When news of Victor Elementary School District Superintendent Ralph Baker's $1.2 million contract broke in the Victorville Daily Press, Mark McKinney was the Hesperia Unified School District's assistant superintendent of personnel.

Today, now in the top spot in the HUSD, McKinney has taken another road and has a salary squarely in the middle of the pack for Victor Valley school superintendents.

McKinney's starting salary of $153,797 is the fourth highest among the six Victor Valley superintendents. Baker's 2007-2008 salary of $220,000 is the valley's highest, followed by Arthur Golden, the superintendent of the Snowline Joint Unified School District, whose salary this school year is $164,197. McKinney's salary is only $416 behind Apple Valley Unified School District Superintendent Robert Seevers' salary, $247 ahead of Adelanto School District Superintendent Christopher van Zee's salary and $1,297 ahead of Victor Valley Union High School District Superintendent Julian Weaver's salary.

"I just [used] an existing salary schedule," when he accepted the position, McKinney said Friday. "It wasn't an issue for me, it was very current."

But the story of superintendent compensation doesn't end with their salaries: Baker received a $200,000 signing bonus for staying on with VESD, and other perks are a standard practice.

Like many of his counterparts, VVUHSD's Weaver gets health and pension benefits, an automotive expense account ($600 in his case, $850 in McKinney's, while Baker gets a district vehicle and a credit card to pay for gasoline) and a cell phone account ($75 a month for him, use of a HUSD cell phone for McKinney). But he also gets $600 a month put into a tax-sheltered annuity, a benefit unique to Weaver.

Superintendents in Adelanto and Snowline also get performance bonuses: Adelanto's van Zee gets a bonus of $40,000 annually, assuming "a total of no more than two schools fail to exceed AYP and API targets." Snowline's Golden gets his $16,000 bonus merely "for the unique skills and abilities demonstrated in the performance of his duties."

And, of course, not all Victor Valley school districts are created equal: The HUSD is the Victor Valley's largest school district, with more than 20,000 students. ASD's van Zee oversees a district a little larger than half that, for almost the exact same money.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.