New plan calls for pay raises for Avossa, but not this year

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa talks with Lakeria Gates, age 10, and her brother Daveon Gates, 9, as they eat breakfast at West Riviera Elementary School on the first day of school in Palm Beach County Monday, August 15, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa talks with students at West Riviera Elementary School. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa would receive no raise this year but would be eligible for one during the next school year under a proposal that the county school board will consider next week.

If approved, the contract amendment would guarantee Avossa automatic annual raises equal to those received by other school district administrators, so long as he receives high marks on his job evaluations.

The proposal was drafted by School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw after school board members tentatively agreed last week to raise Avossa’s pay in some fashion. (You can read the proposal here).

But in an apparent shift, Shaw’s proposal would not make Avossa eligible for a raise until next year. That appears to be a change from last week, when Shaw told reporters that he expected his proposal would allow Avossa to receive a retroactive raise this year. Shaw did not respond to a request for comment today.

If approved, it would bring an end to a divisive three-month tussle over whether to raise Avossa’s pay in his second year on the job. Since the school board’s first attempt in November, the process has been marred by opposition from some teachers and accusations that board members were bending transparency rules to ensure their plan received minimal attention.

Avossa’s current base salary is $325,000, making him the second-highest-paid superintendent in Florida and one of the highest-paid among the nation’s largest school districts. Some teachers had complained about previous plans to give him a nearly $10,000 raise this year since it would have dwarfed the size of their raises, which topped out at $1,715.

Some board members last week mulled whether to tie Avossa’s future raises directly to the school district’s academic performance. Instead, Shaw’s proposal calls for Avossa to receive raises based on his annual job evaluation. This year, he received across-the-board high marks and an overall rating of “highly effective.”

In future years, Avossa’s raise would be equal to that received by other district administrators as long as he receives a “highly effective” rating. If his rating is merely “effective,” his raise would be one percentage point less than that of other administrators.

If his rating is lower than “effective,” he would receive no raise.

The proposal would also extend Avossa’s contract until 2021 and automatically re-extend it each year on a rolling basis, so long as he continues to receive high marks on his job evaluation.

Board members will consider the contract at a school board meeting set to begin at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Shaw placed the proposal on the meeting’s consent agenda, meaning that board members will approve it without discussion or debate unless a board member removes it from the consent agenda and requests a discussion prior to the vote.

A first attempt to raise Avossa’s pay in November was rebutted by board members angry that the proposal had been made public just one day beforehand.

In December, the board decided again to postpone a discussion of Avossa’s raise, this time until a public meeting on Feb. 1. In the meantime, Avossa told board members he no longer wanted a raise, saying the debate had become too distracting.

Though board members voted to resume the discussion on Feb. 1, it instead emerged a week later at an informal board retreat, one that was also public but wasn’t televised and for which no agenda was posted ahead of time.

Typically, board retreats — which are held away from the school district headquarters — are occasions for informal, free-wheeling discussions of organizational matters, not substantive policy debates.

On its website, the school board provided no agenda for the meeting, only a general description of the event as one in which the superintendent and board members would “participate in a facilitated Retreat/Workshop.”

Only at the retreat itself — in a meeting room at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth campus — did the school board make available copies of a detailed meeting agenda, one that included a planned discussion labeled “Superintendent’s Contract.”

At that meeting Avossa told board members he would like to see a provision for raises added to his contract. Afterward, he said he hoped the issue was resolved soon.

“I certainly don’t want it to be a distraction,” he said. “We have so many other things to focus on.”

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