No raise this year for Avossa, but new plan enables future ones

7:24 p.m Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 Local
Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa will not receive a raise this year, but he is in line for one next year if he continues to receive high marks on his performance.

By a 5-2 vote, board members agreed to amend Avossa’s contract to grant him automatic annual raises equal to those received by other school district administrators, so long as he receives top ratings on his job evaluations.

The vote brings to a close a three-month debate over whether and how to raise Avossa’s pay in his second year on the job.

Board members had originally considered a retroactive raise this year for Avossa, but those plans were abandoned after pushback from some teachers and board members. Instead, he will be eligible for raises starting next school year.

Avossa’s current base salary is $325,000, making him the second-highest-paid superintendent in Florida and one of the highest-paid among the nation’s largest school districts. Some teachers had complained about previous plans to give him a nearly $10,000 raise this year since it would have dwarfed the size of their raises, which topped out at $1,715.

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.

Board members Marcia Andrews and Debra Robinson voted against the plan, saying that at least some part of his raises should be tied to specific performance goals.

While praising Avossa’s performance in his first 1 ½ years as superintendent, they said that tying the raises only to annual evaluations sets a bad precedent and would be out of line with the practices of other large school districts.

‘I cannot in good conscience agree with any contract that calls for an automatic raise,” Andrews said.

Robinson echoed her comments, saying that the current evaluation system that board members used to assess the superintendent is a poor instrument for a nuanced assessment.

“This predetermined pay raise is based upon a flawed evaluation system,” she said.

But the majority of board members said there was no reason that Avossa’s ability to earn pay raises should be any different from that of the school district’s other top administrators, who received raises this year.

School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw, who drafted the proposal, objected to Andrews’ use of the term “automatic” to describe the raise, pointing out that it is predicated both on a satisfactory job evaluation and on other administrators receiving raises in a given year.

He blamed The Palm Beach Post’s accounts of the proposal— specifically the use of the word “automatic” to describe it — for fomenting opposition to the plan.

Instead of arguments about the structure of Avossa’s future raises, he said that Wednesday’s meeting “ought to have been a time of celebration.”

“We should be celebrating the level of professionalism in this district,” he said.