Video: Hero Superintendent

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    >>> now, how often have we heard the term shared sacrifice? how about this story tonight. the cool teacher in fresno, california voluntarily gave up more than $800,000 in salary over the next three years to help soften severe budget cuts affecting his city's schools. the money can now be used for 325 schools with 195,000 students. this this superintendent, larry powell , actual rely retired from his yjob and asked to be rehired for three times less. his salary used to be $288,000 a year. this american joins me tonight. fresno county superintendent larry powell . mr. powell, honored to meet you tonight. you are showing the country what america is all about. explain to us, if you can, how it came about and why you did it.

    >> well, my wife examine isand i decided we had this question. how much money do you need to survive and can you stockpile it? we're very blessed, we've got reserve, we have a lot of money, we're going to receive retirement pay that's fantastic, so what can we do to put money back in the till? that's where the discussion started. it's been about a three-month discussion with my wife and i. the board made a courageous decision. they typically don't do this type of thing where you resign an office, retire, and then appoint me back to fill my term. so it's an opportunity for us to do something special, and ed, i wanted to share with you, the $30,020, we'll be donating to charity because i want people to understand there are a lot of hurting people out there. it's time to step up and do something. america has always given. it's time to do something right now.

    >> you are leading by example. it's a fabulous story and you're putting skin in the game for the kids of this country. where would you like the money to go? do you have control of it? what would you like to do with it?

    >> we're going to do something in the arts because a lot of kids have to have something to draw them and keep them in school. academics are important but the arts are essential. i also want to make sure kids are safe at school. so rachel's challenge, which is a fantastic program out of colu columbine, helps bring kids back to compassion, treating kids with respect. i want to get kids reading. i want them to be taxpayers, not skr just tax users. we want them to be respectful and be able to experience the american dream . if they're reading, if they're doing the right thing, they're going to be successful, and i want them to pay my retirement. i want them to be successful for a variety of reasons.

    >> you seem to have great joy in doing this.

    >> well, you know, i'm a baptist minister , so, you know, i've got a heart for what we need to be doing. my wife and i have always felt that giving when you have something is is a good thing to do. we've been extraordinarily blessed. we live in a great home, we have cars, we have everything we need. i don't need to work another day in my life and i'm going to have plenty of resources. if i take the next three years and four months and work for nothing, that's just getting back to a community i love. i hope people look at this and say, maybe we can do it. but i also want to let people know we're blessed in a situation that makes this work. there's some people that would be very hard for them to do this, so i'm not saying everybody should do it, but if you've got the resources, you've got the opportunity, step up. it's a great thing. i think people have responded incredibly well.

    >> fresno county school superintendent larry powell . you're sacrificing for the youth of your community, and what a great american and unselfishness. i say often on my radio show that we've

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/30/2011 6:41:53 PM ET 2011-08-30T22:41:53

The school superintendent in California who is forgoing hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay and benefits to help offset budget cuts to his school district has decided to give away even more.

Fresno County Superintendent Larry Powell recently volunteered to return more than $288,000 in annual salary and benefits for the next three-and-a-half years of his term. He technically is retiring, allowing him to collect a six-figure annual pension, then will be rehired with a $31,000 salary.

In an interview with Ed Schultz on msnbc cable TV's "The Ed Show" on Tuesday, Powell said that he would donate that $31,000 salary to charity.

"I want to make sure people understand that there are a lot of hurting people out there," Powell said. "It's time for us to step up and do something. America has always given. It's a time to do that thing right now."

In an arrangement worked out with the district, Powell will retire on Thursday and then be hired back to fill the remainder of his four-year term. Powell will collect his retirement of roughly $200,000 a year while working fulltime for the district. But the salary he would be earning as superintendent stays in the general fund budget and is now going toward at-risk educational programs.

By staying on the job, the 63-year-old Powell saves the district from having to pay another superintendent's salary. He had to give up his $250,000 life insurance policy and will go on his wife's health care plan.

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Because he retired early, Powell said he'll receive $28,000 a year less in pension payments for the rest of his life than he would have earned had he stayed on the district's payroll until the end of his term.

Powell said that if he lives to be 87, the current age of his parents, the early retirement will cost him $900,000 in reduced pension benefits, including $200,000 less in earnings for the remainder of his term.

Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than a starting California teacher earns.

Powell said that the decision on giving up the money was not reached lightly and came after long discussions with his wife.

"How much do we need to keep accumulating?" Powell said last week . "There's no reason for me to keep stockpiling money."

Image: Larry Powell
Tracie Cone  /  AP
Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell is forgoing $800,000 in compensation over the next three years of his term.

After an AP story ran about his initial pay sacrifice, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan phoned Powell Monday to thank him for his generosity.

"Larry Powell's leadership is an absolute inspiration," Duncan said in a statement. "Through a lifetime of dedicated service in education and his generosity, he has made it clear that he is personally and professionally invested in the students, parents, teachers and principals in Fresno. They are very lucky to have him."

Powell's exploits also drew praise in an editorial Monday in the Contra Costa Times, which began: "Every once in a while a news story comes along that restores our faith in the basic goodness of humanity. The story of Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell is just such a case."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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