The ACSA Member Assistance and Legal Support Team, under the direction of Member Services Senior Director, Margarita Cuizon-Armelino, assists close to 100 Superintendents each year with their contracts. In the past 20 years, over 1,700 Superintendents have requested contract assistance. Since this is the time of the year when Superintendent searches begin, Member Assistance Advocates John Almond, Janet Morey, Bill Tschida, Joe Jones, Gary Rutherford and Lloyd Wamhof have listed below the ten most important tips for you to strongly consider before signing your first contract.
- 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.
- Make sure the wording in your contract is clear, specific and doesn’t leave room for ambiguity.
- 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 be problematic.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 twelve month buyout and Government Code 53261 allows for health benefits during the same period of time.
- 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.
- Make use of the ACSA Sample Contract and Contract Review Check Sheet. ACSA has a sample contract for you to use when reviewing your own contract. The Contract Review Check Sheet is a tool for doing a self-review of the contract you are offered. These documents can be found on the ACSA Website when you log in.
- Contact an ACSA Member Assistance Advocate or a competent attorney to assist you in reviewing your contract. Call 800-608-2272 and ask for Joanne Godfrey to request assistance.
These 10 tips are good guidelines to follow for current superintendents as well. Also, the ACSA Member Assistance and Legal Team is available to assist other administrators who are offered a contract.