The pen hitting the paper Thursday sealed the deal: Lansing's next superintendent, T.C. Wallace, will earn $175,000 a year, plus benefits and a transportation stipend.
The dollar amount caused some cries, here on WILX.com among other places, that it was exorbitant or unreasonable.
So we put the question to Lansing Board of Education President Guillermo Lopez: Given the district's financial struggles, how can the district justify the expense?
"It's the market," Lopez said. "If we want to get a quality person like Dr. Wallace, we have to be competitive."
A salary range of $170,000 to $180,000 was approved by the district's search committee and recommended by the Michigan Leadership Institute, the outside search firm hired by the board.
Wallace's salary will be higher than that of current Superintendent Sharon Banks. Lopez says that's natural given the time elapsed since Banks' contract was signed.
So how does Wallace's salary really compare?
"We just worked with Muskegon and that initial salary was $177,000," said Carl Hartman, who consults on superintendent searches for the Michigan Association of School Boards.
"We're working with Kalamazoo right now and the salary is listed at a minimum $150,000," he said.
Grand Rapids, he notes, paid its superintendent roughly $190,000.
"I don't think the Lansing Board did anything that's not competitive with other districts," Hartman said. Saginaw, for example, pays its superintendent about $153,000, he said.
We checked in on a number of other districts roughly similar in population and budget to Lansing. In Flint, the superintendent's base salary about the same as in Saginaw: $153,000.
The superintendent in Grand Ledge, a much smaller district, makes about $126,000 in base salary.
William Mayes runs the Michigan Association of School Administrators. Superintendents in the smallest rural districts in Michigan can make around $70,000, he says. But Lansing is competing with districts in suburban Detroit offering more than $200,000 a year, according to Mayes.
"We're having difficulty creating a pool of candidates that want this difficult job," he said.
A job that now belongs to Wallace, with a contract Lopez says is worth it.
"The caliber we need; the experience we need," he said.
That mindset might cost more now, he says, but it could save the district in the long run.