Vallas’ exit turns into a legal issue

Posted: June 21, 2007

Lawyers for the Philadelphia School District and departing Philadelphia schools chief Paul Vallas are still negotiating the details of Vallas' severance package.

"The reality is, there isn't a figure; it hasn't been determined yet," said Carey Dearnley, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, which hired Vallas in 2002.

She said that no further information was available about the negotiations.

"Obviously, when there is a figure, it will be public, but right now it is a legal issue," Dearnley said.

Democratic mayoral nominee Michael Nutter said Thursday that he was worried about the district's finances and not sure what the commission and Vallas were negotiating.

"It is not clear if this is a contractual obligation or an exit package," he said. Nutter said he did not know the details of the current contract.

"This district is in fiscal distress," Nutter said. "I appreciate his service. He was well-paid and will have no break in employment. . . . A district with the kind of deficit that the Philadelphia School District presently has requires that every dime that can be saved from a personnel standpoint should be saved."

The commission is planning to make $100 million in cuts to help balance its $2.18 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts next month. Additional staff layoffs could be announced as early as Friday.

Vallas announced in April that he would leave the district at the end of this month to become superintendent of the Recovery School District in New Orleans. Last Friday was his last working day in Philadelphia. He is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Under the contract extension that Vallas signed last year, he could be eligible for an annual performance bonus of as much as 20 percent of his base salary. Although the new contract increased Vallas' base salary from $250,000 to $275,000, he elected to forgo the raise in light of the $73 million deficit that surfaced in the fall.

Amy Guerin, a district spokeswoman, said Vallas has not received a performance bonus this academic year, although he received a total of $98,388 in performance bonuses in previous years.

Vallas also could be eligible for a $100,000 retention bonus under the contract because he will remain on staff through June 30.

Guerin said Vallas had not collected retention bonuses in prior years. It's unclear whether he would be entitled to them. Terms of the prior contract are "superseded and terminated" by the current contract, the document says.

"Anything going forward is a matter of negotiation with the SRC," Guerin said.

And, as is the case with any district employee, Vallas is entitled to be paid for accumulated sick and vacation time.

Contact staff writer Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or at

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