A bill introduced by Arizona State Rep. David Cook that authorizes a school district governing board to terminate their superintendent’s employment contract, passed on an 8-2 bipartisan vote of the House Education Committee.
The bill specifies that the superintendent is not entitled to recover damages or compensation for the remainder of their contract’s employment term if “it is determined by the governing board that the superintendent violated governing board policy; or one or more district schools have been assigned a D or F letter grade for at least three years.”
“HB 2291 is written to empower local school board members to be able to make decisions that are best for their school districts while being able to protect their limited funding for education that they control,” Cook told the Arizona Daily Independent. “I want to thank my colleagues who voted in support of the bill.”
Currently, state statute requires that the employment term of a superintendent may not exceed three years. If the superintendent’s contract is for multiple years, the school district may not extend or renegotiate the contract earlier than 15 months before the contract expires.
However, too often outgoing school boards extend the contracts of superintendents shortly before the members are expected to be voted out, leaving incoming boards with administrations that have violated policies and that do not reflect the direction voters demanded with their votes at ballot booths. This maneuver ends up rewarding superintendent that are violating policies or failing the district’s students by leaving new boards with no choice but to buy out their already lucrative contracts.
Cook’s bill would protect school districts from such game-playing if the superintendent has violated the district’s policy or failed to improve the district’s schools.
State statute also instructs a school board to require up to 20% of the total annual salary included in a superintendent’s contract be classified as performance pay. Performance pay must be determined according to student academic gain and parental and teacher satisfaction, unless the governing board votes to implement an alternative procedure at a public meeting.
In the current environment, rarely does a school board adopt rigorous standards for performance pay, and according to education experts, too often, the superintendents write the standards themselves and the school board simply acts as a rubber stamp.
That is expected to change though, with the new crop of conservative school board members having been elected in the 2022 election cycle.