Friday, March 2, 2012

SAISD and Duron split amusing | Casey's Last Word

Normally, I don’t count employment contracts among my pleasure reading, but I found the recent agreement between the San Antonio Independent School District board and its outgoing superintendent, Robert Duron, to be both highly amusing and emotionally engaging.

Unfortunately, the emotion is a combination of anger and depression.

The amusement started on Page 3.

It used to be that when school boards wanted to push superintendents out and had no reasons that would stand up in court or in the arena of public opinion, they would simply buy out their contracts, paying them full fare not to come to work.

This “Voluntary Separation Agreement” doesn’t do that.

In it, Duron agrees to accept a new position as “Executive Director of Research and Special Projects.”

For this new job, in which he will report to the new interim superintendent, he will be paid the same $266,000 annual salary, the same $500-a-month car allowance and $200-a-month cell phone allowance and the same other perks he had as superintendent.

The humor begins on Page 3.

At the top of the page, the contract says, “Duron’s work in this position is considered critical to the District ….”

And on the bottom of Page 3 it says the job will end for Duron either February 15 of next year or on the first day he gets a new position.

It then says, “Duron does hereby agree to use his best efforts to obtain acceptable full-time employment” before next Feb. 15.

In other words the Board is telling Duron we’re appointing you to a critical job -- and requiring you to agree to quit it as soon as you can.

The second thing I found amusing was a section of the contract that might be referred to as a “non-disparagement” agreement.

On Page 10 it says that board members, “individually and collectively” and Duron promise “not to make defamatory, disparaging or critical remarks, written or oral, or encourage others to make remarks, written or oral, about the other party(ies) to this Agreement, including their officers, employees, administration, potential future employers, agents, representatives or (and here is the punch line) attorneys.”

I thought it was the fundamental right of all Americans to disparage attorneys.

But there is a non-humorous side to this contract.

In it, the elected officials of the school board have agreed to a contract that bars them from telling their bosses – the people who elected them – why they made one of the most important decisions they can make -- to terminate a district’s top leader.

Was it because he wasn’t raising test scores?

Or because he didn’t do a good job of controlling expenses?

Or because he opposed a multi-million-dollar project to expand the soccer field at Alamo Stadium to make it possible to use it as a venue for a minor league team, as proposed by the Spurs?

We’ll never know.

Under this agreement board members, each of whom may have his or her own reason for replacing Duron, can’t tell their constituents what those reasons are.

They have an excuse for not defending an important decision.

That is undemocratic and, as a matter of public policy, outrageous.

But the contract does end on a light note: It provides a letter of recommendation approved by Duron and signed by Board President Ed Garza.

It is stunningly positive, concluding: “Dr. Robert Duron would be a valuable asset and leader to any entity.”

Except, it seems, to the San Antonio Independent School District.

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