The Silent Supe: Due for a Bonus?

It’s a recession, she just got a raise, and critics say hers is still an unfamiliar face.

As the Seattle Public School Board approved a landmark new assignment plan last week, it also introduced a proposal to give Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson a $5,000 performance bonus. One might think the superintendent already makes enough money during a recession, having received a 10-percent raise last year, bringing her salary up to $264,000—more than that of the governor. "Are you out of your mind?" asked parent, schools blogger, and onetime SW contributor Sue Peters in an e-mail to board member Steve Sundquist, who introduced the proposal. The timing of the bonus is also questionable given that the superintendent has done little to publicly sell or explain the assignment plan that, for the first time in decades, assigns students to schools based on where they live. The superintendent attended few of the community-engagement meetings that took place across the city over the past month. Instead, she left that task to board members and Enrollment Manager Tracy Libros, who showed up night after night to answer questions from parents, many of whom voiced concern about mandating neighborhood schools, considering that some neighborhoods have better schools than others. Libros, rather than Goodloe-Johnson, also briefed the press, and often the board. How different from former Superintendent and onetime Army General John Stanford, a master at rallying public support, or even from Goodloe-Johnson's predecessor, Raj Manhas, who personally handled announcements of school closures and other big district decisions. "Raj owned those tough decisions," School Board president Michael DeBell acknowledges. "He carried the weight. He got out in public." Regarding the contrast with Goodloe-Johnson, he says, "I'm not sure what to say about that," but adds that she has a "different style. She delegates quite a bit to those she considers her key and trusted managers." Goodloe-Johnson did not respond to a request for comment. In any case, the bonus is based on an evaluation that does not take Goodloe-Johnson's general leadership into account. Instead, Sundquist explains, the evaluation process looks at the district's performance on 17 measures, most of them related to WASL scores. The district met improvement goals on four of those measures, which awards the superintendent a proportional share of the $26,000 in bonus money she is eligible for. The district committed to performance-based bonuses when it hired Goodloe-Johnson, DeBell and Sundquist note. They say the board would eventually like to institute performance pay throughout the system—an idea the Obama administration has been championing—and is starting at the top. "The one employee we have control over is the superintendent," DeBell says. The board will vote on the bonus on Dec. 9.

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