Terms Of Dr. Johnson’s New Contract Released
By: Alex Scofield
The Sandwich School Committee released the terms of Superintendent Mary Ellen Johnson’s contract extension yesterday—a contract that will keep her at the helm of the district until 2013.
Among the terms of the new contract is Dr. Johnson’s agreement to waive a salary increase for the coming fiscal year.
Article 4 of the contract states that Dr. Johnson’s salary for the three years of her new contract will be based on annual performance reviews, and in no case will it be any lower than the previous year’s salary.
Dr. Johnson’s base salary for the current fiscal year was scheduled to be $152,000 after she waived a scheduled salary increase to $157,525.
The contract extension also revises the superintendent’s performance review schedule, so that her annual performance review will take place on or before May 1 of each year, and cover the period ending on the previous March 31.
Prior to this change, Dr. Johnson’s performance review took place in November of each year, with the performance period being the previous school year.
Dr. Johnson will also be eligible to receive pay incentives based on her performance reviews and 20 percent of that incentive can be added to the superintendent’s base salary.
The committee voted 4-2 in favor of the contract during a rare Friday evening meeting, with members Sharron L. Marshall and Jessica A. Linehan dissenting.
First-year member Andrea M. Killion was absent from the meeting.
According to the town accountant’s office, Dr. Johnson has yet to sign the contract extension.
Former school committee Chairman Robert F. Simmons Jr., who did not seek to regain his seat in this yesterday’s election, said the board had planned to discuss Dr. Johnson’s extension during last week’s regularly scheduled meeting.
However, he said the issue had to be continued to Friday evening because of a legal question that was raised by Ms. Marshall.
According to school committee member S. Aleta Barton, the issue had to do with the language of Dr. Johnson’s termination clause.
Mr. Simmons said the board also wanted to settle Dr. Johnson’s contract prior to this year’s Town Meeting, so voters could be assured that the superintendent would not be taking a pay raise for the coming fiscal year.
“With Town Meeting scheduled to discuss the budget on Monday, the committee wanted to make clear that Dr. Johnson had again agreed to a wage freeze for the coming fiscal year,” Mr. Simmons said.
Like other town employees, including Town Administrator George H. Dunham, this is the second consecutive year that Dr. Johnson has agreed to a pay freeze.
Though Dr. Johnson’s current contract does not expire until June of 2011, Mr. Simmons said that stipulation of that contract requires that the school committee offer a contract extension prior to the end of the current fiscal year.
School committee members also pointed out that if they did not offer the superintendent an extension prior to this week’s election, there was the potential for two newly elected members having to deliberate on a contract despite only having worked with Dr. Johnson for two months.
Nevertheless, school committee member Sharron L. Marshall said she felt like she needed more time before she could feel confident in offering Dr. Johnson a three-year contract extension.
“I really wanted to use the next year to fully evaluate her,” she said.
Regarding her extension, Dr. Johnson’s original contract states that “Prior to July 1, 2010, the term of this Agreement shall be extended based on the mutual agreement of both parties to all terms and benefits provided therein.”
Ms. Marshall said she did not believe the language necessitated the school committee to extend the superintendent’s contract prior to the end of this fiscal year, and called that stipulation of the contract “confusing.”
In a statement released by the committee this week, school committee member Shaun P. Cahill defended the timing, saying the current board was best qualified to evaluate Dr. Johnson, as they have spent the most time working with her.
“Members of the committee recognized that it was their obligation to evaluate the superintendent’s performance during their term of office and resolve the contract accordingly. It would not be appropriate for potential new members with no firsthand knowledge or experience with the superintendent or the district to make those decisions,” said vice chairman Shaun P. Cahill.
Ms. Barton echoed that sentiment.
“The current committee’s opinion about the performance of the superintendent is certainly a lot closer to the issues that are facing the district and how the administration has handled them,” Ms. Barton said.
When asked if she felt the committee had rushed their vote to extend the superintendent’s contract, she disagreed.
“I don’t. I felt like we were doing things in the time we were supposed to do it,” she said.
She pointed out that Dr. Johnson’s performance evaluation was held publicly by the board on Wednesday evening, during which President of the Sandwich Educators’ Association Laura R. Carlyle was allowed to make comments.
“To me that makes sense. You do the evaluation and then you do the contract,” she said.
Dr. Johnson said the school committee had planned for the entire year to conduct her evaluation and settle her contract in the month of April, rather than delay those issues until after elections. “We would not bring in a new principal and have them evaluate a teacher after working with them for one month instead of having the principal who had worked with them for 11 months do the evaluation,” she said. Dr. Johnson said she thought the timing was appropriate, and denied that she had told the press that she thought the school committee should have waited to offer her an extension. “It needed to get done prior to June 30,” she said. “As long as it got done before then, I was fine with it.”
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