Forget stock options or vacation days: The new contract of Shakopee superintendent Rod Thompson offers him $30,000 toward the cost of adopting a child in the next three years.

When the school board was discussing the new contract last month, they were looking to show Thompson they appreciated his work and wanted to retain him as an employee, said board member Scott Swanson.

The board also knew that Thompson and his wife were planning on adopting a second child in the coming years, so adding the customized “adoption benefit” just made sense, Swanson said.

“From a 30,000-foot level, it offers Rod a benefit in lieu of salary … that he can use over the next three years towards associated costs in going through the adoption process,” Swanson said.

While specifics of a salary increase weren’t discussed, Thompson’s performance has been good, and he was eligible for a raise and other added benefits, Swanson said.

Adding the adoption benefit is equal to a “modest raise,” he added.

The superintendent’s salary, now at $175,830, will remain almost the same, rising to $175,900 for each of the next three years. “It makes financial sense and it makes sense because it meets his needs,” Swanson said.

Why not just give him a raise in the amount of the adoption benefit? One reason: If the district chooses to renew Thompson’s contract again in three years, the negotiation will start at his current base salary of about $175,000, rather than a higher figure, Swanson said.

If Thompson leaves the district or doesn’t end up adopting a child, he will lose the benefit, Swanson said.

A ‘family-friendly benefit’

Swanson and Thompson said that the benefit is significant for more than financial reasons — it’s also “a family-friendly benefit” and demonstrates that the district philosophically supports adoption, Thompson said.

Thompson and his wife, a teacher, adopted their first child last year after four other adoption attempts fell through, so he knows “how difficult, emotional, expensive and draining it can be to go through that process,” he said.

“That dollar amount doesn’t come close to covering the cost of adoption,” but offering the benefit was a “win-win” for his family and the district, Thompson said.

Thompson said that it’s becoming increasingly common to add contractual benefits that support families through the adoption process. In 1990, about 12 percent of the nation’s top 1,000 employers included benefits in employees’ contracts to support adoption. By 2012, however, about half of those companies provided such benefits, he said.

“So it’s not an unknown benefit; it’s just maybe something that’s not talked about enough,” Swanson said.

Thompson, an “adoption advocate,” noted that the district’s current teacher’s contract also involves a section allowing teachers to take unpaid leave if they are adopting a child. Because the district has many young teachers at the age where they want to start a family, “that becomes an important benefit,” he said.

With 115,000 children across the country still waiting for “forever families,” supporting adoption efforts is “our responsibility,” Thompson said.

“This is one of those situations where everything worked out … and it’s the right thing to do,” Swanson said.