Stephanie Elizalde, superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District (DISD), could be poised to cash in big through her contract’s incentive package if she can eke out modest increases in student performance.

Per her contract with the district, Elizalde can receive $20,000 of taxpayer money each time DISD meets a mutually agreed-upon student outcome goal. Select trustees and Elizalde negotiated the goals. Her current base annual salary is $338,000. If she hits her five goals for the 2022-2023 academic year, Elizalde could make more than the president of the United States.

What’s more, the Board of Trustees appears to have set low expectations for its new superintendent. According to internal DISD assessments for the previous academic year, 39.6% of district third graders were reading at grade level. If DISD can reach 41% by the end of this academic year, Elizalde will receive a bonus check.

For third-grade math, only 42% of students need to perform at grade level for Elizalde to get paid. Roughly 37% of third graders were at grade level by the end of the 2021-2022 academic year.

Middle schoolers only need to improve their performance by three index points on state assessments for Elizalde to snag another $20,000 out of taxpayers’ pockets.

District-wide improvement on state assessments by four index points gets her still another bonus payment.

Finally, if 65% of the graduating class of 2023 qualifies as “college, career or military ready,” Elizalde gets paid again. About 59% of the class of 2022 qualified earlier this year.

With spreads like these, the Board of Trustees does not seem especially invested in truly improving the quality of education for DISD students. Rather than using taxpayer money to bolster a demoralized and disintegrating workforce of veteran educators, trustees are opting to further enrich the district’s top administrator.

While Elizalde’s base salary and potential bonuses total just under $440,000, the Board of Trustees voted to approve a $1.18 million allocation under the header “Superintendent of Schools” in the 2022-2023 operating budget, even as hard-working district teachers are left to pay-out-of-pocket for school and classroom supplies.

As previously reported in The Dallas Express, the Texas State Teachers Association claimed that teachers spent an average of $846 of their own money on supplies last academic year, which is 1.3% of the average DISD teacher’s annual salary.

Meanwhile, the district only budgeted 0.6% of its colossal $2.8 billion budget this year for “Instructional Resources and Media Svcs.,” the only category listed on the district’s Dallas ISD Facts Sheet resembling a classroom supplies allowance.

Still, while the Board of Trustees sets low expectations for Elizalde, it is unclear whether she can effectively lead the district and implement the necessary reforms to keep veteran teachers and produce better student academic outcomes.

Elizalde’s brief two-year stint as superintendent for Austin Independent School District (AISD) proved controversial. The district’s Board of Trustees awarded her a similar salary of $325,000 annually, plus a monthly $750 car allowance, per her AISD contract. Austin-ISD-Superintendent-Contract-2020-2021-Final

Her leadership style quickly put her at odds with district parents and teachers in Austin, who believed she repeatedly acted without soliciting input from the community, leaving many feelings railroaded and disappointed, according to The Dallas Morning News.

“Before you implement any changes — which may be needed changes — you must build a foundation of trust, relationships, and support,” stated AISD employee union president Ken Zarifis. “That’s not what happened.”

Zarifis previously explained to The Dallas Express in an email, “It is probably clear that we were as happy for Dr. Elizalde to find a new job as she was in finding it. … We wish her the best in Dallas and hope workers and students fair (sic) better under her leadership there than they did in Austin.”

Before her controversial tenure at AISD, Elizalde served in several administrative roles at DISD, including chief school officer and mathematics director in the district’s teaching and learning division.