The ACSA Member Assistance and Legal Support Team, under the direction of ACSA’s Deputy Executive Director Margarita Cuizon-Armelino, assists close to 100 superintendents each year with their contracts. In the past 22 years, more than 2,000 superintendents have requested contract assistance. Since this is the time of the year when superintendent searches begin, Member Assistance Advocates John Almond, Janet Morey, Sharon Dezutti, Bill Tschida, Joe Jones, Gary Rutherford and Lloyd Wamhof have listed below the 10 most important tips for you to strongly consider before signing your first contract.
1. Request enough time to review your contract. Sometimes a new superintendent is given a deadline to sign his/her contract that doesn’t allow time to request assistance in reviewing the wording in the contract. The contract will govern your relationship with the district, so time for review and assistance is critical.
2. Make sure the wording in your contract is clear, specific and doesn’t leave room for ambiguity.
3. The term of the contract should meet your needs. The Education Code allows administrators to have up to a four-year contract. Signing a contract with a two-year term or less may well prove to be problematic.
4. For each year of the term of the contract include language that provides consistent salary increases. You are not asking for any more than most other staff in the district who are usually on a salary schedule. Having consistent salary increases avoids revisiting your contract on this hot topic and it also avoids being audited for “spiking” your salary for the purpose of enhancing your pension.
5. Provide language in the contract that extends your contract for an additional year if you receive a satisfactory evaluation. The language should be clear and the contract extension must be approved by the board in the form of an amendment at a regularly scheduled board meeting.
6. The language in the Termination for Cause section of the contract needs to be clear and lack ambiguity. Education Code 44932 specifies reasons for which a superintendent can be dismissed for cause. This section of your contract is extremely important and you want to avoid unnecessary language that is subjective in nature.
7. The language in the Termination Without Cause Section (Early Termination) should allow for a buyout and health benefits. Under Government Code 53260, superintendents are allowed up to a 12-month buyout and Government Code 53261 allows for health benefits during the same period of time.
8. Include an Indemnity Clause that protects you from any claims, torts or suits brought against you in your role as superintendent during your tenure and upon separation from the district.
9. Be sure to make use of the ACSA documents listed below in reviewing and revising the draft contract offered to you by the district. When you make contact with one of our ACSA advocates, he/she will provide you with the following: ACSA Sample Superintendent Contract, Contract Review Check Sheet and the “ACSA Tips for Negotiating Your Superintendent Contract” document. The Contract Review Check Sheet is a tool for doing a self-review of the draft contract and the document will assist you through the negotiations process.
10. Contact an ACSA Member Assistance Advocate or a competent attorney to assist you in reviewing your contract. To access members-only legal support, please fill out the form at www.acsa.org/legalsupport. You can also access this form by clicking on the “HELP” button on the ACSA app. Upon receipt of your request, a staff member will confirm membership and connect you to an advocate. Please allow 24 hours for a response.
These 10 tips are good guidelines to follow for current superintendents as well. Also, the ACSA Advocates are available to assist other administrators who are offered a contract. Contract review and assistance is included in ACSA membership. Don’t fail to take advantage of this service.