School board: Administrators who break contract will pay

School administrators in Oshkosh who resign before their employment contract ends will now have to pay back part of their salary to the district.

The new contract language approved unanimously by the Oshkosh school board Wednesday aims to provide more stability for a district facing continuous turnover among its administrative ranks for the past several years.

Any principal or other administrator who leaves early will now have to pay between $2,000 and $3,000, depending on how far they are into the contract. Also, the school board may no longer change the terms of the contract until it expires.

Most administrators in the district have two-year contracts.

“When someone leaves in the middle of the school year, it’s much more difficult to find a new candidate who is highly qualified, and the timeliness is much more disruptive to the organization,” Human Resources Director Mike Nault said.

The old contracts allowed administrators to leave any time without penalty as long as they gave a 45-day notice. The school board could also change the contract terms at any time as long as they gave the employee a 60-day notice.

Those provisions essentially made contracts meaningless, said board member Karl Loewenstein, chair of the administrator compensation committee.

“It was a 60-day, at-will contract in which everyone could quit,” he said in an interview before Wednesday’s meeting. “Now we have a real one-year contract. We promise we won’t change the contract in the next year, and you’re committing to not leaving in the next year.”

Oshkosh schools have struggled to hold onto its administrators for years now. Since the 2009-10 school year, 16 principals and 10 central office administrators have resigned or retired.

As a result of the turnover, only five of the district’s 21 schools have had the same principal for more than three years, and only two of the district’s top nine administrators have remained longer than three years, according to district staffing records.

In other business, the board unanimously approved hiring Linda Pierron as director of special education for the district with a salary of $100,000. Pierron is currently the special education director for the cooperative educational service agency no. 6 in Oshkosh.

The district previously employed and assistant director of special education who earned $88,000 but upgraded the position earlier in the year as part of a broader reorganization of administration.

About Adam Rodewald

Adam Rodewald is the senior reporter for The Oshkosh Northwestern and a member of the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team. He has been a professional journalist since 2006. He specializes in open records, data analysis, and issues surrounding education, children and families.
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