School & District Management

Payout Prompts Review of Minn. School Chiefs’ Contracts

By Jeff Archer — March 12, 2003 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A district leader’s hefty severance package is prompting new scrutiny of superintendent contracts in Minnesota, while fueling a broader debate over what it takes to attract a talented schools chief in a highly competitive market.

At the urging of a group of Republican state lawmakers, the Minnesota state auditor is reviewing the contract of John T. Haro, the superintendent of the 28,100-student Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school system. Officials of the suburban Minneapolis district say Mr. Haro is entitled to a severance package totaling at least $350,000 when he leaves this summer to head the 70,000- student Fulton County system in Georgia.

The figure has drawn particular attention given the state’s economic plight. Minnesota faces a $4.2 billion deficit out of a projected budget of $31 billion over the next two years, and lawmakers have considered a freeze on the salaries of public employees to help close the gap.

State Sen. Mike McGinn, who led the push for the state review of the contract, said his phones lit up with calls from constituents when they heard of the deal.

“Folks were shocked and surprised,” he said. “They couldn’t believe that this would be happening under the circumstances.”

Board members in Mr. Haro’s school system, also known as District 196, argue that the package only appears to be overly generous. They say most of the money is for unused leave that the district agreed to let Mr. Haro accrue as a way to offset the effect of a state cap on superintendent salaries that existed when he was hired in 1993.

While other districts used similar incentives to get around the salary cap—which the legislature eliminated in 1998—Mr. Haro managed to rack up considerable credits by staying with the district longer than many of his counterparts and by taking a minimal amount of leave during his tenure.

“We very honestly and truly needed to find ways to enhance compensation above what that cap was,” said Mike Roseen, who chairs the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan board. “So there were creative things done to put money into the package. And now we’re living with the consequences.”

Market Forces

Specifically, Mr. Haro has accumulated 100 days in vacation and 285 days in sick time. At his current daily pay rate of $719, that amounts to $276,815. He’s also entitled to other severance worth half his $151,630 annual salary. All together, that’s $352,630.

In addition, the contract allows the 52-year-old superintendent the option of continuing with his district-paid health and life insurance until age 70. Doing so would cost the system another $250,000. Mr. Haro hasn’t said whether he plans to keep the coverage offered by the Minnesota district or drop it in favor of the Georgia system’s insurance plan.

After defending himself in initial press reports, Mr. Haro has said he will no longer address the issue publicly, according to a district spokesman.

Other Minnesota education officials agree that although the payout is unusually large, the provisions that allowed for it were not unusual when the state’s salary cap was in place. The rule kept superintendents’ pay to no more than 95 percent of what the governor made.

Charlie Kyte, the executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, said the limit put the state’s larger, suburban districts at a disadvantage in the nationwide competition for administrators.

“If you were trying to bring people in from states where salaries were higher, the only thing you could do was pay at the cap, and then backload the salary so that when they left they would get more benefits,” Mr. Kyte said.

“I think when a lot of these were negotiated, there was the expectation that people would come into these districts and stay for three or four years. This guy literally hardly ever took vacation, and he never got sick,” Mr. Kyte said, referring to Mr. Haro.

Word that the practice may have been more widespread, however, hasn’t quieted critics of Mr. Haro’s job agreement. Although making no claims of criminal wrongdoing, State Auditor Patricia Awada called the severance provisions “outlandish,” and has launched a “legal compliance” review to ensure the contract adheres to the district’s procedures.

Based on more recent inquiries, she’s begun similar reviews in two other districts, which she wouldn’t name.

“The public is outraged,” said Ms. Awada, a Republican and a former mayor of one of the towns in Mr. Haro’s district. “And the outrage is toward the system and a school board more than the administrator. He didn’t set the terms of the contract. The school board did.”

New Rules Eyed

The state auditor’s office also is considering a comprehensive study of provisions in superintendent contracts throughout the state. The result would likely be a report, which could prompt new legislation on the issue.

Ms. Awada suggested two possible measures: a rule that forced districts to more widely publicize the details in their superintendents’ contracts, and the reinstatement of some kind of cap on compensation.

The latter would be a mistake, say those district leaders who contend that the cap is what caused the problem in the first place. Instead, Mr. Roseen, the school board president in Mr. Haro’s district, suggests that districts take greater care in crafting their superintendents’ job agreements.

The offer his board makes to Mr. Haro’s successor, he said, will likely include lower limits on the amount of leave that can be accrued.

But Mr. Roseen also said he doesn’t regret the deal that brought Mr. Haro to his district. “I would have loved to have kept John,” said the school board leader. “I hate to see him go.”

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Seamless Integrations for Engagement in the Classroom
Learn how to seamlessly integrate new technologies into your classroom to support student engagement. 
Content provided by GoGuardian
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Be the Change: Strategies to Make Year-Round Hiring Happen
Learn how to leverage actionable insights to diversify your recruiting efforts and successfully deploy a year-round recruiting plan.
Content provided by Frontline
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Critical Ways Leaders Can Build a Culture of Belonging and Achievement
Explore innovative practices for using technology to build an environment of belonging and achievement for all staff and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion 3 Shifts That Will Benefit Every New Ed. Leader
We need leaders who can develop shared visions of what school can be.
Jennifer Perry Cheatham, Rodney Thomas & Adam Parrott-Sheffer
4 min read
conceptual image of people coming together to form a lightbulb
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management After Student's Death, L.A. Schools to Carry Overdose Antidote
The nation’s second-largest school district will provide all its schools with a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses.
1 min read
Students and community members place flowers and candles at Helen Bernstein High School where a teenage girl died of an overdose on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in Los Angeles. Authorities said multiple Los Angeles teenagers have overdosed on pills likely laced with fentanyl over the past month, including the 15-year-old girl who died on the high school campus.
Students and community members place flowers and candles at Helen Bernstein High School where a girl died of an overdose earlier this month in Los Angeles. Authorities said multiple Los Angeles teenagers have overdosed on pills likely laced with fentanyl over the past month, including the 15-year-old girl who died on the high school campus.
Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via AP
School & District Management Opinion Advice for New Principals: The 4 Things to Focus on First
There’s a lot new school leaders are expected to learn. Here’s where to start.
Lebon "Trey" D. James III & David E. DeMatthews
4 min read
Illustration of checklist on a map
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Canva
School & District Management Opinion The Word 'Supervision' Shouldn't Get a Bad Rap. Here's Why
"Supervision" implies power, which, if used wisely, can strengthen the principal-teacher relationship.
Kim Morrison Kazmierczak & Ann Mausbach
4 min read
shutterstock 147190649
Shutterstock