Don’t sign that contract yet
10 tips you should know before signing a multi-year contract
February 7, 2022
The ACSA Member Assistance and Legal Support Team, under the direction of Senior Director of Member Services Margarita Cuizon-Armelino, assists over 110 California school superintendents, deputy superintendents, assistant superintendents and other district and site administrators each year with their multi-year contracts. In the past 21 years, over 2,300 administrators have requested contract assistance. Since this is the time of the year when administrator searches begin, Member Assistance Advocates John Almond, Janet Morey, Bill Tschida, Joe Jones, Gary Rutherford, Sharon Dezutti and Lloyd Wamhof have listed below the 10 most important tips for you to consider before signing your multi-year contract.
1. Request enough time to review your contract. Sometimes administrators are given a deadline to sign the contract which doesn’t allow time to request assistance in reviewing the wording in the contract. The contract will govern your relationship with the district, so time for review and assistance is critical.
2. Make sure the wording in your contract is clear, specific and doesn’t leave room for ambiguity.
3. The term of the contract should meet your needs. The Education Code allows administrators to have up to a four-year contract. If you are a superintendent, signing a contract with a two-year term can be problematic.
4. For each year of the term of the contract, include language that provides consistent salary increases. You are not asking for any more than most other staff in the district who are usually on a salary schedule. You are asking for equity with other staff in the district. Having consistent salary increases avoids revisiting your contract on this hot topic, and it also avoids being accused of “spiking” for the purpose of enhancing your pension if you are close to retirement.
5. Provide language in the contract that extends your contract for an additional year if you receive a satisfactory evaluation. The language should be clear and the contract extension must be approved by the board in the form of an addendum at a regularly scheduled board meeting.
Having consistent salary increases [in your contract] avoids revisiting your contract on this hot topic.
6. The language in the Termination for Cause section of the contract needs to be clear and lack ambiguity. This is true for both classified and certificated administrators. Education Code 44932 specifies reasons for which a certificated employee may be dismissed for cause. This section of your contract is extremely important and you want to avoid unnecessary language that is subjective in nature.
7. The language in the Termination Without Cause (Early Termination) section should allow for a buyout and health benefits as allowed under Government Code 53260 and Government Code 53261. The maximum number of months for a buyout is 12 for superintendents.
8. Include an Indemnity Clause that protects you from any claims, torts or suits brought against you in your role as an administrator, including after separation or retirement from the district.
9. Make use of the ACSA Sample Contract. ACSA has sample contracts for you to use when reviewing your own contract. Complete the online request form at www.acsa.org/legalsupport if you would like a copy of the Sample Contract.
10. Contact an ACSA Member Assistance Advocate or a competent attorney to assist you in reviewing your contract. Complete the online request form at www.acsa.org/legalsupport or call 1-800-608-2272 and select legal support or ask for Joanne Godfrey.
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