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September 17, 2004

Who Runs the Madison Schools?

Understanding Superintendent Art Rainwater�s employment contract with the Madison Metropolitan School Board goes a long way toward answering a common question: �Who runs the Madison schools?�

Answer: Superintendent-for-Life Rainwater runs the Madison schools.

In January of 1999 the Board promoted Art Rainwater from Acting Superintendent to Superintendent. Voting for the contract were Carol Carstensen, Calvin Williams, Deborah Lawson, Joanne Elder and Juan Lopez. Ray Allen and I voted no.

The contract includes terms that significantly limit the Board�s ability to hold the superintendent accountable or direct his work.

First, the contract is open-ended. Most contracts for superintendents must be renewed every two or three years. The renewal requirement forces Boards of Education to evaluate the superintendent regularly. It also provides an opportunity to change superintendents at the end of a contract period without having to fire them.

However, the MMSD contract with Mr. Rainwater does not need renewal. Unless the Board acts to terminate the contract, the employment of the superintendent continues from year to year. Inertia is definitely on the side of the superintendent.

Second, the resignation of the superintendent will cost the district $250,000. Under the contract, if the majority of the Board votes to ask for the superintendent�s resignation, he must resign. In exchange, the Board owes him a quarter of a million dollars as a �golden parachute�.

Third, discharging the superintendent �for cause� also has costs. If the Board tries to discharge the superintendent for poor performance or disciplinary reasons, it must use the full adversarial hearing process and risk paying his attorney�s fees. If the case settles, instead of going to hearing, the district pays the superintendent�s legal costs. Such cases usually settle because hearings on a superintendent�s conduct are extremely disruptive for the district. Payment of attorney�s fees might be only part of a negotiated agreement to settle a discharge case.

Fourth, the contract automatically grants a 4-7% annual wage and benefits increase to the superintendent. There is no connection between performance evaluations and the annual increases. There is no requirement that the Board have the ability to pay a 4-7% increase. The contract contains a formula that automatically grants Mr. Rainwater between 4-7% increases each. No other employee in the district can depend on such increases.

Furthermore, the Board does not use its contractual power to evaluate the superintendent to hold the superintendent accountable for results, such as improved student achievement.

Under the contract, the Board must meet with Mr. Rainwater "on or before the 1st day of each school year" to establish his performance expectations. It must, "to the extent possible", use measurable outcomes to assess his performance. The contract states: "Each year, the Superintendent shall be evaluated on the specific results and accomplishments of the goals established by his performance expectations".

More than five years have passed since Mr. Rainwater became superintendent of MMSD. According to the Human Resources Department, the Board has completed only one formal evaluation. The evaluation occurred in 2002. At that time, Bill Keys was President of the Board and Ray Allen chaired the Board�s Human Resource Committee that conducted the evaluation.

No evaluations were completed in 2000, 2001, 2003 or 2004. Presidents and Human Resource chairs during those years were: 2000 and 2001 (Calvin Williams, President, and Bill Keys, Chair of Human Resources Committee); 2002 and 2003 (Bill Keys, President, and Ray Allen, Chair of Human Resources); and 2004 (Bill Keys, President, and Bill Clingan, Chair of Human Resources).

Ruth Robarts, Member
Madison Board of Education, 1997 - present

Posted by Ruth Robarts at September 17, 2004 8:10 PM
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