Performance pay for superintendents, not just teachers and principals?

At a time when teachers are under pressure to improve test scores and show what kind of progress their students are making, the superintendent of schools in Minneapolis has also decided to spell out exactly how the public can hold her accountable. 

No doubt the recession and the state’s financial woes have contributed to the superintendent’s decision. 

Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson (Photo by Craig Lassig of MinnPost)

Beth Hawkins, who covers education for MinnPost, noted yesterday in a post on her “Learning Curve” blog that the Minneapolis School Board is poised to approve new performance benchmarks for Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson that could be truly groundbreaking. (The MinnPost’s coverage of education is part of an ongoing collaboration with The Hechinger Report.) Johnson was promoted from deputy superintendent to superintendent in February 2010. 

Hawkins notes, “Johnson will be evaluated on the district’s academic progress, on the implementation of four district-wide projects and on her ability to strengthen Minneapolis Public Schools internal and external relationships. If she makes all of the goals, she’s in line for a $30,000 bonus.”

The contract is even more radical: Johnson has agreed to pay her own health-insurance premiums from her $190,000 base salary. And to be eligible for the bonus, Johnson must meet a series of goals, ranging from preparing more students for college to narrowing the district’s achievement gap, according to the Star Tribune.

Johnson’s arrangement comes at a time when leaders such as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey are pushing employees to give back some of their benefits. As part of his attempt to reform the state’s employee pension system, Christie wants employees to increase their own contributions. 

The idea hasn’t been popular with teachers, who have accused Christie of attacking middle-class workers. School superintendents have also raised questions. 

“A proposal that requires workers to get less, and do more, also needs to address how the state is taking care of its responsibility,” said Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

The question now is whether Superintendent Johnson’s new contract will set a precedent nationally.