Monday, September 14, 2015

The Superintendent – Dispelling the Myths

I was surprised on Sept. 8 to find that the FCCPS Superintendent’s contract was being extended to 2019 – four years away – with little public notice or discussion.  I wrote a letter to the School Board that day asking that there be an opportunity for public input before taking action; however, the Board unanimously approved the extension.

I suspect many of us have heard rumors about the Superintendent’s contract.  So I decided to take a look in order to dispel the myths and have an informed discussion.  Based on my review, I’d say this is another area where more transparency and participation is necessary.

Dr. Jones’s salary may be higher than other city employees, but according to Channel 7,, lower than the Superintendents of Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County, and Loudoun County, but more than Fauquier County.  More to the point, I believe she has received raises in compensation every year, for a cumulative raise of over 27% since 2011 (looking at salary + bonus + deferred compensation).  Her automobile allowance has also risen about 27% during the same period.   The Board clearly views Dr. Jones performance as good, given her consistent raises year over year.

Determining why the Board has this opinion is more difficult because the contract has broad confidentiality provisions.  All aspects of the evaluation of the Superintendent’s performance, and whether her contract should be renewed, are to be treated as confidential and held in a closed meeting to the extent allowed by law.  These provisions appear to make it difficult or impossible for School Board members to comment on the Superintendent’s performance, and difficult for the public to know much.  Whether or not this is standard contract language for superintendents, I disagree with this degree of confidentiality.

In addition, the Board must view the Superintendent as invaluable, because every year the School Board has revised her contract to it extend back to four-years – the statutory maximum – when three years were remaining on the contract.  The Board extended the contract to four years in 2012 (to 2016), 2013 (to 2017), 2014 (to 2018), and now 2015 (to 2019).  Last year, the Board added an automatic renewal clause that, unless notice is given by the Board, extends the contract back to a four-year contract without any Board action, when three years remain on the contract.  I believe this provision remains in the current contract.  And because communications about the intent to renew must be treated confidentially and held in a closed meeting, the public might not even know in advance if and when the Superintendent’s contract ends.  The Board could decide next year to let the Superintendent’s contract terminate in 2019, or could let it automatically extend to 2020, and public wouldn’t and perhaps couldn’t know which it was.  This is another place where more transparency would be a good idea.

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