Want to be Dissatisfied with Your Job? Read the Superintendent’s Contract

Now that the search is on for a new Superintendent, the contract of the current Superintendent could very well form the template for a new contract offer.  That would be disastrous. The current contract can be found at  http://www.chachka.net/pgt1.htm. Caution:  You will want to quit your job.  Even in your wildest imagining,  you could not come up with these dreamy contract terms: THREE year notice for non-renewal or full pay, 90 days cumulative sick days, 7.5% of salary contributed to an annuity annually PLUS another 7.5% contributed by the district to a 403B plan.  That’s 15% of salary in retirement benefits every year. Sweet.

Although the salary is generous (nearly $140k) and the benefits lavish, my biggest objection to the current contract is what isn’t in it. Nowhere is there a provision for firing the Superintendent for failing to meet objective performance standards.  TRHS has been a School In Need of Improvement for 7 years in math and 4 years in reading. http://www.education.nh.gov/instruction/school_improve/sini_2012_13.htm   No problem! Have a raise and another three years on us! Let’s not forget who is being shortchanged here — not only the taxpayer and our long suffering property values, but the future of our children.

We now have an enormous opportunity to rework the contract terms to allow us to quickly and easily fire someone who isn’t raising educational outcomes. The SAU board has established a contract committeee to review other Superintendent contracts in the region which is commendable, but we should grasp the chance now to set our own terms.  The poor job market and the dismal state of public finances are all working in our favor now.

A friend offered me a wager that the new Superintendent will be offered more money than we are currently paying.  I didn’t take that wager.  Almost certainly the SAU board will be more generous with taxpayer money than they should, but what is most imperative is that they set performance standards pegged to improving educational outcomes with a quick and easy way of firing a non-performer. The board is advertising the position with a “multi-year contract.”  They have said that “No one will move for a one year contract.”  Really?  My husband and I moved countries for no contract at all. Three years is an eternity for a child.

The contract committee consists of two school board members.  I made a written request to participate on the committee.  My letter was ignored. I’m used to that. Below you can read another of my letters to the SAU board detailing the many objectionable contract terms in Mr. LaSalle’s current contract in the hope that they will not be repeated going forward.  At least I have the comfort of knowing this letter reached the contract committee.  It’s detailed reading, but the terms are eye popping.

April 4, 2012

Dear SAU, Timberlane School Board and Budget Committee Members:

As I am unable to attend the meeting on Monday evening, I would like this letter read into the public minutes.

The search for a new Superintendent requires as a prerequisite a through review of the contract terms of the past that bound Mr. LaSalle and requires of us to write a new contract that is more favorable to the prudent interests of the respective towns. Here is an abbreviated list of extremely unfavorable terms in Mr. LaSalle’s 2011 contract that in my opinion should be changed in a forthcoming contract to a new candidate.

Employment and Term:  currently 3-year term.  The term should be one year, renewal by agreement. Three years is an eternity in the life of a student.

Salary: currently the SAU has the right to increase salary at its own discretion. Any salary increase should be subject to approval by the school boards and based on the objective attainment of measurable education outcomes of students to be determined by the school boards.

Renewal of Contract:  Currently the contract requires THREE YEAR’s notice of non-renewal.  90 days notice of non-renewal is all that is necessary or prudent.

Termination for Cause:  This should include a failure to obtain stated performance objectives to be set by the school boards.

Termination with Pay: Currently this could require the towns to pay up to three year’s salary. This should be changed to state never to exceed three months.

Sick Leave: Currently can accumulate to 90 days.  Sick days should not be cumulative at all.

Performance Evaluation:  Currently the SAU may provide a written evaluation relative to objectives established by the SAU.  This should state that the School Boards WILL provide written evaluations based on objectives set by the school boards. The provision that currently says in the absence of such evaluation the Superintendent’s performance may be presumed satisfactory should be stricken.

Professional Activities:  Currently this permits the Superintendent to teach, lecture and consult.  This provision should be stricken entirely.

Section 21 Other:  Current normal retirement age of 57 should be changed to 65 and the current provision allowing retirement after completing 3 years of service should be changed to a minimum of 15 years of service.

Retirement Annuity: “The Superintendent shall annually receive an individual tax-deferred retirement/annuity plan in an amount equal to seven and one half percent of salary.”  This is an extremely ambiguous provision. It should be clarified to state that 7.5% of salary will be contributed to an annuity on behalf of the employee, if this provision is not stricken altogether for its extraordinary generosity especially given 403B employer contributions.

Under the Superintendent’s Benefits addendum to the contract:

Again length of time of service to qualify for benefits and the 7.5% annuity need scrutiny and change. Note also the 403B contributions of 7.5%
Annual sick leave redemption should be stricken.
Un-vouchered travel reimbursement should be disallowed entirely.
Personal bereavement leave should not be at the discretion of the Superintendent as he/she is giving himself his own leave.  It should be at the discretion of the school boards.
Business expense account $1000 should be questioned. No public monies should be reimbursed un-vouchered.
Compensatory time is again at the discretion of the Superintendent who is giving himself this time.  This should be at the discretion of the school boards.

Mr. LaSalle’s full 2010-2011 contract can be found at: http://www.chachka.net/pgt1.htm

Since Mr. LaSalle voluntarily retired in order to take another position, I would ask the SAU to explain why it needs to go into non-public session on grounds of compensation and reputation.  As I am new to the Budget Committee, for my future reference could you also tell me where notice of this public meeting was posted and when?

Donna Green
Budget Committee member for Sandown

1 Comment

Filed under Sandown Issues, SAU 55 Issues, Superintendent Search

One response to “Want to be Dissatisfied with Your Job? Read the Superintendent’s Contract

  1. Nathan

    I assume the contract was written by the superintendent’s lawyer.

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