Forget salaries, contracts tell you so much more

What if I told you that a public school superintendent in North Carolina makes $134,000 a year. Not surprising, right? Now, what if I told you that the same superintendent asked the school board to give her a house and install a nearly $4,300 fence for her dogs, all paid for with taxpayer money? There’s a story.

That’s one of the nuggets I dug up last year after I requested contracts for every public school superintendent in North Carolina – we have 115 of them. I could have simply asked for the school leaders’ salaries and compared them that way, but it wouldn’t have told the whole story.

Contracts are wonderful public records, filled with details that go beyond what is written on a paycheck. In the case of the superintendents, I found that some received extra vacation days, bonuses, cars, gym memberships, moving expenses and money for mortgage payments.

Read the full story:

Several years ago, I did a similar story and requested contracts for every coach and athletic director in the University of North Carolina system. Not surprisingly, I learned that coaches can receive extra pay based on their team’s performance. But seeing the numbers broken down by coach, sport and school was illuminating.

For example, UNC men’s head basketball coach Roy Williams earned an additional three months’ pay when his team won the NCAA Tournament in 2009. He also received a bonus for getting his team to the tournament and extra money the further they made it. Williams could also earn an extra month’s pay if his team’s graduation rate equaled that of the undergraduate student body. That’s on top of his $30,000 annual allowance for entertainment expenses and other perks.

Read the full stories:

If you’re a reporter, hopefully you’ve already requested a spreadsheet of public employees’ salaries on your beat. I encourage you to take it one step further and find out who has a contract and request it. I think you’ll be surprised by what you find. I know I was.

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