CHERVENY’S DATA shows levels of compensation for 19 districts, with Wilmington having the highest percentage of teacher and administrator salaries going to administrators. In the graph, the red illustrates the portion of the teacher and administrator salaries that goes to administrators, the green shows what goes to teachers. The blue line relates to the percentage that is administrator salaries, with the light blue bar designating the average range.
SUPERINTENDENT JAY PLESE maintains that taking some lines of “other compensation” out of the calculations gives a better comparison — in this data sample, his compensation of just over $200,000 lands a bit higher than the midrange.
A former member told the 209U Board of Education last week that if it would fix the gap between how it compensates administrators and teachers, he would gladly support higher taxes for education.
In his last term in office, former board member Kevin Cherveny was one of only two board members who had voted against a compensation for Superintendent Jay Plese, because he felt the salary was unreasonably high, and included compensation for "supporting resources" as well.
In May 2012, the School Board gave the superintendent a retirement contract with 6 percent salary increases each year.
"Sweetening a pretty sweet deal, in my head," Cherveny told the School Board last Wednesday. "But more importantly, what caught my attention was the dichotomy between a newspaper quote from 2010, about the perfect storm we're seeing in funding ... we're in hard times, and I don't doubt that," and the board's actions in offering handsome compensation packages to the district's administrative staff, including the superintendent, assistant superintendent, principals, athletic directors and head librarians.
In contrast to the contract offered to the administrators, the three-year collective bargaining contract the board approved for the teachers includes a wage freeze this year, with a small 2.5 percent bump next year.
In the private sector, Cherveny analyzes similar sets of data twice each year, computing how his employer's salary dollars are used. He relates well to data, and determined to apply the same methodology he uses at work to the public body.
The Illinois State Board of Education website, isbe.net, provides salary data for employees of all state public schools, and he pulled data from there for a number of school districts.
Cherveny compared total compensation packages; including base salary, retirement contributions, the value of insurance premiums; for teachers and administrators for 19 school districts, including all of the Interstate Eight Schools, districts of similar profile to Wilmington, high performing districts, those in economically depressed areas and one that was suggested for inclusion.
He found that Wilmington School District 209U's 2012 report showed the district spent $6.3 million in compensating teachers and administrators, and of that amount, $1.3 million, or 21.28 percent, went to 12 administrators.
The percentage was then compared to other schools, and considered what influence other factors, like size and performance, had on how much a district spent on administrator salaries.
Cherveny graphed the information he collected. A spike of blue over Wilmington showed how great a share of the compensation goes to teachers and administrators here compared to other districts, regardless of economic conditions, performance or size.
"To me the thing that jumped out was that very tall one," Cherveny said indicating the spike. "And that's ours."
Only two districts under review were above the average range of administrator compensation compared to teacher compensation - Wilmington and Seneca. The highest performing districts in the state, New Trier and Hinsdale, were below the average range.
Cherveny also found that sorting the districts by the size of the payroll showed that smaller districts paid a higher percentage of their teacher-administrator compensations to administrators. However, Wilmington was once again the anomaly. The next smallest district, Riverdale, uses 9.8 percent of teacher-adminstrator compensation on administrators while the next biggest, Westmont, uses 11.7 percent.
"I would say it's a significant anomaly, and if you look at the neighbors on either side, it really illustrates how far out of line this is," he said.
The administrative percent increases in districts with higher student populations categorized as economically disadvantaged and decreases in districts with higher performance on the Prairie State Achievement Exam. Wilmington is above the line with the results of the former, and an anomaly in the latter.
Just making a causal observation, Cherveny said the Wilmington superintendent's compensation is comparable to the compensation offered to the Valley View School District superintendent - and that individual runs a district with a budget that's 15 times higher than Wilmington's, has 12 times the number of students and 14 times the number of teachers and administrators as District 209U.
"Here's my bottom line. We're in tough times. I realize that. I would, as a taxpayer ... be willing to fund more money to keep this district from making cuts, if it goes to the teacher, those with direct student contact," Cherveny said.
"Short and simple my message would be: I don't mind paying for education, but I want to put my money toward the brains of the child, and not in the wallets of the administrators," Cherveny said. "If we need to go get more money to allow this district to function, I'll stand by you shoulder to shoulder and support that, if you fix this situation. It's out of whack."
Since the compensation figures were posted on the ISBE website, school district 209U has made some changes in administrators; high school principal Joe Hermes and district librarian Bobbi Hannon retired, and Hannon's replacement, Jane LeBlanc, is no longer listed with the administrators. Even with those changes, Cherveny said, Wilmington is still the anomaly.
Plese disagreed with Cherveny's data. He said the district's administrative compensation represents only 5.6 percent of the district's total expenditures.
He also felt that to compare apples to apples, looking at base salary only gave a more true picture of the district's administrative spending, since not everyone has the same benefits - some of Wilmington's teachers and administrators take no benefits, some take family benefits and some access benefits for just themselves. The level of education those individuals has achieved also affects compensation.
"If those get put on a chart it gets skewed," Plese said.
In addition, Plese said other compensation can be significant - the New Lenox superintendent makes $197,348, but is enjoying $103,335 worth of other compensation this year.
In Plese's data, his compensation falls 13th in a list of compensation packages for 19 districts. His data does not include insurance benefits - which results in a difference of more than $20,000 in compensation value as compared to Cherveny's figures.
He feels the state-issued school report card gives a better comparison of teacher and administrator salary percentages. The school report card provides the percentage of teachers with bachelors degrees and master's degrees, gives an average number of years of experience, breaks down expenditures by function and shows how much each district spends per pupil.
"That's an apples-to-apples comparison because it's creditable earnings. TRS creditable earnings," Plese said.
From the school report card, Plese concludes that compared with Coal City, Reed-Custer, Plano, Hinsdale, New Trier and the state average, Wilmington has the lowest percentage of teachers with masters degrees, which translates to teachers with the lowest salaries. Wilmington also has the lowest percentage spent on teacher's salaries, and the third lowest percentage spent on administrators.
Plese also notes that in 2003-2004 the salaries being offered then superintendent Russ White and curriculum director Kathy Brockett totaled nearly $306,000 - just a little less than the creditable earnings of Plese and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Matt Swick this year, despite an inflationary increase of 22.5 percent.
In justifying his compensation, Plese said he's made changes here that were "huge."
"When I came here, our kids went to school in facilities that were totally unacceptable. We went through a process as a board and community to change that," he said. "And we did."
The referendum to build a school had failed six times before it passed, in Plese's first year here as superintendent.
"I'm very proud of that accomplishment because the children of Wilmington go to better facilities than they have at any time prior to this, and their education is better today than at any time prior to this," he added.