Education

Wake County keeps secret Supt. Jim Merrill’s performance goals

Dr. James Merrill, Superintendent of Wake County Public Schools, speaks before the House Appropriations committee at the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh on Wednesday, July 29, 2015.
Dr. James Merrill, Superintendent of Wake County Public Schools, speaks before the House Appropriations committee at the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. cseward@newsobserver.com

The Wake County school board approved $12,397 in additional salary and bonuses for Superintendent Jim Merrill on Tuesday even though the method by which the extra compensation was determined is not being made public.

Merrill’s pay increase is based on the board’s evaluation of his “performance on approved, individual goals” and the board’s evaluation of his performance on the state’s “superintendent’s evaluation instrument.”

School attorneys say Merrill’s individual goals are not public records under the state’s personnel law.

“School system goals adopted by the board are obviously public, done in a very public way in public session,” said Jonathan Blumberg, the school board’s attorney. “But we’re not talking about that here. The performance plan for a superintendent, or a teacher, or any other employee is a confidential personnel record.”

Merrill declined a request Tuesday to provide a copy of his performance goals. Instead of identifying goals, board members talked in general about Merrill’s being a good leader, the way student performance has increased and his help in developing a new five-year strategic plan.

Amanda Martin, an attorney for the North Carolina Press Association, compared the list of Merrill’s goals to general personnel information that is not confidential. “I believe the school system could release the information because it does not disclose a performance evaluation but instead is more akin to a job description, which would be operative regardless of who held that position,” she said.

Under Merrill’s contract, he’s eligible each year to receive performance-based compensation of as much as 5 percent of his salary. Up to 2.5 percent could be paid as a salary increase and up to 2.5 percent as a bonus. The board approved a $6,302 salary raise and a $6,095 bonus – roughly 4.5 percent of Merrill’s old base salary of $275,000.

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