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Why I voted No on District 15 administrator salaries and Superintendent contract

I voted against District 15 administrator salary increases ranging from 1% to 6%. I also voted against a new contract for Superintendent Scott Thompson that included a salary increase of 2.25% and replaced six goals in the old contract with two new goals.

The salary increases and new contract were approved by the District 15 Board by a vote of 4 Yes (Babcock, Bokor, Ekeberg, Seiffert) to 3 No (Herr, Iannuzzelli, Sriram) at a special meeting on September 25th.

Following are my remarks from the meeting (edited for clarity). See video of the September 25 special meeting starting at 00:05:29.


I don’t support the 2.25% salary increase from $223,773 to $228,808 as proposed for the Superintendent for two main reasons: there are at least three incomplete goals and there were other issues during the year. I’ll elaborate on my reasons for opposing the 2.25% increase when we talk about the proposed Superintendent contract.

For other administrators a salary framework was expected to be established last year. This work wasn’t completed and as a result the raises aren’t justified as presented. They are also not consistent with the raises given to other employee groups.

Also, the salary recommendation posted in the Board meeting attachments on the website had limited information, which made it difficult to understand the increases.

As I looked at the more detailed data provided to the Board I noted the following:

- There are four administrators in the retirement incentive program who receive annual 6% raises

- The other administrators receive raises ranging from 1% to 5% with the average raise being 3%

- This is only Total Salary and doesn’t include other benefits


I understand there is reluctance by some Board members to go into closed session to discuss the contracts that are on the table. As a result I asked Board legal counsel for advice on whether personnel matters should be discussed in open or closed session. He said “Closed session is best practice for discussing personnel matters. … There are legal considerations that dictate closed session as the best forum for addressing personnel issue[s].”

While I’m a strong advocate for openness and transparency, I believe the wisest course of action would be for the Board to go into closed session to discuss these contracts as recommended by our attorney.

With this in mind, I make a motion to go into executive session to discuss: ”The appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees of the District or legal counsel for the District, including hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee or against legal counsel for the District to determine its validity.” 5 ILCS 120/2(c)(1)

[This motion failed on a vote of 3 Yes (Herr, Iannuzzelli, Sriram) to 4 No (Babcock, Bokor, Ekeberg, Seiffert) and the meeting continued in open session.]

With regard to the proposed Superintendent’s contract I have four main concerns.

The 1st concern is: There is a discrepancy between the proposed contract and the status of the Superintendent’s job goals for last year. There are at least three goals that have not been completed. However, the proposed contract says the “Superintendent has met the [2012-13] performance and improvement goals.” What is the direction of the Board? Declare the incomplete goals null and void and remove them from the contract? Or are the incomplete 2012-13 goals still expected to be completed and to be included in the contract?

The three goals that are incomplete are:

1. Presentation of a plan allocating resources to schools and programs based upon need;

2. Identifying future programs that would enhance children’s educational experiences; and

3. Development of a administrative merit pay system including salary bands for specific job categories.

The new 2013-2017 contract as drafted includes two new goals. This new contract replaces the previous 2012-2017 agreement, which included six goals as listed in the Superintendent’s 2012-2013 Performance Goals. Our attorney told the Board it has two options: either (a) remove the “findings statement” saying the 2012-13 goals are complete thus keeping the incomplete goals in the contract along with the two new goals, or (b) to leave the “findings statement” in the contract thus replacing the six 2012-2013 goals with the two new goals in the new contract.

[In the end, the Board didn't make any changes to the draft contract and the 2012-2013 goals are no longer part of the Superintendent's contract. It remains unclear whether the Board's intention for the incomplete goals is for them to be canceled, added back to the contract, or completed outside the contract.]

The 2nd concern is: The cart is before the horse on setting Superintendent job goals. The Illinois Association of School Boards makes the common sense recommendation that Step #1 be a review of current district goals. Step #3 is deciding on goals to be written into the Superintendent’s contract. The action item we’re discussing now is the end of Step #3. Later this evening we’re having another special meeting for a first discussion of District goals for this year, which is Step #1. See Performance-Based Superintendent Employment Contracts: A “How To” Guide.

The 3rd concern is: The board hasn’t completed discussion of the two new goals that are included in the proposed contract and I have some questions about them.

The main questions are about the first goal that states “Increase the number of students meeting their MAP growth targets.” It isn’t clear to me how the three indicators listed do this. Also, the way the goal is written seems to indicate that if only one more out of our 12,000 students meets their MAP growth targets then the goal has been met.

The 4th concern is: There have been recent issues that affect the collaborative and effective operation of the Board. I believe this should be taken into account as the Board considers the contract and salary increase proposed for the Superintendent. For example,

a. There was no communications to the Board about the progress of ESPA contract negotiations until after the team reached a tentative agreement;

b. I was surprised the tentative agreement wasn’t consistent with the guidelines established by the Board;

c. I was surprised the team didn’t clarify initial Board guidance on negotiating parameters during negotiations when it became clear what the negotiating positions were and where the initial guidance was either insufficient or unclear; and

d. Lastly, I was surprised legal counsel wasn’t consulted prior to reaching tentative agreement.

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