UPDATE: Palm Beach County School Board members stiff-armed a proposal Wednesday to give Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa a nearly $10,000 raise and guarantee him automatic raises in the future, saying they were blindsided by the last-minute proposition. Our full report is here.
Fresh off of a glowing review from his bosses, Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa is eying a nearly $10,000 raise.
Avossa’s proposed pay hike – which the school board will consider today after it was placed on their agenda Tuesday as a last-minute addition – would be his first since he was hired last year at a $325,000 base salary, the highest at the time among Florida’s superintendents.
The raise amounts to a 3 percent hike, the same average raise that teachers and other school district employees received this year.
But as the school district’s highest-paid employee, Avossa’s haul– $9,750 – would amount to more than five times the raises that teachers received, which maxed out at $1,715.
If approved by the school board, Avossa’s base pay would rise to $334,750.
The proposed amendment to Avossa’s contract would also make future raises automatic and guarantee that they are at least as high as the average raises that teachers receive each year. Former Superintendent Wayne Gent had a similar provision is his contract.
School board members would have discretion to give Avossa higher raises if they choose.
The proposed raise appears to have been added to the school board’s agenda just one day before today’s meeting, despite a school board rule that generally calls for proposals that board members will vote on to be published online several days ahead of time.
After the board’s agenda has been finalized, school board rules require that changes or additions only be made if the board chairman determines there is “good cause” to do so. The rules say that “notification of such change shall be at the earliest practicable time.”
The move raised questions about why the school board waited until the day before today’s meeting to add the proposed raise to the agenda. Records indicate the raise had been in the works for weeks.
School Board Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri, filling in as chairman while Chairman Chuck Shaw recovers from surgery, told Extra Credit that the late addition was necessary “to align as closely as possible with the conclusion of the superintendent’s annual review.”
In an emailed statement, he said that the delay in adding it to the agenda was a result of Shaw’s hospitalization.
“When I realized that due to the recent and unforeseen illness of Chairman Shaw that the item had not been addressed, I, as Vice Chair, instructed the board clerk to add it to the agenda,” he wrote.
Shaw, though, has been hospitalized since late October, before Avossa’s evaluation was finalized two weeks ago.
Barbieri added that he, not Avossa, called for the board to consider the raise.
“The recommendation on today’s agenda is not being made by the superintendent,” he wrote, “it is being brought forward by me on behalf of the board.”
The timing of the proposal drew criticism from school board member Karen Brill, who said she had no warning that the proposed raise was in the works until she saw it added to the agenda Tuesday.
“I’m concerned about the way it came to us, added less than 24 hours before a board meeting,” she said. “I had absolutely no knowledge of it.”
While saying that she agreed that Avossa has performed well as superintendent and deserved being considered for a raise, she said that board members should have a chance to discuss the best way to way to structure his pay hike.
She said that some of his raise should be tied to the school district’s performance, for instance, and not be entirely tied to future raises for teachers.
“This is too many questions for me,” she said. ““We have to talk about timing, we have to talk about how much, we have to talk about how it’s structured.”
The contract amendment gives Avossa a new five-year contract extension and provide that his contract automatically would be extended each year by an extra year unless he or the board move to prevent it.
Earlier this month, all six school board members gave Avossa a “highly effective” rating on his job evaluation, the top score.
Board members praised his communication skills and work to reform key aspects of the county’s public school system, and Shaw wrote at the time that Avossa had “far exceeded expectations.”
Note: This article has been updated to reflect new information provided by School Board Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri and School Board member Karen Brill.