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DPS chief donates bonuses, raise

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg has donated his raise and bonuses – worth $47,707 – to the DPS foundation to launch an employee-giving campaign.

Boasberg’s gift includes $23,334 in incentive pay that Denver school board members voted last fall to award him for his performance as superintendent in 2008-09.

It also includes another $16,040 in incentive pay that he was due for his 2008 work as chief operating officer, the job he held before becoming superintendent.

And it includes $8,333 in a raise that was due this past Feb. 1 under his contract as superintendent.

Boasberg had deferred payment of the bonuses and raise until July 1, citing the budget cuts facing the district. Monday, the DPS Foundation announced the contribution in launching a fund-raising campaign.

“This gift … will provide a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $25,000 for all employee giving between now and Dec. 31,” states the news release from the foundation.

Boasberg was hired as DPS superintendent on Jan. 22, 2009 at an annual salary of $176,000. His contract describes that as “significantly less” than other big-city superintendents but stated he agreed to the amount “because of the financial crisis in Colorado and in the country.”

A Denver Post survey of superintendent pay in February 2009 found Boasberg’s salary ranked him 17th among Colorado school chiefs. DPS is the state’s second-largest school district.

Boasberg’s contract calls for $20,000 annual raises on Feb. 1, 2010; Feb. 1, 2011; and Feb. 1, 2012 “to make the superintendent’s base salary more comparable to superintendents in other large school districts.” He was scheduled for his first raise – to $196,000 – on Feb. 1, 2010 but on Sept. 17, 2009, Boasberg deferred the increase.

He is giving $8,333 of the raise to the DPS foundation – the pro-rated amount of the $20,000 raise for 2010 that represents the increase from Feb. 1 through July 1.

Boasberg’s contract also includes the possibility of $50,000 in annual performance or incentive pay, with half based on his annual evaluation and half based on meeting goals agreed upon by the board. For 2008-09, the board voted to award Boasberg $23,334 – a figure pro-rated from January 2009, when he began as superintendent, through August 2009. Boasberg also deferred receipt of that amount.

Because his annual bonuses are based on increases in state test scores, among other measures, the board typically does not vote on awarding the incentive money until the fall after a school year is completed. So board members are not slated to discuss Boasberg’s 2009-10 performance until late fall.

What Boasberg planned to do with his 2008-09 bonuses and his 2010 raise became an issue after a recent news story. CBS 4 television reporter Brian Maass reported some superintendents – including Jefferson County’s Cindy Stevenson and Cherry Creek’s Mary Chesley – were declining pay increases while their districts grapple with 6.3 percent cuts in state spending.

Boasberg, however, declined to tell Maass his plans, saying he wanted first to talk to board members.

That prompted one blogger, former DPS school board candidate Christopher Scott, to write about Boasberg’s “hubris” and to complain, “No accountability exists at the administrative level of the organization.”

DPS board member Andrea Merida then linked to Scott’s blog from her Facebook page and wrote, in part, “…bonus? I think not. Sorry, Mr. Boasberg.” Merida, a frequent critic of Boasberg’s, was elected in November 2009 and did not vote on his incentive pay for 2008-09.

Monday, Boasberg said he already had decided what to do with the $47,707 when Maass’ story aired in late May but that he wasn’t yet ready to go public with his plans.

“The work the foundation does is incredibly valuable and, given the economic crunch that we’re in, it’s harder for them to raise money,” he said. “I just thought the work they fund is so vital for our kids and directly affects some of our neediest kids … it was the right thing to do.”

Click here to see Boasberg’s 2008-09 performance evaluation and here to see how he fared in meeting the performance goals agreed upon by the board.

Nancy Mitchell can be reached at nmitchell@ednewscolorado.org or 303-478-4573.