The School Board in Lee County gave taxpayers a lesson in both mathematics and economics this week.
According to district computations, it seems that by renegotiating Superintendent Jim Browder's contract to now 1) write him a check for two years salary even if Mr. Browder is fired for cause and 2) to hand him two years wages even if he quits as long as he gives 60 days notice, the district actually is positioned to save money.
By our count, add one plus two and you've got a $335,629.98 giveaway - at today's annual salary rate of $167,818.99 - any time up until June of 2012 with no ability to renegotiate unless Mr. Browder agrees.
By the board's mathematical wizardry, the district will save by not facing the possibility of having to buy out Mr. Browder's remaining contract time should they - or some irrational future board majority - choose to fire him on whim or without reason.
And the elimination of the provision that would have Mr. Browder walking away with empty pockets if he violates the tenets of good management? Well, you know firing someone for cause is subjective and open to litigation. Two years pay is a veritable bargain.
Or a nice golden parachute while those of us funding it don't even get an umbrella when we're shown the door in these financially stormy, unemployment-ridden, job-loss fraught economic times.
Bob Chilmonik, who cast the lone dissenting vote, summed this contract "renegotiation" up succinctly - he called it the biggest sweetheart deal for superintendents in the state of Florida.
This contract flies in the face of good business practices, of good fiscal policy, and of good common sense.
With school property tax revenues down and expected to decline again next year, with state education dollars in peril, we have to ask - what was the board majority thinking?
We know it wasn't about the current economic reality the district is facing.
We know it wasn't about the kids or the classrooms.
We have to assume it was about what was best for Mr. Browder.
And given the board's primary responsibility to the taxpayers and the children of Lee County, that is, perhaps, the worst kind of thinking of all.
- Breeze editorial