New Contract a Big Improvement for Taxpayers – Not So Great for Students

Dr. Metzler’s contract is a much more reasonable agreement for taxpayers than that struck with Mr. LaSalle and for that we can be relieved.  For parents and students, however, it is still  lacking.

Most contracts are very specific in setting out job responsibilities and how the discharge of those responsibilities will be evaluated.   Not this one.  Here is section 5 on “Authority and Responsibility” in its entirety:

Per HN RSA 194-C:4, The Superintendent agrees to administer and supervise the schools of School Administrative Unit 55 in accordance with the laws of the Sate of New Hampshire and in accordance with the rules and regulations of the State Board of Education, of the Administrative Unit, and of the Timberlane and Hampstead School Boards within the School Administrative Unit.   As stipulated in the New Hampshire Code of Administrative Rules, the Superintendent shall serve as the executive officer of the local school districts within the School Administrative Unit and shall be responsible for planning and administering the activities of the local school districts within the School Administrative Unit subject to statutory requirements, the NH Code of Administrative Rules and the policies and procedures of the local district.  The Superintendent shall be responsible for the nomination of professional staff as required by law and the hiring, placement, and transfer of all school district and SAU personnel.

See the part about being responsible for establishing high academic standards and improving academic performance? Don’t bother reading it again.  It isn’t there.

Section 4 sets out a “performance bonus”:

The SAU Board shall annually determine a set of quantifiable goals for the Superintendent.  Based on the Superintendent’s success in achieving these goals, the Superintendent shall be eligible to receive up to a 4% bonus annually.  The SAU Board shall have sole discretion in determining how much, if any, of the 4% bonus is payable. Any bonus is payable as of July 1.

That, dear readers, is the carrot.  As well all know, carrots work best when they are dangled off long sticks.  This contract is totally bereft of a measuring stick.

Student performance data, budget goals, facilities management, long-range planning and parent/teacher communication would be notches on my measuring stick. Although Dr. Metzler seems both eager and capable, it seems unfair  even to my stern mind to impose ambitious goals to which he did not initially agree.  Only the most modest quantifiable goals can be fairly imposed when the SAU Board gets around to drafting them. The board has squandered a critical opportunity that may not present itself again for a very long time.

They’ve done this in two ways.  First, by failing to set high expectations when they had the chance; second, by rolling out a three-year contract that automatically renews in three-year terms. As I’ve said before, three years is an eternity in the life of a young student.  A one-year contract with annual renewals is categorically in the best interests of students as this protects them from administrative under achievers. Arguments were made that talent would not move for less than a three-year contract. I’m willing to bet my burial plot that it wasn’t even offered, not with an aged former superintendent as the board’s consultant. Dr. Metzler may turn out to be everything we could wish for, but prudent boards hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

There is a distant saving grace.  Before the end of the three-year contract, with a minimum of 180 days notice, a new contract can be offered. It’s logically possible that contract could be a one-year term, just as it is logically possible that carrots could seed themselves in a perfectly straight line.

On the plus side, taxpayers should be glad to know that this contract can also be cancelled by written notice given “at least 180 days before the end of the original three-year term of this contract.”  Mr. LaSalle’s contract required three years notice of non-renewal – or full pay to end the of the contract period.  There are other substantive improvements:

  • A maximum of ten unused vacation days can roll over into the next year. The previous contract allowed 60 days accumulated paid vacation.
  • No reimbursement for unused sick leave.
  • 90% paid health insurance vs. 100% previously.  No lifetime benefits.
  • 75% paid dental insurance vs. 100% previously.
  • Maximum matching $10,000 per year retirement benefits. Taxpayers contributed 15%  into Mr. LaSalle’s retirement accounts every year.

One malingering provision does disappoint.  Dr. Metzler’s contract permits him to engage in consulting and other professional activities in addition to his employment so long as they are not in conflict with his responsibilities and have been approved by the SAU Board. Being superintendent of one of the state’s largest SAUs is a full-time job. The board is only inviting trouble with this provision.  I’ll have more on this later when I write about the siren lure of SERESC and NESDEC for superintendents current and retired.

In the meantime, we have an enthusiastic, committed and promising new superintendent.  Welcome, Dr. Metzler.  May your performance always exceed the SAU Board’s expectations.

3 Comments

Filed under 2012 Superintendent's contract

3 responses to “New Contract a Big Improvement for Taxpayers – Not So Great for Students

  1. Pattie O'Sullivan

    Donna, do you have information on the latest contract?

    • The superintendent’s contract is on the SAU website and you might find some other administrators on the site as well such as the former Asst biz administrator and the Biz Adeinistrator. I have read them and I don’t remember anything about retirement. I’m afraid I’m in a rush and can’t get you a link.

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