Friday, March 15, 2013

Pat Green's Salary Issue, Redux

Christine Stead, AAPS School Board member, recently commented about the Superintendent's salary on her blog, saying, "This topic seems to generate more interest than any of the way more important topics surrounding education right now."  

And, of course, she is right. There are many (many, many) more important topics related to education than the paltry just-under 1/3 of a million dollars Pat Green gets in compensation.

I know, you think I'm using the word "paltry" facetiously. I am not. Do you realize that the Ann Arbor Public Schools budget comes in between 185 and 190 million dollars?! Baby, it's big!

Given its size, not only is Pat Green's salary pretty much a drop in the bucket, but it also provides something of an explanation as to why the board wanted someone with excellent skills, and thought they might need to offer a lot of money to do so. [Do I think they were right? About the skills part, yes; about the money part, no--but I don't blame them for trying to get the right person.]

And as I've said before, it's not Pat Green's fault that she gets paid well. Can anyone out there seriously tell me that if they were offered a job that paid $245,000 that they would say to the person offering them the job, "Oh no, that's too much. I think you should pay me a lot less?" Give me a break. I don't think so. So that's on the school board. 

I'm not sure who negotiated the language in Pat Green's contract that says, 

"The district shall pay the Superintendent a base annual salary of $245,000 (the “Initial Salary”). The District retains the sole right to adjust the base annual salary of the Superintendent during the term of this Contract; provided, however, the District will not decrease the Superintendent’s base annual salary during the term of this Contract."  (emphasis added)
But--it takes two to tango, so I guess that the school board--or their attorney--is also responsible for that.

I felt a little bit differently, too, after hearing from a recently-retired staff person who explained to me the school board's rationale this way. She said to me, "I loved Todd Roberts. I thought he was fantastic. And I thought, if paying someone a lot of money is what is required to get someone who is really great and will stay around, that will be worth it." [Attentive readers may remember that Todd Roberts left Ann Arbor Public Schools for greener pastures--a job in North Carolina that offered more money and was believed to carry a whole lot less stress.]

So is Pat Green that person--the one who is really great? And why, nearly two years after Pat Green joined the district,  are people still focused on a salary that the school board gave her, as if she is the villain for accepting it?

I've been thinking about some things that maybe are, and maybe are not, related.

Consider, for one, the rumor that Pat Green only works 4 days a week. I heard that rumor nearly a year ago. I've read the recent refutation. And to some extent, I believe the refutation. That's because I can't imagine anyone in her position not answering emails and phone calls on evenings and weekends. (She's not alone in this. So, too, do lots of teachers, lots of engineers, lots of businesspeople, social workers, doctors, nurses, hairdressers, etc.) If you are asking, "Does Pat Green work at least 40 hours a week?" I am quite sure the answer is yes. But the rumor that I heard had a slightly different twist. It was that staff people had been told not to schedule any meetings after noon on Fridays, so she could leave early. That, quite honestly, seems more believable to me. It would be easy to put that rumor to rest, and the solution does not involve sending your Director of Communications to refute the rumor for you (which is what she did). The solution involves being in the schools, or deliberately scheduling visible meetings, on Friday afternoons. When, after all, school is in session. 

Consider, for another, the ongoing grumpiness about one of Pat Green's early decisions--to put up a glass wall between her office and the rest of the Balas building. What kind of signal do you think that sent? An commenter named local described it well on 5/10/2012: 

Anyone been to Balas lately, can't get in to see Dr. Green. She had a glass wall built to her office to keep out the same people she works for, the residents of Ann Arbor. Her inability to connect with the people of Ann Arbor is becoming more evident every day.

What about the fact that Pat Green is rarely seen in school buildings or at school events? For instance, last year, when the district proposed closing Roberto Clemente, one of the complaints from teachers and families was that she had only visited the school once or twice. This is a complaint that persists. She doesn't go to many weekend events (Friday night football games, for example)--perhaps because she is often out of the district. That, however, doesn't explain the lack of visits to schools during the school day.

In other words, I think some disgruntlement persists around her pay, not because of the amount, but because people don't see her doing the "public persona" part of her job.

So her salary has remained a flash point, even though it's a drop in the budget bucket. Therefore, it's nice that Pat Green recently said that she will take a pay cut because "as a leader of the school district, you don't ask people to take compensation cuts and not do it yourself."

It's especially nice because, the way that I understand her contract, the school board could not impose cuts if they wanted to (which they could do for some of the other non-union positions) because of the contract language. In the article in which she discloses that she plans to take a pay cut, Pat Green wouldn't talk about what the amount would be yet, and I understand that too. The budget is very much in draft form, union negotiations are going on, etcetera.

But I seriously doubt that she was thinking about a 20% pay cut, which is essentially what the administrators' union just proposed. (They proposed a $50,000 pay cut.) My breath was taken away by that proposal. 

And then I thought about what the recently-retired administrator had said to me, and I thought, "Wow. The majority of the members of the administrators' union (mostly principals) really must not respect or support Pat Green." Because the administrators understand that $50,000 is only .026% of the budget. If they liked her work, they would find value in spending that $50,000 on her salary. They might still propose a pay cut, but it would more than likely be proportional to the cuts teachers and/or administrators will take. 

What is it people say? Actions speak louder than words.

Back in the day. . . Labor Day Weekend 2011, when Pat Green started, I wrote that we should not judge her on her salary. I wrote: 
Do judge Patricia Green on her body of work.
To you, Dr. Green, I have these words of advice: Really listen to your constituents--a lot of the time they know more of what is going on than you will.  Show up at meetings and be present in the community Putting up videos and sending deputies to community meetings is no substitute for your presence
Prescient, eh? [No, I'm not Canadian. But I do like the "eh."]


  1. Excellent post. I was frustrated that Ms. Stead chose be disdainful of--rather than try to understand--the community's concerns. Agree with your points, and would add two others: (1) the expectation that Green's higher salary would bring greater leadership on evaluating academic programs (e.g., analyzing student data to assess pros/cons of trimesters)--we've seen none of that, which creates an impression that decisions are not be based on data or evidence. And (2) the flippant attitude about sharing information with the public ("you'll have to FOIA it"), which creates the impression that Balas is hiding something. Given the dislike/ distrust of Green, the upcoming budget cuts may be particularly rocky. And the board should acknowledge that in their evaluation of Green.

  2. Pat Green is just not a warm, fuzzy kind of person, although I have seen her be personable at times. I've also seen her be aloof. It's hard to understand what she is doing, and that's a lot of the problem. I don't hold it against her that people are mad at her,there's no rule someone has to like their boss,especially when that boss is trying to bring about more consistency and is also changing expectations for discipline, but it makes her job harder that people are mad at her.
    The AAEA and AAAA are trying to negotiate and out maneuver her in public and I don't think is a smart move. I believe that is going to backfire badly. That will be used by charter school advocates as proof of school staff's selfishness and greediness.

  3. Lincoln's Superintendent just volunteered to take a 10% pay cut. Read more here