As potential Philadelphia superintendent William R. Hite Jr. makes his way through a day of community getting-to-know-you sessions, the good-government group Commitee of Seventy has a message for the School Reform Commission: whomever you choose as leader, open the contract.
Superintendent contracts are public, of course. That's nothing new. But what Seventy wants the SRC to do is release "broad parameters" before the contract is finalized.
"The public has a right to know the costs of bringing and keeping the new superintendent here," Zack Stalberg, Seventy's CEO, said in a statement. "Maximum transparency and full deliberation is especially important given the school district's grave financial situation and the past history of secrecy surrounding deals made with ex-superintendent Arlene Ackerman by the former SRC."
Stalberg, in the release, acknowledged that disclosing the specifics of the contract while it's being negotiated could be dicey, "the SRC can help diffuse a potential firestorm by providing some general information about the discussions with the two finalists for superintendents rather than risk the details leaking out in bits and pieces."
Both Hite, superintendent of Prince George's County schools, and Pedro Martinez, deputy in Las Vegas, are still in the running - no candidate has been chosen. But the fact that the SRC might select a superintendent by the end of this week "has raised some concerns that the SRC is acting too quickly."
Ackerman's "overly generous" benefits package should be kept in mind, Seventy said. The group urged the SRC to tie performance bonuses to objective criteria with public input; to make any superintendent performance evaluation public; to establish "modest financial caps" for any buyout package; to limit the initial superintendent term to five years; and to eliminate retention bonuses.
"Confidence in the public schools is very fragile and the circumstances are unusually complicated," Stalberg said. "The public is entitled to know the carrots being offered to persuade someone to give up a secure job to come to Philadelphia."
There was no immediate word on this from the SRC; check back for updates.
The superintendent selection process continues tonight, when Hite is scheduled to answer questions at a 6:30 public session at district headquarters, 440 N. Broad St.
What do you think about the contract? Should its broad outlines be released prior to a deal being signed, or does that hamper the SRC's negotiating power?