Legalities

January 28, 2011 - Volume 31 Issue 5

Legalities

By Howard Seufer

County Superintendent Contract Negotiations.
The following question has been posed by some school boards whose superintendents’ contracts will expire on June 30, 2011: How soon can we begin negotiations with the incumbent superintendent for a new contract that will take effect on July 1, 2011?
The school laws do not expressly address the issue of how early the negotiations may occur. They do, however, impose a clear rule about how early a school board can vote to approve the reappointment of the superintendent.
W. Va. § 18-4-1 was amended in 2009 to provide that the appointment of the county superintendent “shall be made between January 1 and June 1 for a term beginning on July 1 following the appointment.”
A related statute, W. Va. Code § 18-4-4, was amended at the same time to require that the county board, on or before June 1 of the year in which the superintendent is appointed, “fix the annual salary of the superintendent for the period of appointment for the term beginning on the following July 1.”
Taken together, these rules mean that in the case of an incumbent superintendent whose contract will expire on June 30, 2011, a motion to reappoint, or to approve any of the terms and conditions of the new contract, should not be made and acted upon before January 2 or after May 31.

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County Superintendent Performance Evaluation.
Additionally,  we have been asked to clarify whether all school boards must evaluate the performance of their superintendents by March 1, 2011.
In 2003, the Legislature enacted W. Va. Code § 18-4-6 requiring county boards to annually evaluate the performance of their superintendents. The legislation imposed no deadline for the annual evaluation, leaving that to the State Board of Education.
The State Board of Education subsequently adopted Policy 5309. The policy identifies criteria that must appear in each county’s written process for evaluating the superintendent. These include setting mutually agreeable goals and objectives before September 15.
 Policy 5309 then states that each county’s process must contain a deadline by which the board of education will annually (1) assess the superintendent’s achievement of the mutually agreed goals and objectives, and (2) evaluate the superintendent’s success in improving student achievement generally across the county and specifically as it relates to the management and administration of low performing schools.
In years when the superintendent’s contract will expire on June 30, the deadline is “before March 1.” In all other years, the deadline is “before June 30.”
With one caveat, this means that in those counties where the superintendent’s contract will expire on June 30, 2011, the school board’s annual assessment and evaluation of the superintendent must be completed before March 1, 2011. In all the others, the assessment and evaluation are due before June 1, 2011.
The caveat is that if a particular county’s process for the annual evaluation of the superintendent, as previously approved by the State Board of Education, has earlier deadlines than these, then the earlier deadlines must be followed.