the CEO makes a quadrillion then bails before the company tanks. Fair enough.

Let’s adjust the filters for companies with between 15k and 50k employees. We come up with a median base salary of $1.14 million.

Whoa, wrong direction! Let’s just look at CEOs in related fields that have cost caps on them because they deal in public monies. Fine: We employ a filter for education, government, and nonprofit jobs and we get a median income of $487K.

All of which tells us what, exactly? Only that the idea that Miles is underpaid relative to other Supers in Texas and relative to other CEOs in the industry holds water. Now, there may be good reasons for that — past rocky performance, blah blah blah — which I’m sure folks on the board will give us during contract discussions in the coming weeks. I’m just saying the market suggests it’s reasonable that he’s asking for more.



  • Mike Dryden

    Eric, The issue is contract extension, bonus money and vesting retirement, not salary. He agreed to a less than average salary on the basis of performance. He had to set the example for others. The data I see says either no change or slight decline. BTW, you can go to the TEA website and get the ranked superintendent’s salaries. Use only 1.0 FTE salaries. I believe Miles is about 7th or 8th from the top.
    Your ERG charts in previous articles raise huge methodology flags. I went to their website but could not get enough specifics to figure out how they calculated their metrics. I hope ERG switches to real time web based systems and not archaic PDF and Excel downloads, if they have not done so already.

    • Eric Celeste

      We’ll agree to disagree on that, then, Mike. And on TEI. And on Joyce Foreman. And on Home Rule. And on Mike Miles. And on and on and on: http://www.dfpe.org/.

  • Synapse3

    I believe it is not uncommon for executives who feel underpaid to test the market and see how they fare elsewhere. Indeed, let the market decide. If there are other districts out there that covet Mr. Miles’s skill set and are willing to entice him with more money, then it will be up to the Board if it so chooses to make a counter offer. Given that you often seem to have an inside track on things, I’m guessing this tongue in cheek column is your way of acknowledging that we have entered the Mike Miles “end game.”