Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Why Our Schools Never Have Any Money

Six metro school superintendents left their positions this year for various reasons, but the compensation they received is causing controversy. Former Minneapolis Superintendent Thandiwe Peebles resigned in January after allegations of misconduct. Despite those allegations, her departure cost the district nearly $250,000. State Auditor Pat Anderson has been a vocal critic of superintendent compensation. She says the compensation packages can reward poor performance. "You're essentially paying people for poor performance," she says. Her office analyzed the severance terms in the contracts of 19 Minnesota School superintendents and concluded that the average severance pay is $73,000.However, several superintendents are under contracts that offer severance packages that are significantly more valuable. Orono's superintendent would receive as much as $140,000, Bloomington�s nearly $160,000, Burnsville�s approximately $176,000 and Farmington�s superintendent would receive $193,000. Rosemount's superintendent's severance package would be highest, at $203,000. "So they're leaving, breaking their own contracts, and leaving Minnesota with several hundred thousand dollars in taxpayers' money," Anderson says.Bob Lowe of The Minnesota School Boards Association says there just aren't enough qualified people who want to deal with the politics and job insecurity involved in being a superintendent. As a result, school districts compete by offering large severance packages. Lowe says his organization has been encouraging districts to put more caps on what a superintendent can earn if they leave. "We like to see contracts in this day and age written so that individuals have and want to stay and not want to leave," Lowe says. Lowe adds that many of the perks in contracts started more than 20 years ago when superintendent base salary was required to be less than the governor's. That law has since changed, but large severance packages continue.