Category Archives: 2012 Superintendent’s contract

Giving Away a Bargaining Postion: Superintendent’s new contract

To give credit where credit is due, the SAU Board is to be congratulated for striving to retain Dr. Metzler, but they have gone overboard.  Taxpayers should take note because the superintendent’s new contract has given away a bargaining chip that a more prudent board would have kept firmly in the district’s purse.

This year the SAU Board was tasked with a “performance and merit review” for the superintendent.  In hindsight I now understand that to mean consideration for a performance bonus and a raise.  That’s all the board was required to do.  Instead, the board extended the superintendent’s contract by three years and increased his benefits along with rewarding his performance with a 3.24% raise and a 4%  bonus.  (4% was the maximum bonus allowable under the contract.) Dr. Metzler’s work this past year certainly merits a bonus and a raise, as the board clearly recognizes; however, the board unnecessarily sweetened the benefits pot and that’s where I take issue.

The Superintendent’s benefits package was enhanced as follows:

  • OLD — Forfeit of unused vacation days in excess of 10    NOW — can accumulate 40 days
  • OLD —  85% paid medical plan    NOW —  90%
  • OLD —  75% paid dental plan     NOW —  90%

Although the money is not consequential, this will, I fear, have far reaching consequences when it comes time to again negotiate the teachers’ contract.  This signals to all parties that the board is willing to shoulder more of the cost of benefits – precisely the wrong message to be sending to unions and a nightmare to taxpayers who shouldn’t need to be reminded that New Hampshire has one of the highest unfunded public pension liabilities in the country.  What credibility will Dr. Metzler have asking teachers to reduce their benefits when he himself has seen his own benefits increased?  Brace yourselves taxpayers.  This indicates to me benefit costs aren’t likely to be more fairly borne by district employees any time soon and you have your own elected officials to blame.

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Filed under 2012 Superintendent's contract, Non-public session abuse, SAU 55 Issues

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.

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Filed under 2012 Superintendent's contract

Written in Secret and the Effort to Thwart Public Comment

I’ll admit it.  I was snookered.  The SAU board’s agenda for August 30th misled me into thinking the meeting to “finalize” the contract would resemble an intelligent discussion/debate of contract terms.  It was, in fact, a rubber stamping of a contract finalized before the meeting, with two minor changes.

Maybe you won’t be surprised to know that there was not a single public meeting at which any of the terms being offered were discussed, except when “multi-year contract with competitive salary” was decided for advertising purposes.

Every aspect of this contract was cooked up beyond the eyes of the press or any interested citizens. Had all of our minds been engaged, board and public alike, we might have achieved a superintendent’s contract that rings with our highest priority — improving student achievement.  Instead we have  a contract without any stated performance goals. These are to be determined. (Horse leave the barn, ya think?)  In fairness, the new contract is free of the most egregious terms in Mr. LaSalle’s gilded agreement, and does represent some good work by a few board members, but far from what should be expected by parents and taxpayers.

I defy the board to give me one compelling reason a contract could not have been forged in full public session before any candidates were selected. “Negotiations have to be done in private,” sums up one board member’s comments to me.  I dispute that, but it is quite irrelevant to the discussion. What we as an employer are offering to perhaps the most critical employee on our public payroll is very much of concern to every member of the public and should not have been hatched in secret and presented at a public meeting as a done deal. (And let’s hurry up about it, too. We have a welcome cake to get to.)

While I’m at it, let’s talk about the risible conceit the boards have cleverly devised of permitting public comment BEFORE an agenda topic is addressed by the board. Even elected officials pretending to be open-minded invite debate and discussion for the insight it might engender.  No member of the public is going to comment on a topic in ignorance of how the board is going to approach a matter. The Timberlane School Board and the SAU board are simply pretending to welcome public comment by requiring it before a comment is even possible.  I am calling upon each member of the Timberlane and SAU boards to immediately change their public comment policy to invite public comment after board discussion but before a vote.

The only thing approved faster than the superintendent’s contract on August 30th, was the hiring of a new biology teacher. Her name and her most recent employment were read, then she was voted in.  Presto!  Just add water and you’ve got quality education.  Yes siree.  Given TRHS’ dismal science scores, I would have thought, and forgive me again for my naiveté,  a little more interest in a new teacher’s track record would have been in order. I don’t know this teacher or her record and my comments are not directed towards her in any way.  The board may feel it isn’t their job to second guess personnel recommendations, but they are wrong and once again demonstrate their unwillingness to assert leadership over the administrative workings of the district.

Sad to say but voters get what they deserve. Stay away from board meetings and your boards will continue behaving like this – hatching momentous contracts in secret, hiring important teachers on trust, and doing their very best to thwart public comment.

Next – The new contract:  You could pass an entire cohort through what’s missing.

2012 Superintendent’s contract

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Filed under 2012 Superintendent's contract, SAU 55 Issues, School Board Issues