St. Paul principals can get $3,000 in performance bonuses next year

/ 20 March 2012 / jennifer

Mila Koumpilova, Pioneer Press, March 20, 2012 –

St. Paul principals will be eligible for up to $3,000 in performance pay next year – a new incentive that reflects growing pressure they face to deliver measurable student gains.

The so-called leadership/performance compensation is part of a new two-year contract between the district and the union representing 108 principals and assistant principals. The contract also introduces a two-year probationary period for principals assigned to a new school in the district.

The school board approved the new contract, estimated to cost an additional $763,000 over two years, at its regular meeting Tuesday, March 20.

A number of Minnesota districts have recently embraced performance bonuses for principals, who will start receiving annual evaluations under state law in 2013.

“In an era of increased accountability in education, leadership performance compensation is a natural component as part of an overall contract,” said Winston Tucker, head of the St. Paul Principals’ Association.

St. Paul principals overwhelmingly supported the new 2011-2013 contract in an earlier vote, Tucker said.

Under the new contract, the district will honor seniority and education raises this year and add an extra seniority step raising pay by 1.5 percent for St. Paul’s most veteran principals. More than 75 percent of the district’s principals qualify for that increase.

Next year, principals will get a 0.5 percent cost-of-living raise.

Factoring in the cost of benefits, the

average principal compensation in St. Paul ranges from $144,450 for elementary principals to about $155,000 for high school principals, the district said.

Tim Caskey, the district’s human-resources director, said both sides were interested in adding the performance compensation – up to $3,000 for principals and up to $2,500 for assistant principals. A task force of principals and administrators will flesh out what goals school leaders will have to meet to earn the extra pay.

This year, St. Paul launched new evaluations of its principals, who are expected to spend more time on classroom observation and put student achievement data to effective use.

Amid increasing scrutiny of principal performance and a growing body of research highlighting the key role school leaders play, more metro-area districts are experimenting with merit pay for principals.

This year, principals in Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan can make about $700 extra if they meet two out of a long list of goals. In Anoka-Hennepin, the state’s largest district, principals will be eligible for up to $2,000 over their base pay next year. As in St. Paul, a task force is working on a set of goals. And Stillwater has tied principal pay raises to performance.

“It’s becoming more common,” said John Sylvester, deputy executive director at the Minnesota School Board Association. “Certainly, school boards and their principals are talking about that more often.”

Neither the Minnesota School Board Association nor the state’s principal associations compile principal compensation data. “The issue of performance pay for principals seems to come and go over time,” said P. Fred Storti, executive director of the Elementary Schools Principals Association. “I am not aware of a large movement in that direction.”

Nationally, the issue made headlines last year when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed tying as much as $20,000 in principal performance bonuses to goals such as raising test scores and lowering dropout rates. The district’s principals union opposed that proposal, expressing discomfort at a merit pay structure that excludes teachers and other school employees also responsible for student gains.

Mila Koumpilova can be reached at 651-228-2171. Follow her at