The Fairfax County School Board voted last night to give Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech a 10 percent pay raise and agreed to tie future boosts in pay for him and members of his leadership team to student performance.
The raise, approved on a 7 to 4 vote, boosts Domenech's base salary of $159,000 to $175,000 for the fiscal year that began July 1. The board also directed Domenech to develop a pay-for-performance system by Oct. 1. That system, subject to board approval, would be used to determine Domenech's compensation for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2000, and would be based on his performance during the coming school year.
Board members said the raise was intended to reward Domenech for his good work during his 18 months in the job heading the area's largest school system and to keep the county competitive with salaries paid other superintendents. They cited the compensation package being negotiated by Montgomery superintendent-designate Jerry Weast, which would be worth almost $300,000 a year.
Domenech had been a finalist for the top school jobs in New York and Los Angeles before coming to Fairfax.
"I think our superintendent has done an outstanding job--he's done what the board has asked him to do and he's done it incredibly well," said board Chairman Robert E. Frye Sr. (At Large). "I'm also aware that other school districts have expressed an intense interest in Dr. Domenech."
But while all board members agreed Domenech has done an outstanding job, the board's four Republican members proposed giving him only a 7 percent pay raise--which would have set his salary at $170,130--with the opportunity for earning a $7,500 bonus if the district met certain goals by the end of the coming school year.
Republicans had proposed that those goals be a 25 percent reduction in the number of schools failing to meet the state's new accreditation standards based on the Standards of Learning exams and a 10 percent decrease in the gap between scores of minority and white students on the Stanford 9 achievement test.
Republican board members also said that the board and not Domenech should be setting his performance goals.
"It is the board's responsibility to define goals for the superintendent. It is not the job of the superintendent to define his own goals," said board member Carter S. Thomas (Springfield). "I also think it is just plain wrong to obligate the taxpayers to an open-ended bonus--a blank check, if you will--particularly when we have not even decided upon his goals."
But Democratic board members said it would be unfair to set goals at the board table without taking the time to figure out whether the goals are realistic or fair. They also said it would be unfair to hold Domenech to goals set eight days into the new fiscal year.
Democratic board members said the fact that merit pay for the superintendent is even on the table represents a major step forward for the board and the school system and that it appeared Republican board members were pushing their own plan simply to be difficult.