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Proposed Ackerman raise bypassing required review

(Published July 26, 1999)

By REBECCA CHARRY

Staff Writer

The D.C. financial control board is poised to grant D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman a sizeable raise and bonus without the formal performance evaluation required by her contract.

Although the superintendentís contract required that she and the control board draft a written set of goals and objectives for her tenure more than a year ago, the board has no record of those goals being set, said Francis Smith, the control boardís executive director. The goals are supposed to form the basis for Ackermanís annual evaluation, according to her contract.

Ackermanís evaluation will be based on a list of accomplishments submitted by her, Smith said. He declined to offer specifics and said he is not sure whether the evaluation would eventually be made public. According to a control board source, Ackerman has not submitted the list nor has she submitted a recommended format for her evaluation, which was due last September according to her contract.

Ackerman declined through a spokesman to discuss details of her contract or her evaluation, citing advice from legal counsel.

The superintendent has asked for a substantial raise and bonus, as well as legal protection from being fired by the elected Board of Education once it resumes full authority over the schools next year. Ackerman currently reports to the control board, which runs the schools with advice from an appointed board of trustees.

A source close to the negotiations said the superintendent has asked for a $65,000 bonus for the current year and as much as a $75,000 raise for next year. The source said the control board is likely to grant at least some of Ackermanís request but would also likely offer some criticism of her performance.

But according to Smith, Ackermanís performance may not be the most important criteria for awarding a raise.

"Sometimes itís not that youíre doing better, itís that the market has moved," he said. "And in this case, the market has moved."

Ackerman has noted that some superintendents in neighboring jurisdictions earn significantly more than the $150,000 annual salary called for by her current three-year contract, according to published reports. Sources say that behind closed doors, Ackerman sometimes threatens to leave the troubled school system.

According to her contract, Ackerman also receives a $9,600 a year car allowance paid on a biweekly basis, five weeks of paid vacation and free medical examinations. She is permitted to select her own retirement plan, to which the authority is required to contribute 10 percent of her salary annually.

If the authority terminates her contract, she is entitled to six months notice or the equivalent base pay, about $75,000, as severance.

Several elected officials say Ackerman does not deserve a bonus or a raise, especially if she has not been formally evaluated.

"The whole D.C. government has gone to performance-based management," said Councilwoman Kathleen Patterson, D-Ward 3. "It is not appropriate for any senior manager to be working for this government without a clear performance-based evaluation."

"Her performance to date has been good, but I donít think it rises to the level of a substantial raise," said Councilman Kevin Chavous, D-Ward 7, chairman of the councilís education committee.

He also faulted the control board for lax oversight.

"This control board is slowly but surely divesting itself of authority," Chavous said. "Things like this evaluation are slipping through the cracks."

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator