Superintendent gets another year, raise, giving ‘period of transition’ in 6-1 vote
The School Committee voted 6-1 on Tuesday to extend Superintendent Jeffrey Young’s contract one year, from June 2015 to June 2016, but with a $7,000 annual raise applied not only to next year but retroactively to the current year. Young’s gross salary for each of these two years will be $267,000. Member Patty Nolan voted against the contract.
Young’s current contract runs through June 30. The committee needed to tell the superintendent by summer of this year if they were interested in entering negotiations to extend the contract. In June of this year, the committee voted 6-1 to enter negotiations, with Nolan the sole dissenter. After meeting in closed-door sessions this summer and fall, the committee put forth the contract and an unprecedented contract amendment last night.
Counselor Jan Gould, speaking on behalf of the firm Deutsch Williams, which negotiated on the committee’s behalf, explained that the committee had chosen not to vote first in closed-door session, but rather to have this “first discussion of the final draft” and vote in a public meeting.
When asked after the meeting why the contract was essentially only a one-year extension, committee co-chairman Fred Fantini wrote, “through confidential negotiations we reached a mutually agreeable arrangement that serves both parties’ interests.”
“I had hoped that after 5½ years to see more success, and I don’t see it,” Nolan said in comments explaining her vote. She pointed to what she said were poor results in achieving the district’s own goals toward closing achievement gaps in MCAS data. “Two years ago we failed by a very large margin to close proficiency gaps in our subgroups, so we lowered our goals dramatically. And yet this year we failed to meet almost every single numeric goal for proficiency by subgroup in student growth … The number of Level 3 schools went from zero to two to three.”
A Level 3 rank means at least some population subgroups had scores in the bottom 20 percent of the state for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System standardized test.
Nolan also included in her list of objections a study finding that 75 percent of administrators were not evaluated in writing for the past five years, an emphasis on “expensive outside consultants” over internal teaching expertise, failure to get more than a handful of applicants for the district math coordinator and “serious ongoing leadership problems in several schools.”
“I’m not comfortable voting for a contract of any length,” she concluded. “We haven’t even finished our own evaluation [of the superintendent]. Nearly every measurable goal on achievement has not been met. I’m especially not comfortable voting for a raise of any level when we already pay far more than any other district.”
The other members were more positive.While saying he appreciated Nolan’s consistent focus on data, Mervan Osborne said, “I just don’t feel that the numbers tell the whole story all the time.” He cited Young’s “focus on special education and curriculum” and praised an educational “team that is starting to emerge … that gives us a lot of confidence,” presumably referring to new hires and promotions including assistant superintendents Jessica Huizenga and Victoria Greer.
Fran Cronin agreed with Osborne. “I can’t say that we have achieved all that we wanted to in the past years … We have work to do. [But] we have fantastic people in our district who are capable of guiding us. I look forward to you, Dr. Young, being the leader.”
“One of the reasons that I am supporting the contract,” said Kathleen Kelly, “is because I feel the need of a period of transition. We do not want to have an abrupt end to the tenure that we have right now with Dr. Young. I, too, am hoping that we can move forward from tonight and work in the areas that are posing the greatest challenge to us.” Fantini, saying that a school superintendent is one of the most difficult positions in education, echoed Kelly’s concern that there be a smooth transition and continuity in the next 18 months.
Mayor David Maher also expressed hope that the “talented group of administrators” that Young has put together “can carry this district into the next decade. In the next 18 to 19 months it is my hope that rather than learning about what these problems are we work together to address some of the outstanding issues.”
Series of raises
This contract continues a pattern of annual raises for Young that will result in a total increase of 24 percent from his first year to his last and seventh year in Cambridge.
Young’s first contract in 2009 was for three years with a starting salary of $215,000, with 2.7 percent annual increases. The vote to hire him went from 5-2 to 6-0, with then-mayor E. Denise Simmons abstaining – a reflection of the contentious search process that had some critical of bringing in Young from Newton instead of promoting Carolyn Turk, who was interim superintendent and is now deputy superintendent.
In March 2011, the committee voted to pass the Innovation Agenda, approving the creation of four “upper schools” by combining the sixth through eighth grades of 11 of the dozen K-8 district’s elementary schools (the Amigos school was allowed to stay as a K-8 to maintain its bilingual school status). This vote marked a pivotal point in the district and in the tenure of Young, who was brought into Cambridge with high hopes he could address long-term concerns about uneven and inequitable access to quality education, particularly among middle grade students. His proposal to reconfigure the K-8 schools and focus on unifying the curriculum divided the community leading up to the vote.
The following December, the committee voted to extend the superintendent’s contract another three years, until June 2015. The contract retroactively renegotiated the salary for Year 3 of Young’s tenure, effectively giving him a 9.5 percent raise over the previous year, bringing his salary for his third year in Cambridge to $242,000, with annual increases of 2.4 percent the following years. Nolan was the sole vote against that contract extension, saying she couldn’t support a contract that gave the superintendent a 9.5 percent raise while teachers were unable to negotiate a salary increase.
The vote Tuesday effectively extends Young’s contract to June 2016, although, like the previous contract, it retroactively renegotiates the salary for the current year. The annual amount of $267,000 effectively gives Young a $14,000 salary raise spread evenly over two years.
In addition, Young will continue to get the $15,000 per year for the purchase of an annuity, as did predecessor Thomas Fowler-Finn. He continues to get 25 paid vacation days and 15 days of sick leave.
Attorney Gould also explained that the committee, largely based on lawyer’s advice, presented an amendment as part of the contract. Deutsch Williams urged the committee to create a stand-alone contract that could serve as a boilerplate for future candidates, and move any provisions specific to the final contract of Young to a separate amendment. Therefore, the basic contract allows the committee to terminate the superintendent without cause with 90 days’ notice. According to Gould, though, the terms negotiated with Young for this contract extension did not allow the committee to terminate without good cause, so the amendment eliminates the committee’s option to do this to Young. The amendment also addresses Young’s ability to buy back unused sick leave.
The purpose of the amendment caused confusion. Gould confirmed Cronin’s understanding that “the amendment reverts back to original contract; the revised contract will be the model for future negotiations, not including the amendment.”
The amendment was passed 4-3, with Nolan, Osborne and Harding voting against.
Missing interim review
Nolan referred in her comments to the absence of the committee’s own superintendent’s job review. The committee was due to complete a review of Young’s performance this year. In June, the committee passed a job review instrument for the superintendent, based in part on new state standards for reviewing education administrators. It also moved the review from the summer to the end of the year. At that meeting, Fantini told Cambridge Day that there would be an “interim review” of the superintendent at the July 29 summer meeting. The process begins with the superintendent doing preliminary review work on setting his own goals, following state guidelines.
Young’s midyear self-evaluation was submitted to the committee with a cover memo dated Aug 1. In the first part, he gave status reports on previously defined goals. In the second, he graded himself on a rubric of 11 measures, including instructional leadership, management and operations and family engagement. From a choice of “exemplary,” “proficient,” “needs improvement” and “unsatisfactory,” Young marked five categories as “proficient,” five as “needs improvement” and marked “exemplary” for ethical behavior.
Despite reportedly discussing the evaluations in closed-door session, the committee did not finalize its follow-up midyear evaluation before offering a contract extension to Young. In response to a request Tuesday, Fantini clarified that a midyear review “has not happened yet. We are ready to go and just need to set a time. The superintendent has communicated his goals to each of us [in the committee] and a meeting time needs to be set.”