The Monroe County School Board today will consider approving a draft contract already signed by Mark Porter, the incoming superintendent who got the position last month over the current schools chief, Jesus Jara, by a 4-1 board vote.
That contract, however, has raised questions, not about the $145,000 annual salary, but over an additional offer of a hearty bonus -- up to $18,125 -- if the board deems Porter performed "highly effective" or "effective" in his first year, the contract reads.
"I can't see how we can pay him performance pay and not pay teachers (more)," said Ron Martin, who represents the Upper Keys on the board. "I don't know how we can do that for him unless we find the money to do both. I don't think that's right. I feel for these teachers a whole lot."
Porter, an attorney, negotiated his side of the contract with a three-man committee appointed by the board that included one of its five members, Robin Smith-Martin, who said, "This is great possibility and zero risk," said Smith-Martin. "He only makes more if he is able to create added value."
Performance pay is a brand new concept in Monroe County schools, where teachers had it in their union contract only to lose it due to budget cuts, Smith-Martin acknowledged.
But in Porter's case, it could pay off handsomely for the schools, Smith-Martin said.
Porter would get a bonus "if he can create an extra $500,000 or $100,000, for example," he said.
"John Dick is good at cutting, but he doesn't have the imagination for how do we build a better district," Smith-Martin said, in response to Dick's assertion that a possible 12.5 percent salary bonus is too high.
Porter called the bonus pay incentive a mutual idea that was brought up by the negotiating committee, rounded out by Clerk of Court Danny Kolhage and Key West City Attorney Shawn Smith.
Asked if the board might table the item, Ron Martin said it was unlikely.
"I don't see any problem with someone getting on the phone and calling Porter," Martin said. "I've seen it done before."
Porter is due to start work Aug. 1, while Jara has resigned, marking July 31 as his last day.
Jara was hired as deputy superintendent of Orange County public schools in Orlando, a job that recently paid $160,000 a year. He will preside over today's meeting, as well as the 5 p.m. July 31 meeting also set for Key West that will include the first budget hearing of the season.
Porter has said he plans to drive down to the Florida Keys next Monday from his native state of Minnesota, where he spent 32 years in the public schools of South Washington County, outside of St. Paul.
Candidates running for the District 3 School Board seat, from which Duncan Mathewson is retiring after eight years, made jabs about Porter's contract at a forum held in Key West on Thursday.
Michael Cunningham, who runs the Florida Keys Area Health Education Center, raised his hand while on stage at Finnegan's Wake bar and asked, "Anyone else want that job?"
Cunningham, who makes nearly $116,000 as AHEC's executive director, said that the Porter contract is an example of "poor decision making."
At the same event, Larry Murray, also running for District 3, went further in his criticism, telling the crowd that Smith-Martin "went out on a tangent and offered the superintendent candidate something he was not authorized to do."
Not so, said Smith-Martin, elected in 2010 to the District 1 seat, who noted that Porter isn't being offered a bonus for simply doing a good job.
"You do a good job, you get to keep your job," said Smith-Martin. "People want a change in culture for the school district. Performance management offers a fundamental change in culture, part of their compensation will reflect their outcomes."
Keys teachers, however, remain on hold when it comes to the performance pay that their union leaders secured almost three years ago.
"We were told there was no money," said Holly Hummell-Gorman, president of United Teachers of Monroe, who declined comment on Porter's contract.
The union recently declared impasse with the district, giving up trying to deal directly with Jara and the hired labor lawyer.
Performance pay for teachers isn't on the list of beefs that the union has with the district. But it was bargained for and included in the three-year teachers contract.
Teachers agreed to give up the step scale raise system "forever," said Hummell-Gorman, and the compromise was a performance pay formula that, at the maximum, would pay a bonus of 13 percent of a teacher's base pay in the third year of the plan.
Had the teachers' contract been honored, that third year would start this fall.
"You could earn substantial increases in pay," said Hummell-Gorman. "That was our trade-off for giving up our steps."