Committee Ponders New Contract Offer To Superintendent
By: Alex Scofield
The Sandwich School Committee is in the midst of discussions about the possibility of extending Superintendent Mary Ellen Johnson’s contract with the school district, school committee Chairman Robert F. Simmons Jr. said this week.
Mr. Simmons said, under the terms of Dr. Johnson’s contract, which expires in June of 2011, the school committee must decide within the next two months whether they wish to extend the superintendent’s employment.
He declined to comment when asked if the school committee was prepared to offer Dr. Johnson a contract extension, as the issue was currently under discussion in executive session.
“Under the terms of the existing contract, a public document, which runs through June 30, 2011, we need to renew or not prior to June 30 of 2010,” he said. “Other than that, we can’t discuss ongoing contract negotiations.”
Dr. Johnson agreed to a three-year contract with the school committee back in December 2008.
She was chosen as the district’s interim superintendent in May of 2008 after two of the three finalists culled from a national search dropped out of the running.
The committee told the third finalist, Ann C. Bradshaw of the Mashpee School District, that they could not offer her the job through the process of elimination.
Dr. Johnson had also applied for the superintendent’s post during the national search, but was not moved on to the final round by a screening committee that included members of the public.
After serving as interim superintendent throughout the summer of 2008, Dr. Johnson was offered the job on a permanent basis the following September in a surprise move by the school committee. Since then, she has earned both praise and criticism from the community.
Members of the school committee and many teachers have applauded her for pushing forward educational initiatives like Everyday Math and the Lesley Literacy Collaborative.
She has also been lauded as a resourceful overseer of the budget who is capable of finding creative ways to reduce costs by bringing contracted services under the control of the district.
The Spinnaker Program, a service provided at the Henry T. Wing School for students across the district who are on the autism spectrum, has earned strong reviews from parents.
Dr. Johnson also terminated the district’s transportation contract with the Cape Cod Collaborative and purchased four vans, a move she predicted will save the district $280,000 over the next year years.
But some community members, such as current school committee candidate Marie A. Kangas, have criticized Dr. Johnson for what they consider “frivolous” spending, such as the $12,500 she spent for an opening day ceremony to welcome teachers back to school and provide professional development.
The district paid a $6,500 speaking fee for Willard R. Daggett, of the International Center of Educational Leadership, at the September event and then spent another $6,000 to rent tables, chairs, linen tablecloths, a sound system, and curtains, and to offer breakfast and lunch to the 450 attendees.
Both Dr. Johnson and Mr. Simmons said the quality of training given to teachers by Dr. Daggett was worth the investment.
Dr. Johnson was also criticized for her management style and prioritizing of professional development in a survey conducted by the Sandwich Educators Association earlier this school year.
The survey results indicated that Dr. Johnson was not doing a good job of listening to teacher input and had created an environment where some employees were afraid to question the status quo.
The school committee has questioned the validity of the survey, though, and said the questions had a negative slant and that the survey was not administered securely.
Dr. Johnson also drew the ire of some members of the community after the mid-year firing of former assistant superintendent Maxine Minkoff, who was hired only months earlier.
The school committee has argued that the move was made due to drastic and unexpected cuts in state aid, and that the only alternative to firing the administrator would be to lay off teachers.
Dr. Johnson’s current contract paid her $152,000 in her first year, $152,000 this year, and will pay her no less the previous year’s amount in the final year of her contract.
Had the superintendent not forgone a salary increase due her in the current fiscal year, she would have earned $157,000.
The school committee is also discussing Dr. Johnson’s compensation for next year; the superintendent said she is unsure if she will decline a salary increase for the second year in a row as other administrators in town have chosen to do.
The contract language also allows the school committee to award the superintendent performance-based bonuses and cost-of-living adjustments, but does not obligate them to do so.
Dr. Johnson can also receive compensation for unused vacation days and sick time through the contract.
This year, the superintendent earned $10,364 for unpaid vacation this year.
Leave a Reply
In order to comment you need to be logged in.