Pay for performance in public ed is here- for education mercenaries

Much is being debated about the metrics for “pay for performance” in public education. How much of the weight should be given to classroom evaluation and skills vs. performance of students.

But there is a new brand of education professional these days- the “education mercenary” – who promises to do a turnaround and may or may not stick around as the next carrot gets dangled.

David White falls into that category. After success at a charter, he was brought in to “settle down” Belmont High school 4 years ago. He was allowed to hand pick his lieutenants, and brought discipline issues to a halt in a building that some had called a “jungle.” Other Dayton Public Schools principals weren’t too pleased knowing that he was getting a $15K premium just to walk in the door. He moved to Ponitz Career School, last year, ostensibly as a reward for his performance at Belmont, but one year later, he’s heading to Trotwood, where supposedly he was offered a better compensation package.

There are also mercenary superintendents available as hired guns for hire. Dr. Kurt Stanic came to Dayton as a mercenary, and while he was generally merciful in his compensation requirements (which were all gravy since he was already drawing his pension) he had total control of the School Board because he was there on his terms- and he never let them forget it. (This is how his buddy Bill Burgess got the no-bid marketing contract without a peep from the board.)

With the new common core standards scaring the hell out of administrators and school boards, the value of these hired guns with promises of progress but zero commitment to stay, are going up. Falling performance indicators will make it increasingly harder to pass school levies and justify superintendents’ pay packages. White told me that he believed common core standards will cause a wave of superintendent retirements as old dogs realize that their old tricks are about to be revealed for what they are.

One thing that truly reeks about the mercenary model, is that superb, loyal, high performers like Erin Dooley at Stivers, aren’t paid what they deserve unless they leave what they’ve built or threaten to leave. At some point, superstars need to be granted bonuses based on their steady performance, to stop them from following in the footsteps of Mr. White.

Every one of us knows that all teachers aren’t equal. As a student, I knew who was great and who wasn’t, although it wasn’t always instantly recognizable. There are teachers, principals and even custodians who are exceptional at setting the example for students, it’s time for all of us to realize it. If there is one thing I’ve never understood about unions it’s their willingness to fight for members who their peers know don’t cut it. I understand that eliminating biases of all types from the workplace is admirable, but I’d also like to eliminate mediocrity and the idea that a teacher’s value is somehow related to years on the job. The real superstars, won’t stick around long enough to get longevity pay if we don’t recognize their value.

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