Superintendents get the golden boot

Replacing a superintendent is expensive, reports the Chicago Tribune, which investigated more than 100 superintendent contracts, financial records and severance deals.  Call it the golden boot.

Stanley Fields resigned after just a year as superintendent of a suburban Cook County school district where he was put on leave, faced with firing and ultimately required to apologize to the community. Still, he walked away with a $100,000 severance payment.

He also had prematurely left his prior job, at a Lake County high school district, cashing out $30,426 in unused vacation. The school board waived a $60,000 breach-of-contract payment from Fields, now superintendent in another Chicago-area school district.

School boards avoid lawsuits by offering money, unlimited cash-outs of sick leave and — in one case — a Mercedes. “In many cases, the money funding a buyout could pay one or more annual teacher salaries,” reports the Trib.

Short-timers get big buyouts. Superintendents who resign to pursue other opportunities get buyouts. Some get one buyout after another.

The Dolton District 149 board placed its superintendent, Doris Hope-Jackson, on remediation and administrative leave before she left the job in 2003. She was described in an evaluation as “very harsh” toward parents, taxpayers, board members and staff, among other criticisms.

. . . Hope-Jackson sued and got a six-figure settlement, including title to a Mercedes-Benz, records show. She moved to Calumet School District 132, where she departed when the board said it needed new leadership, and then to Michigan, where an Ypsilanti school board forced her out last year. She filed a lawsuit there, which is pending.

It’s Excellence in Failure, writes Jay Greene, who dreams of being paid to not do a job.

I can be harsh!



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  1. I blame the school boards. It is one thing to be the first board that gets stuck with one of these people, but how do these people, like Fields, get hired for failure over and over? One is left wondering if these serials firings and settlements are what the superintendents are after.

    P.S. Is it not possible to write the contracts to avoid this? Or (as with your last example) are the courts so biased as to make contractual details irrelevant?

    • Kathy Augustine, former deputy superintendent of the Atlanta Public School system, received a buyout from the DeSoto ISD (DeSoto, Texas) without having worked a single day. She was hired despite the ongoing cheating allegations and according to some reports received a $180,000 from the DeSoto ISD to just go away.

    • I blame the fact that there are school boards.

      Poorly-attended, poorly-publicized school board elections means the victors win not because they run excellent schools but because they run and have no opponent or run and have a powerful backer. Not universally true but true enough that this sort of superintendent dance-of-the-lemons isn’t all that uncommon.

      • The powerful backer is the teachers’ union, without whose endorsement school board members do not get elected. So, guess what their mindset and modus operandi are? Exactly what the union wants. The timing, location and degree of publicity of school board elections are not an accident, either. My local district recently voted to allow teachers to vote at the schools at which they teach and the elections were already independent of any other issues or candidates. The school board meetings are also scheduled at inconvenient hours and lack publicity.