Editorial: 'Rolling agreements' are disagreeable
If, like us, you’d never heard of a “rolling contract” before, you have now, after consecutive stories about them in the Friday and Saturday Gazette. First it was Edward Spychalski’s, executive director of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority; then it was Laurence Spring’s, new superintendent of the Schenectady school district.
Their contracts are multiyear, which is generous enough. It means that if the board is dissatisfied with the man’s performance and wants him to go away, it must either wait until the contract expires or buy him out by paying him for the remaining years of the contract.
Still, multiyear contracts make some sense if they’re necessary to attract the best candidates. Good school superintendents are hard to find, and many may be unwilling to uproot their families and move to a new place without at least some job security. Housing authority directors are another story: Most are already residents, and many are patronage appointees. A year-to-year contract seems sufficient for them, or at most a two-year contract.
But these guys don’t just have multiyear contracts, they have contracts that are extended another year every time the board decides to keep him.
In the case of Spychalski, who has a five-year contract, that means he would always have at least four years remaining and it would cost more than $600,000 to buy him out. In the case of Spring, who has a three-year contract, there would always be at least two years remaining and it would cost more than $360,000 to buy him out.
In Saratoga, this was a new arrangement, approved by a board so compliant that it raised Spychalski’s salary from $74,777 in 2006 to $152,000 this year. In Schenectady, the arrangement formalized what the previous board did with the infamous former Superintendent Eric Ely, extending his contract after one year when it had two more to run. That was not a practice to emulate, especially since the new board chose to pay Ely off rather than bring him up on charges of malfeasance and dismiss him outright, which could have easily been done and which he richly deserved.
So if the school district wants to part ways with Spring at any time, it will cost big bucks, and the same is true for the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority and Spychalski. That’s OK, it’s only money that these boards are willing to give away — not theirs, of course, but other people’s.