Schools chief making $325,000 could get first raise with good reviews

5:15 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 Local
Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa is eligible for a raise for the first time if board members give him an overall rating of “effective” or “highly effective.” (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa is set to officially receive his annual evaluation from school board members Wednesday, and this year money is on the line.

Now midway through his third year in office, Avossa is eligible for a raise for the first time if board members give him an overall rating of “effective” or “highly effective.” In 2016, he received top marks from all seven board members.

The size of Avossa’s raise would depend on his evaluation and how large of a raise the board agrees to give other administrators. Based on past practice and a recent salary deal with the teachers union, the raise for Avossa — whose current base salary is $325,000 a year — could be between $7,000 and $10,000.

In November, board members received evaluation forms and an annual report from Avossa and were asked to return the evaluations last week. The board members’ scores will be tabulated to create an overall evaluation score, which will be publicly unveiled at a board meeting Wednesday.

The Palm Beach Post asked Monday to review the evaluation forms submitted by each board member, on the premise that the public is entitled to see them under Florida’s public records law.

But the school district declined to provide the forms, claiming that they are not public records until board members “present and accept” them at Wednesday’s meeting. The Post is disputing the district’s decision.

In his annual report to board members, Avossa highlighted a range of improvements in the county’s public schools, including expanded access to advanced classes, the use of sales tax revenue to improve school facilities, and stepped-up efforts to recruit more teachers.

“They point to increased student success as well as improved and more efficient systems that are better supporting our students,” Avossa wrote.

Board members have been asked to evaluate Avossa by rating his performance on a scale of one to four in five categories: student achievement, board and community relations, human resource management, financial resource management and operations management.

This year, student achievement counts for 30 percent of Avossa’s evaluation, board and community relations counts for 25 percent, and the other three categories count for 15 percent each.

Avossa took office in June 2015 with a $325,000 base salary, the highest base pay for a Florida superintendent at the time and one of the highest in the nation.

Since then, the base salaries of the schools superintendents in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have risen to surpass Avossa’s. Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie’s base pay was raised to $335,000 in November and Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s is now $346,000.

Avossa’s original contract did not include any provisions for raises, and a proposal in 2016 to give him a 3 percent raise worth $9,750 failed after it faced criticism from some board members and teachers.

In February, board members agreed to amend his contract so he would automatically receive annual raises in the future, so long as he doesn’t receive a poor evaluation and other administrators receive raises.

Under the amended contract, Avossa’s raises in future years would be equal to those received by other district administrators if 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 raise would be retroactive to July 1.

Pay increases for administrators usually mirror those of teachers and other school district employees, but Avossa said last week that other district workers this year likely will receive lower increases than teachers, who last week reached a tentative deal for average pay increases of 3.2 percent.

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