Local Editorials

Our view: School admins don't need 5-year contracts

It is financially irresponsible for school boards to award a five-year contract to anyone, especially their highest-paid administrator.

Two local school boards, first in Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47, and now Woodstock School District 200, have given deals to their superintendents that most people could only dream of: Annual salaries of nearly $200,000, with guaranteed raises and job security for a whopping five years.

That’s a great deal for District 47 Superintendent Kathy Hinz and District 200 Superintendent Mike Moan – top-tier Major League starting pitchers have trouble landing five-year contracts these days.

For taxpayers who have to foot the bill, it stinks, and we urge other school boards to stand firm and say no when their superintendents ask them for unreasonably long-term contracts.

Community High School District 155 gave Superintendent Steve Olson a four-year contract in January with
6 percent yearly increases as well.

For one, it’s irresponsible for school board members to award a contract longer than their own terms in office. The most recently elected school board members have only three years left on their terms, and some board members only have a year remaining.

People and circumstances change over time. Locking in a high-paid employee who could end up working with an entirely new board sets the stage for an expensive buyout. It’s not uncommon for school boards to commit to paying someone months or even a year’s worth of salary, plus health benefits, on the condition they leave and not return.

Having expensive administrators signed to five-year contracts also could be a poison pill blocking any attempts at school district consolidation.

A two-year or three-year contract should be enough of a commitment for anyone to run a school district. That’s still two to three more years than most people are guaranteed to keep their jobs. If the employees truly are top performers, then they shouldn’t have any qualms about negotiating a new deal with whoever is on the school board in two or three years.

School board members who approved these deals have claimed that a five-year contract is the standard for a good superintendent.

Lots of poor practices have been considered “standard” by school board members of the past. Pension-spiking salary increases for administrators used to be the standard, too – turns out that standard practice was terribly irresponsible.

So too is awarding lengthy contracts to the highest-paid public employees in the county.

Job security is a way to attract and retain talent, but too much job security sets up taxpayers to cover expensive buyouts and could lead people to stay in jobs longer than they should – just because they can.

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