Alonso Gets $29,000 Bonus

Improved City School Performance Cited As Reason

August 21, 2009|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,arin.gencer@baltsun.com

City schools chief Andr?s Alonso will receive a $29,000 performance bonus for the 2008-2009 academic year, the chairman of the school board said Thursday.

The board-approved bonus, which is the same as the previous year's, rewards the strides Alonso has made in improving the district, including its recent exit from "corrective action," rising enrollment and a lower dropout rate, Chairman Neil E. Duke said in a letter. The board met earlier this month to discuss the matter and reaffirmed its decision in the past day or so, Duke said in an interview.

"The [board] fully expects the sustained growth of the district, as it relates to educational outcomes and measurements, for many years to come under Dr. Alonso's leadership," Duke wrote.

The bonus comes just a couple of months after a dispute arose around the hiring of former school board Chairman Brian D. Morris, whom Alonso recommended to serve as deputy chief executive officer for operations - a $175,000-a-year position that was not advertised. The move was widely criticized and led to greater scrutiny of the vetting process for school board candidates, as Morris' troubled financial history came to light.

Alonso's bonus is in addition to his $250,000 salary. Last fall, his salary - then $240,000 - was the sixth-highest among the state's superintendents, based on an October 2008 analysis from the Maryland State Department of Education.

The schools chief's employment contract calls for the board to evaluate him, and it can award an "annual performance-based incentive bonus." Alonso can receive as much as $12,000 for demonstrated increases in city schools' academic performance; up to $12,000 for "demonstrated management efficiencies" in the district; and up to $6,000 for implementing creative and innovative programs that further spur systemwide reform, Duke wrote.

In his letter, Duke highlighted a number of elements that factored into the panel's decision, including: student gains on the Stanford 10, Maryland and high school assessments; expanding school options; changing how schools are funded so that principals control the majority of their budgets; streamlining the central office; and engaging families and communities in city schools and their budget processes.

"Under Dr. Alonso's leadership, the district has reported notable and sizable positive gains in a multitude of objective measurements," Duke wrote. "That demonstrated excellence is drawing positive attention to the City of Baltimore."

Duke highlighted U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's recent visit to the district Maryland School Assessment news conference as an example.

In a written statement, teachers union President Marietta English said Alonso should "do the right thing and forfeit" his bonus, because city teachers and paraprofessionals - "the individuals who were directly responsible for the rise in test scores" - did not receive across-the-board pay raises because of difficult financial times.

"The recent announcement that Baltimore City Public Schools have greatly improved test scores and is no longer in corrective action, shows that everyone ... performed at a high level," English said in the statement. Forgoing the bonus "will enable the school system to provide more money and resources for programs and outreach in the schools."

Alonso was not available for comment.

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