The contract for incoming Superintendent Thomas Harwood is very similar to what is contained in the contract for C. Suzanne Klein, members of the contract committee say.
Earlier this week, .
The five-page contract includes some alterations but is very similar, said Board President John Steininger, who believes it's a very fair contract the board may not have been able to achieve with any other candidate.
Harwood will earn a $174,802 annual salary—about $4,300 more than Klein made in 2010, according to a comparison between the contract and the district's list of employee pay. The contract takes effect Jan. 1 and continues through June 30, 2014, at which point the board will either have to renegotiate the contract or decide to extend it.
Among the changes, as highlighted earlier this week by Vice President Joan Dindoffer and again through the week by Steininger and board member Brendan Walsh:
- $3,500 longevity pay has been replaced with $3,500 in merit pay, but is not guaranteed meaning it could be a potential savings for the district.
- Sick days will be available for use but the district will no longer do a payout for unused days.
- The contribution by Harwood to his health care will reflect that of what all of the employees are paying, which Walsh estimates is about 10 percent and says is a higher contribution than what has been required of Klein.
- The district will reimburse Harwood $500 per month for the use of his personal vehicle to perform school functions, which Steininger said is a change from a varying amount to a fix amount to help control costs.
Other information from the contract:
- Harwood's salary and benefits will be renegotiated annually for the following school year and if there is not an agreement between the board and Harwood, his compensation will remain the same.
- Harwood will have 25 vacation days, which must be used in the year they are issued; however five days can be rolled over into the new school year.
- Harwood may terminate the contract with a minimum 60-day notice.
- Should Klein decide to retire earlier than Dec. 31, Harwood's superintendent duties would take effect immediately.
Harwood's 2-1/2 year contract is not unlike the first contract offered to Klein. The main difference is that she was given a 5-year contract, and then the board was able to renew it annually, Walsh said.
Steininger and Walsh have described the contract as more than reasonable.
Academically the district is performing very well and among the top schools in the state not to mention the country, Steininger said, noting the pay for the superintendent is not commensurate.
According to research compiled by Walsh in February, Klein is ranked 33rd among the 50 largest Michigan public school districts for superintendent pay.
While some have questioned whether Harwood was the right person for the job, Steininger questions whether the district would have realistically been able to get anyone outside of the district, including the other two candidates that made it to the final interview process. Steininger said their current salaries, noting he did not know the exact numbers right off hand, would have likely put them in a position of wanting more.
Steininger also credits Harwood's ability to reach agreements with all of the bargaining units that essentially protects the district from any risk of bankruptcy in a time when many districts may not have any alternative. The employees, under their contracts, agreed to concessions to maintain the fund equity balance for the district should it dip below the 10 percent level of its total assets.
The contract is the envy of many throughout the educational world in Michigan and makes Harwood a "highly desirable employee" to other districts. Plus he has had previous superintendent experience and already knows the ins and outs of the Grosse Pointe district as a current employee, Steininger said.
During discussion at the board's meeting this week, member Fred Minturn repeatedly referred to the contract as a total package valued at $700,000. Walsh and Steininger say they believe when all the figures are added up the value is more near $500,000 for the length of the contract, which works out to be about $200,000 annually.
The total package includes the value of the fringe benefits, such as health care, life insurance, sick leave, professional development, the $500 reimbursement for use of his personal car and more in addition to his actual salary.
Klein's total salary package was valued at $226,156.01 for 2010, according to the district's wages and benefits listing.
"We were very fortunate to have (Klein) for such a long time," Steininger said, noting her level of success and list of accomplishments. "I believe (Harwood) will be a high caliber superintendent and will show that."
Harwood's willingness to enter into a contract that does not guarantee any increase on salary from such a high performing district is a decision that should show the reasonableness of the contract, Steininger said, noting he could find employment anywhere with his experience.