School board approves new superintendent’s contract

Ed Graff starts July 1 at Minneapolis Public Schools

Minneapolis Public Schools’ new superintendent will earn $225,000 per year under the three-year contract approved unanimously June 7 by the Board of Education.

The base salary for Ed Graff is $35,000 more than the district paid former superintendent Bernadeia Johnson. One key difference: Graff has served as a superintendent in Alaska since 2013, while Johnson was a first-time superintendent when she won the job in 2010.

Johnson earned a $190,000 annual salary and was eligible for up to $40,000 per year in performance bonuses by the end of her tenure, although the board only ever granted her a portion of that amount. Graff and the board will negotiate specific performance goals for years two and three of the contract, and the contract language allows the board to increase Graff’s pay based on achievement of those goals.

The former Anchorage School District superintendent was picked to lead Minneapolis Public Schools in May. Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius was the other finalist in the board’s second superintendent search since Johnson’s resignation in early 2015. An earlier search failed to produce a superintendent.

Graff’s contract also includes a $400 monthly allowance to compensate for business use of his personal vehicle and a monthly stipend of $50 for his cellular phone plan. The board also agreed that the district will contribute $2,000 per year to a health savings account and match contributions to his district retirement plan at the maximum amount.

Graff still must secure his Minnesota superintendent’s license. He’s scheduled to go before the Board of School Administrators for a variance hearing June 13.

The School Board briefly discussed tabling the contract vote until June 14, their next scheduled meeting — at which point Graff is expected to be in Minneapolis and questions around the license variance will be resolved. If he doesn’t win a variance, his contract with Minneapolis Public Schools could be terminated.

Michael Goar, the former district CEO who until this month served as interim superintendent, was paid a $190,000 annual salary for his service. Goar left the district to start a new job June 1 as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Twin Cities.

Graff doesn’t officially start until July 1, so the board tapped Chief of Schools Michael Thomas to step in for a brief term as interim superintendent last month.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story included an inaccurate reference to a potential performance-based bonus for the superintendent. Although the contract states “Parties shall consider terms defining a performance based Contract” in years two and three and that Graff’s salary “shall be increased as the School Board may, in its discretion, determine based on the achievement of the annual performance goals,” that pay increase is not being referred to as a bonus.