New chancellor could make $1.5M overseeing district for Michigan's troubled schools
BY CHASTITY PRATT DAWSEY, DETROIT FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER | http://bit.ly/puHYiA
New chancellor John Covington will get a $175,000 signing bonus to lead the statewide district. / REGINA H. BOONE/Detroit Free Press
- 98 struggling schools may end up in statewide reform district
- Database: Michigan top-to-bottom school rankings
- PDF: Read the $1.5 million contract for state's new troubled schools chief
- Database: Michigan top-to-bottom school rankings
John Covington >>
7:47 AM, Aug. 30, 2011 | The first chancellor of the new statewide special district for Michigan's lowest-performing schools could receive more than $1.5 million in salary and bonuses over his four-year contract, if he meets all performance targets.
John Covington, the departing superintendent of the Kansas City, Mo., School District, will be paid a $175,000 signing bonus and a $225,000 salary his first year as leader of the new Education Achievement Authority.
His base salary grows to $325,000 in the second year. And if he meets yet-to-be-determined goals, he could make more than $425,000 in each of the last two years of the contract.
As a comparison, the top salary for superintendents of the nation's largest districts ranged up to $329,000 last year, according to a study by the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools.
The contract raised the ire of activists and unions.
But Steve Wasko, a spokesman for Roy Roberts, the emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools and chairman of the EAA board, said the contract was necessary to attract "top talent to what may be the toughest job in the country."
Covington could not be reached for comment.
Strategy for state school district in the works
It's unclear what the special statewide district for Michigan's lowest-performing schools will look like when it begins taking control of struggling schools in 2012.
But the first chancellor, hired Friday to design the new Education Achievement Authority, could make more than $1.5 million in salary and bonuses if he comes up with a winning strategy.
John Covington, 52, the departing superintendent for the Kansas City, Mo., School District, signed a four-year employment contract last week. Covington's contract is effective Thursday, but it's unclear when he will start.
DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts is the chairman of the EAA board, which voted to hire Covington, who is credited with championing innovative changes in Kansas City, such as personalized learning based on student needs, which means getting rid of letter grades and grouping students by skill level instead of grade. The EAA will start taking control of low-performing schools -- and their budgets -- in the 2012-13 school year, starting with some DPS schools. In subsequent years, it will take over more low-performing schools. This year, there were about 150 schools classified in the lowest 5%.
Covington could not be reached for comment. For his first year, he will be paid $225,000 and collect a $175,000 signing bonus. The base salary increases to $325,000 the second year. For the last two years, he can make an incentive-compensation payment of $50,000 to $100,000 per year.
He's also eligible for a raise in years three and four.
The contract also includes a retirement plan with immediate vesting, a $15,000-per-year supplemental insurance allowance for life and disability coverage and an $800-per-month car allowance.
His first-year compensation and the EAA's initial planning year will be paid through a nonprofit, according to Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder. It's unclear what portion during that first year could come from taxpayers. Ensuing years will be funded by per-pupil state aid.
Covington was paid $250,000 in Kansas City, where the district has more than 17,000 students*. With or without the incentive compensation, in the final years of his contract, he would make more than the top-paid superintendents of the largest districts in the nation, according to a 2010 study from the Council of the Great City Schools, based in Washington, D.C. The study shows that among 65 large school districts in the nation, the average superintendent salary was $239,000. Salaries ranged from $157,000 to $329,000. Most superintendents -- 54% -- made $250,000 or more last year.
Henry Duvall, the council's communications director, said about a dozen large urban districts are looking for superintendents. "If you want the top person in the job, you've got to give some kind of incentive," he said.
Keith Johnson, president of Detroit Federation of Teachers, said the level of pay disturbs him, considering DPS employees have been asked to take pay cuts and make a "shared sacrifice."
* – For comparison, Burbank Unified has 17,000 students. The Huffington Post reported 50,000 students in K.C. last week …but what's 33.000 kids among friends?
PS: The K.C . boardmember who resigned in solidarity with Covington last week has withdrawn his resignation.