Byrd-Bennett Rewarded With New Contract

CLEVELAND (AP) - The head of the city's public schools has ended speculation about her job status by signing a new contract that makes her one of the highest paid superintendents in the country.

The Cleveland Municipal School District on Wednesday said Barbara Byrd-Bennett (pictured with student, right) agreed to a new contract running through 2004, with a two-year optional extension.

Her annual pay will be $270,000 next year with up to $75,600 in performance bonuses.

That's a 36 percent raise over her salary of $198,000. Her current contract expires at the end of the year.

Byrd-Bennett's new salary puts her pay above that of superintendents in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Denver.

It's also more than the $245,000 salary that former federal prosecutor Joel Klein will earn to lead New York City's school system, the nation's largest.

Byrd-Bennett had interviewed for the job in New York, where she formerly was a top administrator.

"There is no doubt that the school district has improved since Barbara Byrd-Bennett came to Cleveland," Mayor Jane Campbell said. "The new agreement makes certain that this improvement continues."

She came to the Cleveland schools to be the chief executive in 1998 after then-Mayor Michael R. White took control of the troubled district.

Her raise comes as the schools prepare for a Nov. 5 ballot issue in which voters will be asked to decide if they want to keep a school board appointed by the mayor or return to an elected school board.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)