Providing more supervision for superintendents
As school superintendents across Pennsylvania continue to descend from their offices on golden parachutes of their own making, the state Senate has passed a good bill to apply standards and transparency to the lucrative positions.
When the House gets the bill, it should improve it further.
The Senate bill requires superintendents to have contracts, with maximum terms of three years for a first-time superintendent and five years for a veteran. School boards will be required to establish specific performance criteria for superintendents, conduct annual evaluations and publicly post the evaluation. The bill specifically makes superintendents' contracts public records under the state Right to Know Law.
Senators moved the bill in response to a series of incredibly generous buyouts of superintendents in many districts, prior to the expiration of their contracts. Under the bill, no superintendent could receive compensation worth more than one year of a contract, regardless of how many years remain on the contract. And termination agreements themselves would be subject to public disclosure.
The House should add more specific provisions curbing the practice by which superintendents have left school districts with hundreds of thousands of dollars beyond the publicly disclosed elements of their compensation. They are allowed to cash in "unused" vacation days that they accumulate without limit.
To begin with, a vacation day is a paid benefit. Superintendents already are paid for those days. The ideal rule that the House could adopt is "use them or lose them." A well-managed school district should be able to survive the absence of the superintendent for a few weeks a year; there is no need for them to not take vacations, other than to amass unwarranted additional compensation.
Alternately, the Supreme Court of New Jersey last week upheld a law in that state limiting total accumulation of pay for unused vacation days and sick time for superintendents to no more than $15,000. That is a good model for Pennsylvania.
School boards should protect the public purse even without stricter state standards. But experience shows that most will not do so. The new law is fair and necessary.