Six-Figure Severance for Fired Superintendent Stirs Controversy

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Exiting Norfolk Public Schools Superintendent Richard Bentley only served for 16 months before the school board deemed its relationship with him no longer productive, and showed him the door last month, the Virginian-Pilot reports.

But somehow he exited with a $236,000 severance payment, and the reasons for his dismissal were kept confidential. The payout comes as the district is working to cut $32 million from its budget, and is asking the city for an $822,062 increase in funding.

Put simply, the payout is preposterous considering NPS financial condition. A columnist for the Virginian-Pilot put it in proper perspective:

Consider that $236,000 would pay for: Six full-time teachers at $38,012 a year;2,950 days of substitute teachers at $80 a day; 143,030 lunches for elementary pupils at $1.65 per meal; nearly the entire amount budgeted ($239,000) for supplies and regional education programs for gifted/talented students; fees for 2,712 advanced placement tests at $87 per test; or ayears worth of supplies ($233,675) for theinformation technology department.

While its obvious the money could have been put to much better use, the severance has even bigger implications. It sends a conflicting message that some employees are expected to sacrifice,including somewho don’t measure up, get six-figure checks on their way out the door.

Thats a terrible example that the districts employee unions will undoubtedly exploit at the collective bargaining table. We suspect the payout doesnt sit well with taxpayers, either, especially since the board doesnt have the courtesy to explain why the superintendent was dismissed.

Professional recruiting firms and superintendent associations argue that lofty salaries and significant guaranteed severances are necessary to draw quality leaders to high turnover districts.

But a recent $1 million retirement payout to Indianapolis-area Superintendent Terry Thompson has created enough public outrage in Indiana that state lawmakers will be taking a closer look at superintendent compensation in the coming legislative session. The financial waste is unjustifiable especially when Norfolk teachers and other city workers have gone without raises for years.

Perhaps a little public outrage is in order, to convince Virginia lawmakers to follow Indianas lead.

UNIONS LEADERS GET EXPENSIVE BUYOUTS, TOO

Former superintendents aren’t the only people making out like bandits. Broward (Florida) Teachers Union President Pat Santeramo will reportedly receive nearly $225,000 following his resignation in the wake of a financial scandal.

Santeramo resigned earlier this week following allegations that he mismanaged union funds, including $19,500 he allegedly gave several union employees and their families as reimbursement for contributions to a political campaign. The BTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, which sent a representative to the BTU to usher Santeramo out and cancel an expulsion hearing that was expected to provide some answers for union members. Santeramos resignation is official at the end of the month, and he’s already been paid through 2011-12, the Education Intelligence Agency reports.

Santeramos attorney, Mike Moskozitz, said the severance payment was made to ensure there to be more harmony than disharmony.

All these rounds of hearings and disagreements, they would have diverted from the work of the union, he said. Um-hm. What a crock of you-know-what.

The EIA correctly notes that it was union harmony that allowed Santeramo to run the BTU into a $3.8 million hole, and required the AFT to send in their big guns to sweep everything under the rug. Santeramos expensive departure isnt the first time the AFT has paid a local union president far too much to go away.

Floridas United Teachers of Dade, another AFT union, continued to pay its former president, Pat Tornillo, long after the FBI raided the unions headquarters over his mismanagement of funds in 2003.

The AFT vowed more transparency following that episode, but that was apparently a hollow promise.

To sum it up, the new devotion to transparency resulted in a resignation deal negotiated behind closed doors without member input, a vow of no additional comment, a canceled hearing, some sort of payout, and an unexplained three-week extension of Santeramos tenure, EIA reports. The sound you hear is the AFT lid being slammed on the whole situation.

Talk about a slap in the face to the union members who unwittingly financed Santeramos shenanigans. Fortunately, a criminal investigation is ongoing.

UNION RADICALS HARASS WISCONSIN TEACHER

Apparently there’s no room for free thought or disagreementwithin the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the states largest teachers union.

We suppose that’s not terribly surprising for a group that has to force its members to join.

Still, it’s troubling to hear that Kristi LaCroix, the courageous public school teacher who had theguts to film a television ad supporting Gov. Scott Walker’s recent reforms, is being harassed by union zealots to the point where she wants to change careers.

LaCroix, who teaches at Lakeview Technology Academy in the Kenosha school district, recently posted the following on her Facebook page, according a news story from WISN 1130:

“Going through and deleting my daily amount of hate mail that is sent to my work email. I have now been assured, by one of the emails (all of which I forward to my Principal) that there is an online movement called ‘Fire Kristi’ where they are going to email, post and talk to everyone (telling)millions of stories to ruin my reputation, career and life.

“Kind of hard to keep my head up with stuff like this. I have said for a couple of years that I really need to leave teaching. I think that it is time for me to move on.”

Here’s a sample of an email that’s been sent to LaCroix: “You are alone in a wilderness. Your financial help from the likes of the Koch brothers will dry up once your liabilities outweigh your assets, which will be very soon. Your best bet is to start a job search soon. Enjoy your isolation.”

Its an ironic situation considering the unions anti-bullying campaign for students. But if Big Labor is known for anything, it’s lowering itself to whatever disgusting level is necessary to get what it wants.

We find it interesting that union members want LaCroix fired, yet scream bloody murder at the possibility of firing incompetent teachers. Union leaders and radical union teachers are all about self-preservation. They are not about quality education or the best interests of students.

We believe the people of Wisconsin are starting to figure that out, due largely to outrageous behavior like the constant harassment of a teacher who dares to disagree with the almighty teachers union.

UNION CHARTER SCHOOLS IN MINNEAPOLIS

The American Federation of Teachers won another battle in its war against charter schools this week when Minnesota state officials approved the AFTs Minneapolis Federation of Teachers as a charter school operator.

It’s all part of the AFTs scheme to ruin the innovative charter school concept from the inside out. Many charter schools have flourished across the country, largely because they are not bound to collective bargaining agreements and union rules that drag down public schools. The lack of union baggage also allows charters to educate students for far less than traditional public schools.

Allowing the AFT to worm its way into the charter school business is a bad idea, for obvious reasons. The unions vigorous opposition to charter schools, which only recently abated somewhat, should be enough of a red flag. The union wont be running charter schools in Minneapolis, of course. Charter authorizers simply sponsor schools and hire others to operate them. But there is no doubt that the MFT will rely on the union education model for as many as six schools it hopes to open by mid-2013.

MFT President Lynn Nordren told MPR News that the goal is to show that you can, in fact, have great schools and teachers can be in unions at the same time.

Were not so sure. We wonder:

Will the union be able to educate students at less cost (like other charter schools) with all of its contract provisions intact?

What about all of the work rules in the unions collective bargaining agreement? Will they threaten the innovation and flexibility that has defined the charter school success story? How can the union possibly balance its obsession with enriching its members with the students-first mentality essential to a successful charter school?

We suppose Minnesota residents will soon learn the answers to those questions, and we suspect they wont be encouraging.

TAXPAYERS SHELL OUT BIG BUCKS FOR ATLANTA SCANDAL

Atlanta public school teachers and principals who changed answers on standardized tests may have cheated their students, but local taxpayers are learning that the scandal will cost them dearly as well. So far, about $6 million has been spent to clean up the mess, including thousands spent on media consultants, $700,000 on attorneys, and another $700,000 to tutor students victimized by the cheating, according to the BusinessLeader.com.

The scandal is expected to cost taxpayers another $3 million before its all over, not including an estimated $6.4 million to ramp up the districts remediation program and help students catch up.

Perhaps the most egregious part is that taxpayers continue to pay the 178 teachers accused of cheating. They will continue to draw paychecks until the criminal investigation concludes. We believe that James Guthrie, Director of Education Policy Studies for the George W. Bush Institute, summed up the situation correctly in the Atlanta Journal Constitution: Is this how expensive it is these days to tell people not to cheat? he said. Why dont they fine the adults who were involved and make them pay for this? I think the public is being cheated.