BY JIM BOYLE
Superintendent Mark Bezek’s recent three-year contract extension will pay him handsomely – if he stays and does a great job.
The Elk River Area School Board, which set out nine months ago to craft a deal that would keep their leader here and not out on the prowl for another job, included performance pay in the new three-year pact.
In addition to annual salary increases of 2 percent, Bezek can earn up to $10,000 upon the completion of each year of the deal if the board deems his performance to be sterling.
Bezek and members of the School Board will have to mutually develop the evaluation instruments, which may include a self-evaluation component, but the board retains the ultimate authority to determine evaluation conclusions. Part of the evaluation will assess progress toward the goals of the recently completed strategic plan.
"It’s motivation on the part of both parties," said Ken LaCroix, a consultant who served as a liaison between the board and the superintendent. "They will want sensible and good goals for the district and the kids and goals (Bezek) can accomplish and make happen."
Bezek’s base salary is $182,532. It will go up to $186,182 for the next school year. It will increase to $189,906 for the middle year of the contract, and it will finish at $193,704 for the 2014-15 school year.
If the School Board does not renew Bezek’s contract, there’s no exit pay, LaCroix said.
"His contract all ties into compensation when he’s working for the district, not when he leaves," LaCroix said.
Members of the Elk River Area School Board were cognisant of big payouts in the case of superintendents that departed in Lakeville and Burnsville.
Bezek’s first contract in the Elk River Area School District was a bare bones model drawn up by a School Board that felt burned when a previous superintendent (Alan Jensen) left. The current board made an addendum to Bezek’s last contract to reward him for a "job well done."
The goal for the newest contract was to offer the school chief something comparable to other school chiefs and to incentivise it to keep him here for all three years. Board members, however, didn’t want to do anything to make leaving lucrative.
"We won’t be giving any golden parachutes or severance packages," school board member Sue Farber said early in the contract talks with the superintendent.
"This contract keeps a good superintendent in place and brought him up to a level of fairness with other superintendents. It’s not bare bones.," said Jolene Jorgensen, the chair of the Elk River Area School Board. "It’s very fair."
LaCroix said he participated in five meetings, including three with the full board, and that as a liaison he made sure all information was shared with the full board. He described the negotiations as a clean process, one that was both transparent and kept board members well informed.
"Mark’s doing a good job," LaCroix said. "He’s had a lot of dramatic things with the hockey coach and football coaches. That’s not an easy spot to be, but the district is fortunate to have a Mark."
Jorgensen said the superintendent’s position is a very important one in the school district.
"He has support and has shown the skills to do the job (with the development and implementation) of the first strategic plan."
Farber said the new contract makes good on the board’s promise to offer something enticing enough for Bezek to stay while at the same time be fiscally responsible.
"He has already given us six fantastic years and the next three years will be even better with his continued guidance, vision and leadership," Farber said.
The Elk River Area School Board began the process Monday night of reviewing the superintendent’s last year of work (the last year of his current contract) at its June 18 meeting. It also talked about running an operating levy in the fall, and prioritizing Bezek’s and the district’s work in the coming year as it rolls out its strategic plan.
Success on such endeavors will bode well for the school district – and Bezek.