Though his school district has taken steep cuts to budgets and programs in the past two years at the state level, Bonneville School District No. 93 Superintendent Charles Shackett still has a contract filled with taxpayer-funded perks, including a yearly $15,000 signing bonus.
According to Shackett’s contract, which was signed in February of this year, he receives $7,500 in extra money for retirement, $17,000 in incentives and bonuses, and a car to use at his discretion. The superintendent also receives five paid days off each year to conduct private consulting activities.
The benefits are in addition to his $104,000 yearly pay. His base salary puts him near the bottom of the pack among superintendents of districts with more than 5,000 students, though the perks added in to the figure put him in a near tie as the fourth highest-paid superintendent in the state.
Shackett, in a conversation with IdahoReporter.com Friday, wouldn’t apologize for any of the benefits provided by the Bonneville school board in his yearly contract because he didn’t ask for them. “I think I am lucky and I am blessed,” he said. “I’m not going to turn it down.”
The chairman of the Bonneville school board also defended the perks and said he believes Shackett’s performance has been an investment. “Mistakes can cost the taxpayers, too,” said Craig Lords, head of the board. “I think you want someone competent in there (the superintendent position).”
Perhaps the priciest perk Shackett receives is a $15,000 yearly payment labeled as “incentive” in his contract. That money, the superintendent explained, is inserted into his work agreement simply to keep him on the job. He said the money is a bonus for signing his yearly contract and to prevent the district from needing to spend money to search for a replacement. “It’s an incentive for me to stay,” Shackett said.
Lords said he would rather pay the signing bonus than fund a superintendent search and cover moving expenses for a new hire. “Why not spend to keep someone here rather than spend to bring someone here?” Lords asked, noting that he had seen high turnover rates in the position prior to Shackett.
The next largest benefit for the administrator is a Chevrolet Impala with a little more than 93,000 miles. The superintendent uses the car primarily for business purposes, but is also allowed to take it home and use it for personal functions. Shackett says he takes it on vacation, but pays for the gas when he does so because he doesn’t want to be accused of abusing the privilege. “I realize there’s an eye watching,” Shackett said.
The district is doing the responsible thing by providing him with a car, Shackett believes. “There’s a point where it makes sense to give me a car,” he explained. “I would say it’s cheaper to give me a car.” A few other superintendents in the state who do not receive cars for their districts are reimbursed for personal use of their own vehicles at the IRS rate of 51 cents per mile.
Shackett is also the recipient of $7,500 in extra money for a retirement account of his choice. That money is in addition to the $10,000 the district contributes to the state retirement system on his behalf. That money, he says, is in lieu of raises that he has not received in the past few years due to budget cuts.
Next in line in order of worth is $2,000 each year in merit pay. The superintendent said that money is simply for his meeting goals set forth by the school board each year. He received $1,500 of that amount his first year with the district and $2,000 in each of the past 10 years.
Lords said the board rewards Shackett for improving student performance, parental involvement, and providing good communication with community members and media outlets. The superintendent is also instructed to attend district events and make himself visible in the Idaho Falls community. “We want him out and about,” Lords explained.
Finally, Shackett’s contract allows for five days each year for private consulting activities. The superintendent doesn’t have a consulting job, but says he occasionally uses this provision for education-related activities. “I don’t have a second job,” Shackett said.
He occasionally uses the days provided in this provision to make presentations to the Idaho Department of Education, other school districts, or educational groups and doesn’t make money doing so. “I don’t charge anybody,” Shackett explained.
Lords believes Shackett is worth every penny. “I think he has saved us money,” Lords said, adding that a busing reform plan put forth by the superintendent a few years ago has saved the district and the state a myriad of tax dollars. “I think what he saved the district on busing is more than he could ever get in pay,” Lords said. He also commended Shackett for “leading the way” on teacher merit pay plans, as well as his management of district enrollment growth.
The school district has been hurt by state budget cuts in the past two years. This year, the district needed to cut about $4.5 million out of its operating budget, though $2 million of that was restored thanks to a budget surplus. The district has used several methods for making needed cuts, including furlough days for employees and job eliminations.