10 tips to know before signing a superintendent contract

August 20, 2018 ACSA Writer

By the National Association for School Superintendents

Each year, the NASS Member Assistance and Legal Support Team, under the direction of Member Services Senior Director Margarita Cuizon, assists new superintendents with the mechanics of their contract. Negotiations, of course, are between the superintendent and the school board.

We asked our experts to list the 10 most important tips to strongly consider before signing a 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 for you to request assistance in reviewing the wording. The contract will govern your relationship with the district, and 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 be problematic.
  4. For each year of the term, include language that provides consistent salary increases. You’re not asking for any more than most other staff in the district who are on a salary schedule. Having consistent salary increases avoids revisiting your contract on this hot topic and it also avoids being accused of “spiking” 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 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 may be dismissed for cause. This section 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 GC 53261 allows for health benefits during the same period.
  8. Include an Indemnity Clause that protects you from any claims, torts or suits brought against you in your role as superintendent.
  9. Make use of the ACSA Sample Contracts and Contract Review Check Sheet. ACSA has sample contracts for you to use when reviewing your own contract. There are two samples available for superintendents: Superintendent Sample and a Small School District Superintendent Sample. The Contract Review Check Sheet is a tool for doing a self-review of the contract you are offered. Email info@nass.us to request copies.
  10. Contact one of legal advocates at info@nass.us to assist you in reviewing your contract.

We look forward to seeing you at ACSA's annual Superintendents' Symposium in early 2019.

This event brings school leaders from around the state together for an invaluable two and a half days of professional learning, networking and advocacy. This is the best time to look at the governor’s budget and for superintendents to get together to review the state-of-the-state and the state-of-the-district.

More than ever, it is time for superintendents to lead a movement to restore California schools to their once-held rank of the best in the nation. A focus will be on integrating technology into curriculum and professional development in a digital world.

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