While officials with the School District of Philadelphia have been relatively transparent so far about their search for a new superintendent — having whittled the search down to two finalists, Dr. William Hite Jr. and Pedro Martinez — one thing remains unclear: the details of the contract of the new hire.
That decision could be made within a week, prompting the non-profit, non-partisan watchdog organization Committee of Seventy to inquire about the contract package, which, if compared to that of former superintendent Arlene Ackerman, will be very competitive.
“The public has a right to know the costs of bringing and keeping the new superintendent here, said Committee of Seventy President and CEO Zack Stalberg, via a statement released by the organization. “Maximum transparency and full deliberation is especially important given the School District’s grave financial situation and past history of secrecy surrounding deals made with ex-superintendent Arlene Ackerman by the former School Reform Commission.”
Stalberg alluded to what he termed the “overly generous” contract given to Ackerman, alleging that her base salary of $325,000 was about $70,000 more than that of Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who is now the city’s highest paid employee.
Ackerman also received a buyout package worth close to $1 million.
In his statement, Stalberg made several suggestions for the SRC to consider when formulating this contract. In particular, Stalberg suggests the new contract include language that ties performance bonus to objective criteria with public input, publicizing the new superintendent’s performance evaluation, establishing modest caps on future buyout packages, limiting to five years the superintendent’s initial contract and the elimination of retention bonuses.
School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said his office hasn’t received any official requests from the Committee of Seventy yet, but said the District will release the details of the contract after the selection process is over, and the contract offered and accepted.
“Our regular process is to make contracts public after they have been signed, so releasing the details of the contract is something we will absolutely do, without question,” Gallard said. “The SRC is committed to making sure that a superintendent contract is fair to the children of Philadelphia and the city’s taxpayers. The SRC will make the contract public right after it is finalized.”
That would seem to satisfy the Committee of Seventy.
“While revealing all the specifics of the contract while it is being negotiated may not be required or even desirable, the SRC can help diffuse a potential firestorm by providing some general information about the discussions with the two finalists for superintendent rather than risk the details leaking out in bits and pieces,” Stalberg said. “Confidence in the public schools is very fragile and the circumstances are unusually complicated. The public is entitled to know the carrots being offered to persuade someone to give up a secure job to come to Philadelphia.”