Controversy Swirling Around State’s New Schools Chief

LANSING (WWJ) – The man in charge of Michigan’s most-troubled schools across the state could potentially make more than $1.5 million over the next four years. This, as virtually all schools in Michigan struggle with budgets and cutbacks.

“The only thing you can say about 52-year-old John Covington’s contract is “Wow,” said WWJ’s Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick. “This is going to stir a hornet’s nest; in fact it already has as labor unions are quick to ask ‘where’s the shared sacrifice here?'” Skubick added, speaking live on WWJ Newsradio 950. “You’re asking us and other school officials to cut back on our salaries, to cut back our health care benefits and here comes this guy to run these schools that are in trouble and he could earn up to $1.5 million,” Skubick said.

However, Skubick added that Covington’s supporters point out that if you want somebody to come in and turn these schools around, you have to pay for it, and that’s what his salary is for. Lawmakers are on vacations, but when they return to the state capitol, Skubick wonders what they’ll say.

The first year Covington earns $225,000, plus a $175,000 signing bonus. There are also salary increases to $325,000 the second year and with bonuses, Covington could earn up to $1.5 million.

WWJ spoke with David Hecke, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said executive signing bonuses in an age of district budget cuts is absurd.

“What does it do for the morale of the people who educate our children when that kind of money is being provided to Mr. Covington,” said Hecke. “That’s what I’m really concerned about, because that affects the kids in the classroom.”

Supporters say a big salary is needed to attract the right candidates.

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