Burke High, North Charleston High principals sign three-year deals with big bonus potential
Two leaders of low-performing Charleston County schools have inked three-year deals that give them the potential to earn big bucks for bringing about much-needed change.
Downtown Burke High Principal Maurice Cannon and North Charleston High Principal Bob Grimm will earn a base salary that’s more than the typical principal’s, and the expectations for their performance are even greater.
Both schools have failed to meet state standards for years, and their new goal is “average” by 2014-15.
“These are schools that we believe can and will move under these principals,” School Superintendent Nancy McGinley said.
She proposed and the county school board approved three-year contracts to Cannon and Grimm for a number of reasons. Districts leaders see it as a way of creating leadership stability, showing faculty that the district supports them, preventing the principals from leaving for jobs elsewhere, and empowering principals to make difficult changes.
Principals typically only receive one-year contracts, and McGinley said the multiyear deals are one way to better the schools’ futures. Burke and North Charleston High had to appear before the state Board of Education this summer because of their abysmal student-achievement track record, and the state signed off on new improvement plans for both.
McGinley highlighted the three-year contracts during her presentation to the state board. Both principals will earn about the same annual salary, $94,372 for Cannon and $93,572 for Grimm, which is more than the district average for a principal’s salary of $74,303.
Cannon and Grimm also will earn $25,000 supplements “due to the demands associated with the leadership of a Turnaround school,” according to the contracts.
Bonuses can be earned each of the next three years, and those increase in value up to $20,000 by 2014-15. The bonuses are tied to the schools making the progress necessary to earn a state report card rating of “average” by the last year, and they can earn percentages of the bonus, depending on their performance. Report card ratings are made of students’ test scores and graduation rates.
Grimm has five goals a year worth 20 percent apiece, and Cannon has 10 goals that are worth 10 percent each. Cannon has more goals because he’s responsible for a middle and high school, which have different state requirements.
The contracts don’t specify what will happen if the principals don’t hit those performance goals, but the contracts give the superintendent the authority to fire them. Both also agreed to waive their standard right to a board hearing. McGinley said she didn’t have a certain cutoff score in mind, and that’s not been the district’s stance on this issue.
“I think we’ll have to have ongoing conversations at least annually with principals about whether they are on target to meet the goals that were set,” McGinley said.
School board Chairman Chris Fraser said the amounts involved are not unprecedented in the district, and it’s going to take a good bit of work to get the schools to at least “average,” given where they are starting.
“They need to know the district is behind them and they’ve got the capital to do what’s necessary to be successful,” Fraser said. “We’re expecting them to meet these expectations and for them to earn this extra pay.”
Grimm said the goals laid out in his contract are achievable, and it’s clear what will happen if he doesn’t meet those.
“I expect more than that,” Grimm said. “I expect for us to be improving at a greater rate than any other school in the district.”
Although the state hasn’t released some results from the most recent school year, North Charleston High’s exit exam scores improved from 47.8 percent passing to 58.1 percent last year. Students must pass the test to earn a diploma.
“The staff did a wonderful job,” Grimm said. “They worked hard for the students. ... It was us as a team.”
Cannon agreed the goals in his contract were achievable, and in some instances, Burke should exceed them. The three-year contract should benefit students and teachers, he said.
“It provides the faculty, as well as me, the level of expectation of continuity that the plan we are initiating and establishing, we’ll be able to implement for success,” he said. A new administration could lead to a new interpretation of the plan and stagnation, he said.
He’s also seeing progress on different tests, he said. His high school students improved their exit exam pass rate from 55.4 to 61.1 percent, and he said he’s seeing growth in other areas.
“(Our freshmen) are improving, but it’s at a slower rate,” he said. “We’re not going backward.”
Reach Diette Courrégé at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.