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For anyone who read this great story about the background and contract of the new superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, I have a question. Is the so-called incentive package really stupid or is it just me?

Here’s the nut (emphasis added):

Grier’s contract, which allows him extra pay for meeting goals, breaks new ground for San Diego Unified. Cohn had no such provision in his contract, and a similar scheme for Bersin relied on broad goals. In contrast, Grier’s bonuses will hinge on three specific, measurable yearly goals that have yet to be set. For each goal he meets, Grier will earn $3,500. If he fails, the board can fire him.

Nationwide, such incentives are increasingly common, with most superintendents offered far higher bonuses than Grier, said Ron Wilson, executive director of the North American Association of Educational Negotiators. Typically, a superintendent can expect to earn between $5,000 and $7,500 per goal, with the potential to boost their base salary between 10 and 20 percent. Grier can earn a maximum of $10,500 extra each year — less than 4 percent of his $269,000 salary.

A quirk in the contract allows Grier to earn $10,500 even if the goals aren’t met, provided that “the delay is not due to the superintendent’s lack of concurrence with the goals.” Wilson called the provision “a worst-case scenario,” to prevent the superintendent from losing if board members “got into loggerheads” over already-set goals. If he simply disagrees with the goals, however, the superintendent loses.

I think providing the new chief some incentives to do a good job is a great idea. But he’s going to make $269,000 a year. So the guy gets $3,500 each time he accomplishes one of three goals? And he already makes $269,000?

And then, even if they can’t figure out what goals they want to achieve, he stills gets the payment?

Here’s how that part of his contract actually reads:

In the event that the BOARD and the SUPERINTENDENT fail to establish the three goals as provided in the manner and time frame specified in D.1. of this Contract for any Contract year, and there is not mutual agreement to extend the period for the development of the goals, and the delay is not due to the SUPERINTENDENT’s lack of concurrence with the goals, the SUPERINTENDENT shall automatically be entitled to Performance Pay of Ten Thousand Five Hundred ($10,500) at the end of such Contract year.

I don’t doubt Grier is going to be motivated to achieve these goals — whatever they end up being. He’s the new Supe at a huge school district. He’s got a chance to do great things and he sounds like the kind of guy who wants to do great things.

But if board members felt like additional incentives were needed, don’t you think they could have been a bit more ambitious?

Truth is, what they ended up with was the lawyerly equivalent of trying to get a high school kid to do his homework with the promise of a colorful little sticker. If we’re going to do incentives, let’s go long. How about making $100K of his salary dependent on showing a steady increase in the number of kids who go to college?

Now that’s an incentive.

SCOTT LEWIS

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