Bill would limit buyouts for school district superintendents

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A new bill aims to put a stop to the practice of superintendents in school districts all over New Mexico getting paid just to quit.

Rep. Bill Rehm (R-Albuquerque) is sponsoring a bill to put strict requirements on superintendents’ contracts so that districts don’t end up paying tens of thousands of dollars to get rid of someone. However, school districts worry the proposal goes too far.

“It’s very difficult to find superintendents,” said Albuquerque Public Schools Board President David Peercy. “They don’t just appear. It’s difficult to get them to stay around for a long period of time so that we have stability.”

The APS Board of Education extended Superintendent Raquel Reedy’s contract last month by a year to June 2019.

She makes $240,000 a year, but there’s one thing noticeably missing from her contract.

“Our current superintendent’s contract actually does not include any buyout,” Peercy said.

Before the current superintendent, APS had to come to agreements on buyouts for two different superintendents within the span of about a year.

In 2014, Winston Brooks got $350,000 to walk. In 2015, Luis Valentino got more than $100,000 approved.

The same has been true for districts throughout the state, with buyouts totaling more than $1 million between 2010 and 2015.

“We’ve watched these people take public funds when they’re resigning or leaving a job, and it’s removing the money from the classroom,” Rep. Rehm said.

His bill would limit severance pay to no more than eight weeks’ salary and prevent districts from renewing a contract until about six months before it’s up.

But APS said that’s not enough time.

“Six months is not a long period of time for a superintendent to find another position,” Peercy said. “It’s most certainly not a long period of time for a district to find another superintendent. So if you wait that long, you’re going to have a very difficult time.”

Ultimately, Peercy said each district should have the power to decide what works best for their schools.

“We were able to do that in a very fiscally responsible way this time. It may not happen next time. I don’t know, but I think that has to be under local control to make that decision,” he said.

He said, especially in smaller districts, it might require beefing up a contract with a buyout to attract a good candidate.

That’s a theory that Rehm doesn’t buy into.

“Give me the best example of who a golden parachute brought to the state who was outstanding,” Rep. Rehm said.

Rep. Rehm said he’s been trying to pass versions of this bill for the last five years. He said this most recent proposal is a compromise; not totally preventing buyouts, just putting a cap on them.

Rep. Rehm filed a similar bill limiting those golden parachutes for coaches and presidents at universities.

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