Under a proposed three-year contract, the Palo Alto school district's next superintendent will receive a starting salary of $300,000 and pay a monthly rent of $1,800 to live in a district-owned property in Palo Alto.
The school board named Don Austin, currently superintendent of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, as its pick for superintendent. Austin will replace former superintendent Max McGee, who resigned in September after announcing he would retire at the end of the school year.
The board will vote on Austin's proposed contract at its next regular meeting on Tuesday, May 22.
Austin's base salary is similar to McGee's, who started at $295,000. Austin will receive the same reimbursement rate for relocating to Palo Alto: up to $15,000 for expenses such as travel, meals and temporary housing during the first six months of his employment. The board "reserves the right" to change his salary at any time, the draft contract states.
Unlike McGee, however, Austin will not receive a loan to purchase a house in Palo Alto. McGee initially received a $1 million interest-free loan that was later increased to $1.5 million to help him purchase a home. McGee turned the title of the home he bought in August 2015 to the district when he resigned.
Austin will instead live in the district-owned home under a month-to-month rental agreement with Palo Alto Unified, the draft contract states. If he decides to move out during the first year of his contract, his annual salary will increase to $325,000.
Austin will also receive health, dental, vision and other benefits "in the same manner and subject to the same limitations as other certificated senior cabinet-level employees," the contract states. He will be reimbursed for work-related expenses, including transportation of his own vehicle, but he will not receive the $750 monthly (equivalent to $9,000 annual) car allowance that McGee did.
Austin will not receive the up to $6,000 to pay for a life insurance policy, which McGee did.
Also absent from Austin's contract is a provision in his predecessor's contract that stated board members must express any "concerns, criticisms and dissatisfaction with the superintendent's performance" only in closed session meetings or through the evaluation process "to avoid damage to the Board's and the Superintendent's image and credibility, and as not to lessen each other's ability to perform effectively."
Under Austin's contract, the board will evaluate him around the mid-point of his first year. The contract provides for annual, formal evaluations.
Austin's current contract in Palos Verdes was set to expire in 2020. He currently earns $308,752 a year in Palos Verdes, including a $900 monthly car allowance and additional $1,000 for his doctorate degree. He was set to receive a raise this July, contingent on a satisfactory evaluation, that would be no less than 2 percent but no more than other certificated managers received, his contract states.
If the Palo Alto Unified board approves his contract, Austin is set to start his new position on July 1.