Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times


Editorial: New superintendent contract gives a reward for incompetence

Published: Saturday, Jul. 19, 2014 - 12:00 am

When José L. Banda takes over as superintendent for the Sacramento City Unified School District on Aug. 1, he will earn an annual salary of $290,000 – a $20,000-a-year raise from his current post running the larger Seattle Public Schools.

It’s a generous paycheck for a job running the 11th largest school district in California, particularly for someone who assumes the job without much enthusiasm. He told The Sacramento Bee that the primary motivator for accepting the position was to return to his home state to be close to family and for retirement purposes.

It is a larger salary than that of the man he replaces, Jonathan Raymond, who left the post late last year. Raymond was paid a base salary of $245,000, augmented by perks that added up to $272,000 a year.

It’s also significantly more than the neighboring 31,000-student Twin Rivers district pays its superintendent. Steven Martinez, who took the top job in Twin Rivers last year, is paid $215,000 a year.

We’re hoping Banda will be worth it; he certainly has the skills and background to run a district of Sacramento City Unified’s complexity and size. It has about 43,000 students compared with Seattle schools’ 51,000 students.

If he’s not a good fit, though, Banda would get a sweet parting gift of a year’s pay.

Banda’s three-year contract, endorsed Thursday by all school board members except Jay Hansen, awards him a month’s pay for every month remaining on his contract, maxing out at 12 months, if the board fires him before the contract runs out June 30, 2017.

If he commits fiscal malfeasance or is convicted of a crime that involves abuse of his office or position, then no payout. Thank heavens for that.

This type of rich goodbye is standard in local government. Banda’s deal is better than even that of Sacramento City Manager John Shirey. When Shirey was hired in 2011, his three-year contract awarded him six months of pay if he is fired without cause – or if a “strong mayor” measure guts the responsibilities of the job.

Sacramento County Executive Brad Hudson worked out a better deal than both Banda and Shirey – a buyout with 18 months of pay, or $387,000, if the Board of Supervisors cans him without cause.

No matter how talented a public official may be, building in a reward for getting fired is a troubling trend.

Read more articles by the Editorial Board

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