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Maria Goodloe-Johnson already makes more than the governor.
Moments after the Seattle Public School Board approved a $5,200 bonus for Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson last night,

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The Supe Ducks--With Seattle Schools in a $49 Million Budget Hole, She'll Donate Her Bonus to Charity

supefrowning.jpg
Maria Goodloe-Johnson already makes more than the governor.
Moments after the Seattle Public School Board approved a $5,200 bonus for Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson last night, the schools chief announced that she was donating the money to charity. (She didn't specify which.) She was obviously feeling the heat of public controversy following negative press (see SW story, and Seattle Times editorial and column) and testimony last night by several angry community members (one of whom noted that the superintendent's perks overall, including retirement money, could pay the entire salary of a school paraprofessional like a teacher's aid).

Board members admitted they, too, were feeling the sting. "We also acknowledge that initiating an incentive in the midst of an economic downturn has opened us up to criticism," said board member Sherry Carr, who nonetheless added that she and her peers would "stand by our commitment."

Bad idea, especially given the timing, which couldn't have been worse.

Just that day, Governor Christine Gregoire announced a brutal budget that proposes cuts of $500 million to education. That's on top of $400 million eliminated from school funding last year. This at a time when the state is being sued--by the Seattle School District among other parties-- for failing to adequately fund basic education. (Lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Thomas Ahearne, tells SW this morning he is considering whether to ask the judge to consider the current cuts as evidence even though the trial finished in October and a judgment is expected any day.)

At the meeting last night, Seattle Schools CFO Dan Kennedy reported that Gregoire's budget, if passed, would mean a $49 million budget gap for the district in the 2010/2011 school year. That would surely cause teacher and staff cuts, as it did last year. All of which makes it a little unseemly to pile onto the superintendent's already extremely generous salary of $264,000, even if by only a few thousand dollars.

New board members Betty Patu and Kay Smith-Blum weren't about to step into that political minefield at their first meeting since being elected in November. Although they refrained from openly criticizing the bonus, they abstained in the vote.

Goodloe-Johnson also showed a shrewd sense of politics by donating the bonus to charity. University of Washington Provost Phyllis Wise, facing a controversy of her own over accepting a Nike board position that pays up to $200,000, might want to take a page from the superintendent's book and start looking around for a worthy cause.

The headline in the story was corrected to reflect the accurate size of the budget hole.

 
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