New plan for Minneapolis school staff pay

  • Article by: COREY MITCHELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 18, 2011 - 9:43 PM

School board will vote soon on a policy that gives Minneapolis superintendent more latitude on raises.

The Minneapolis school board has backed off a plan to require Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson to get its approval before awarding raises to her staff, opting instead to require more reporting.

The new proposal comes three months after some board members were surprised to learn that Johnson had awarded $270,000 in retroactive raises to administrators at a time when the district was laying off teachers.

Johnson later apologized for her timing on the decision, but defended the payouts, citing a $165,000 compensation study commissioned by the district that determined the administrators were paid less than peers in other districts.

A proposal drafted two months ago would have required Johnson report all employee pay raises to the school board, but the revised policy wouldn't prevent Johnson from doling out retroactive raises again.

The board backed off its original stance because members didn't want to micromanage the superintendent, said Rebecca Gagnon, chair of the school board's Policy Committee.

"It wouldn't be appropriate in policy," Gagnon said. "We give her a lot of authority to make decisions."

The new policy would give Johnson, and any future superintendents, discretion to give raises to nonunion administrators to enhance equity; recruit or retain employees; reward performance; provide a universal salary adjustment for all employees in the group; or "other good cause," the proposal reads.

The payouts would be restricted by the salary ranges for each job, which are "fairly wide," said Steven Liss, district legal counsel.

The new proposal encourages more communication between the superintendent and board, including an annual report that lists salaries for all nonunion administrators.

"The communication piece is huge," Gagnon said.

Under the new policy, Johnson wouldn't have to report administrator raises unless they are outside the salary ranges for each job and represent "material change," a phrase that Liss calls an "elastic" legal term.

The retroactive raises handed out this summer, some of which topped $10,000, didn't take administrators outside their respective pay ranges, which means last summer's retroactive payouts would be acceptable.

Johnson helped shape the new policy, which the school board will likely vote on during its Nov. 1 meeting. She had no input on the earlier version.

"We trust Dr. Johnson to do [her job] and do it quite well," Gagnon said. "We're all incredibly comfortable with this policy."

Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491

  • REVISED POLICY

    Under the new policy, Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson wouldn't have to report administrator raises unless they are outside the salary ranges for each job and represent "material change."

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