What is fair compensation and best way to pick new school superintenden

September 29, 2013

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsBy Nancy Thorner and Carl Lambrecht – 

In any school district superintendents come and go.  Some stay longer in a position than do others; however, the position often offers a very generous salary plus a sizable compensation package.

Consider Superintendent Dr. Harry Griffith (at right) who retired on June 30, 2012, as superintendent of Lake Forest Districts 67 and 115.  Hired by Lake Forest District 67 in 1994 from a school district in Texas to become superintendent, Griffith’s shared service superintendency arrangement began in 2004.  A year before retirement Dr. Griffith was already the highest paid superintendent in Illinois with a total compensation package amounting to $430,000, more than that of the Chicago and Milwaukee school chiefs and the governor of Illinois.

Upon retirement Griffith’s basic salary mushroomed to $363,000. Now in retirement Dr. Griffith was listed as number 58 in the top 100 state pensions covering the entire state of Illinois in 2013, with an annual pension of $231,109.  Not to be overlooked is that Griffith will receive an automatic guaranteed increase of 3% per year until his death from the Teacher Retirement System (pension fund) in Illinois.

To replace Dr. Griffith as superintendent of Lake Forest Districts 67 and 115, a search was conducted outside both school districts.  Michael Simeck was chosen and assumed his position on July 1, 2012.  Prior to his hiring Simeck was superintendent at Bloomfield Hills Schools in Michigan.  Simeck’s basic salary during the 2009 – 2010 school year in Michigan (the last school year available) was $165,000. (FOIA request, Feb. 38, 2012).  Lake Forest’s contract awarded  Michael Simeck a starting salary of $230,000, with an extra $30,000 thrown in for good measure because Simeck was managing two districts.  But in Michigan’s Bloomfield Hills Schools Simeck had likewise been superintendent over two school districts.  Simeck’s very generous contract also included a $500 a month car allowance, a $30,000 annual contribution to the Teachers’ Retirement System, a $750,000 life insurance policy, plus an agreement to share moving expenses of $15,000.

The price to hire superintendents to manage Lake Forest’s two micro (small) school districts did not come on the cheap, even for an upscale community like Lake Forest in Lake County, considering that Simeck will oversee approximately 4,000 students with the aid of assistant superintendents and other directors.  On the other hand, the NYC Chancellor of Schools oversees 1.1 million students and earns less than $130,000.  To be fair, many superintendent salaries are quite generous in northern Cook County and in its collar counties of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will.

It was Highland Park resident, Carl Lambrecht, who informed me that only after a short time David L. Behlow, Ph.D. is retiring as superintendent of North Shore School District #112.  Lambrecht regularly monitors the school districts that serve his community.  District 113 includes Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools, while District 112 has 12 schools located in Highland Park and Highwood serving 4,609 students in grades PK through 8th. Both school districts are located just south of Lake Forest.

Mr. Lambrecht suggested that it would be prudent for the District 112 school board to evaluate its personnel to select one among them who could assume the role of superintendent.  In Lambrecht’s opinion, it is not likely that an administrator chosen outside the school system would do any better than one chosen within the ranks of the district.  Among the hundreds of teachers in District 112, there are a number of principals and assistant superintendents, and even teachers, who would be qualified to take on the superintendency position.

Continuing with his thoughts Carl Lambrecht opined:  Why not open the position of superintendent to all staff members in Districts 112 and 113?  After all it is a given that those hired to work in Districts 112 and 113 have fine credentials in keeping with the fine quality of teachers and administration located by the search firm employed to fill positions.  And let’s not forget the many fine executives in Highland Park who could competently step into the administrative job.  Even a member of the school board might fill the position?

Although North Shore School District 112, like Township High School District 113, is doing an excellent job for some of its students, for others it is failing.  According to the school report card of North Shore School District 112 two of its schools are failing. (Read pages 17 and 18).

Regarding School District #113, Highland Park High School has received a failing grade for about nine years.  Its report card can be read on pages 11,12, and 13. Although Deerfield High School does fail from time to time, it is not at this time.

Might teachers and students who are doing well be having success in spite of the administration and the Illinois School Code, and, if so, why might this be so?

In the past twenty years there has been an increase in the cost to operate school systems in this nation, yet the quality of education has not improved.  Consider how Ron Clark came to New York City as a new, young teacher, taking a position at one of the worst schools in the city.  Being the new teacher that he was, Mr. Clark was given the worst class in his school, only to be recognized as having one of the best classes by the end of the school year.

As a new teacher in a bad New York City school, Ron Clark made a real change in the performance of his students.  In so doing Ron Clark proved that credentials, salary and tenure do not automatically make for a fine teacher or superintendent.  If you want more details about how Ron Clark outperformed teachers with tenure and many years of experience, there is a DVD and books in the Highland Park Public Library to check out.  If the material isn’t available in your library, request that it be purchased or read the amazing success story of Ron Clark at  “The Inspired Teacher.”

In no way is Carl Lambrecht implying that a superintendent shouldn’t receive a decent compensation; however, there are many superintendents with salaries of less than $100,000. The Regional Superintendent of Lake County Schools, Roycealee Wood, makes a salary of $120,000.  Governor Quinn’s salary is $170,000, and he is one of the highest paid governors in this nation!

Why is it that despite the decrease in school populations, the number of administrators continue to increase relative to the number of students and teachers?  At a time when computers have reduced administrative work in the private sector, it makes sense for schools to follow suit.  After all, the key person in a school is the teacher.  In a medical office it is the doctor, not the administrator.

Two questions are in order:  1. Why should a supeintendent for District 112, or any school district in Illinois, earn more than the governor of Illinois?  2. Why does a micro district such as District 112, as compared to a mega school district as found in Chicago and New York City, need so many high paid administrative positions?

Wouldn’t it makes sense to fill the open position of superintendent in District 112, and within other school districts, from within the ranks of its administrators and staff, rather than bringing in an outsider with a compensation package far grander than is called for and which must be funded by taxpayers?

Sunday, September 29, 2013 at 06:30 AM | Permalink

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