Highland Park Independent School District (HPISD) has purchased a home for the district’s superintendent to reside in rent-free.

Soon to be occupied by Superintendent Mike Rockwood, the property was priced above market value at $1.8 million. The University Park home was valued at $1.76 million.

It is a four-bedroom, four-bathroom home on Hanover Street that was built in 1971.

Highland Park School Board President Maryjane Bonfield explained that the district has traditionally provided a housing stipend to district leaders, joining just 11% of Texas school districts in offering the perk, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Bonfield believes the purchase was a financially prudent step to ensure the current and future HPISD superintendents can live in the community — the wealthiest in the Lone Star State.

Rather than continue to provide a large stipend, which can run into the thousands to cover Highland Park’s expensive rent, the district is planning to utilize the home for future superintendents and benefit from the asset’s appreciation.

Realtor.com says the median home price in Highland Park was $3.4 million in May 2023.

The measure was approved by the Highland Park School Board earlier this year.

Rockwood will live in the new home until his contract with the district expires in July 2026 or longer if his contract is extended. He succeeded Tom Trigg, who led the district from 2015 to early 2023 before retiring, as The Dallas Express reported.

In addition to the free housing perk, Rockwood is compensated with a $310,000 annual salary — a modest sum for a DFW superintendent.

Ten North Texas school districts compensate their superintendents at a higher cost to the taxpayer than Highland Park, though many of those districts have substantially larger student populations.

For instance, Dallas ISD’s superintendent Stephanie Elizalde currently makes $338,000 as a base salary plus $20,000 of taxpayer money as a bonus for each mutually agreed-upon student outcome goal that is met, as previously covered in The Dallas Express.

Elizalde’s rolling bonuses allow her to earn higher annual compensation than the president of the United States.

Yet HPISD has a 99.3% on-time graduation rate, significantly higher than the 81.1% four-year graduation rate in Dallas ISD, and substantially better test scores. While 41% of Dallas ISD students scored at grade level or above last year, twice as many (82%) managed to do so at HPISD.

HPISD also relies on a budget of millions, while Dallas ISD struggles on a budget of billions.