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March 3, 2024

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Former Ridgefield superintendent was highest-paid K-12 official in Washington last year

Contract shows McCann received six-figure payout after negotiating resignation

By , Columbian staff writer

Former Ridgefield School District superintendent Nathan McCann was the highest-paid K-12 school official in Washington in the 2022-23 school year, according to data listed by Washington State Fiscal Information, a government accountability website.

McCann, who resigned in August after nine years on the job, was paid $544,334 last year — over $70,000 more than any other K-12 official in the state. Washington State Fiscal Information draws the information from school districts and the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

According to McCann’s contract agreement with the district, obtained by The Columbian under the state Public Records Act, the district gave McCann a lump sum payout of $318,202 upon his resignation in August 2023, in addition to his salary. In the previous school year — 2021-2022 — McCann made $229,339.

In August, McCann still had two years left on his contract with the district. The payout, a district spokesperson said, was the result of a “typical” end-of-term negotiation between the two sides.

“At the time of Dr. McCann’s resignation, he had more than two contract years remaining on a three-year contract,” said district spokesperson Joe Vajgrt on Tuesday. “The Board of Directors and Dr. McCann agreed on terms of his resignation that included payment for a portion of the compensation that would have been otherwise due under the existing employment contract.”

Nine years

McCann took the helm of the Ridgefield School District in 2014. The district was far smaller then, but was starting to feel the effects of sudden, rapid population growth. The district passed a $78 million construction bond in February 2017 to build two new school buildings and renovate several others, increasing the capacity of the district’s facilities.

Growth didn’t stop there, however, and quickly became a theme of McCann’s tenure, much like the town itself. The district soon pursued another bond to build several more school buildings.

Between 2019 and 2022, the district saw five bond attempts fail. After the most recent failure in 2022 — the second failure in three months — McCann and then-board president Joe Vance expressed frustration with the state’s 60 percent supermajority law.

Despite the years left on his contract, McCann — who still lives in the area and has a child in the district — said this week he felt August was the right time for him to step down.

“Superintendencies have shelf lives,” he said. “I can say completely earnestly that I treasured my time in Ridgefield. I think the community and the schools grew alongside each other.”

McCann is continuing work as a consultant for McPherson & Jacobson, a national schools superintendent search firm based in Omaha, Neb..

Chris Griffith, previously McCann’s assistant superintendent, has stepped in as the interim superintendent. Griffith said he will not pursue the full-time job, noting that he believes the district needs a fresh start and widespread search.

The current superintendent search is expected to conclude by the end of this month, although the new hire will not begin serving in the full-time role until the summer, Griffith said.

Other superintendents

Superintendent salaries are dependent on a variety of factors — from professional experience to the size of the district. For perspective, Brent Jones, the superintendent of Seattle Public Schools — the state’s largest district — made $334,998 in 2022-2023. Last year was Jones’ second year on the job.

Aside from Ridgefield’s McCann, the highest-paid superintendent in Clark County last year was Vancouver Public Schools’ Jeff Snell, who made $363,684. Snell joined the district in 2021 from Camas, where he was superintendent. Here are other local salaries:

  • Evergreen Public Schools Superintendent John Boyd made $343,049 last year, which was his first year in the district.
  • Battle Ground Public Schools Superintendent Denny Waters made $268,026 last year, which was his second year on the job.
  • Camas School District Superintendent John Anzalone made $264,292 last year, his first year on the job.
  • Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton made $245,475 last year, her fifth year on the job.
  • Hockinson School District Superintendent Steve Marshall made $198,741 last year, his fourth year on the job.
  • La Center School District Superintendent Peter Rosenkranz made $184,379 last year, his second year on the job.

Editor’s note: Brent Jones is the superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. An earlier version of this story had an incorrect name.