The Highland School Board will reconsider pay hikes it awarded last month to 14 district administrators after a board member raised concerns over legality of the action.
After meeting in closed session on July 27, the School Board reconvened in open session, and on a 6-0 vote, approved the raises.
However, the agenda for the July 27 meeting made no mention of administrator pay, only that the board would be evaluating Superintendent Mike Sutton’s performance in executive session.
Having been on vacation, board member Robert Miller was absent from the meeting. When he learned of how the vote took place, he started raising questions.
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“Couldn’t the board have waited until the next board meeting or had this discussion in the earlier open meeting that night?” Miller said.
The omission of the raises from the agenda also violated the Illinois Opening Meetings Act, said Miller, who was voted onto the board in April.
Sutton said on Monday he raised Miller’s concerns with the school’s attorney.
“They thought the agen
da was legal, but we could improve transparency by placing more information on the agenda,” Sutton said, adding it is common to act on administrative raises in the summer months.
Despite the legal opinion, Sutton said he sent an email to School Board members informing them that the raises will appear as an item on the board’s Aug. 24 agenda for reconsideration.
“The (July) agenda was the same as in the past, but we want to maximize transparency, so we plan to answer any questions by re-acting on the administrator pay increases in August with additional information located on the agenda,” Sutton said.
Staci Brown, co-president of the Highland Education Association, the teachers union, said the union also had questions about the administrative salary approval not being listed on the agenda.
“Our hope is this revisit is Mr. Sutton’s and the board’s attempt to be transparent to the community,” she said.
Having already been approved once, Miller said believes the raises being OKed again is a foregone conclusion.
“It will only take four board members to approve the measure on Aug. 24,” he said.
What the board approved in July, and will now be reconsidered are 1.8 percent pay increases this school year for:
▪ Assistant Superintendent Derek Hacke;
▪ District Business Manager Tim Bair;
▪ Jeff Williams, director of building and grounds;
▪ Matt Fredericksen, chief technology officer;
▪ Pam Tyler, director of special services;
▪ Cindy Tolbert, principal of Alhambra Primary and Grantfork Elementary schools;
▪ Lori Misick and Susie Brauns, the principal and assistant principal, respectively, at Highland Elementary School;
▪ Chris Becker, associate principal at Highland High School;
▪ Erick Baer and Vince Hughes, the principal and vice principal, respectively, at Highland Middle School; and
▪ Julie Korte and Anne Hickey, the principal and assistant principal, respectively, at Highland Primary School.
HHS Principal Karen Gauen, who earlier announced she will be retiring after the 2017-18 school year, was awarded a 6 percent pay increase. Her raise is higher, because she is in the pre-retirement years that provide for her to receive such an increase in each of the last three years of her contract, according to Sutton.
Sutton said he will forgo a pay raise this year. During last fall’s contentious six-day teachers strike, the first ever teachers strike in the district, Sutton had agreed to take a 2 percent pay increase or the same pay raise teachers received in their latest contract settlement, whichever was less.
However, Sutton later agreed to not take any pay raise as long as the district was in deficit spending. He said it was a “personal decision.”
In addition to the salary increases, the School Board is also expected to continue paying for each administrator’s retirement plan in their entirety, and the district also plans to continue paying each administrator’s Teacher Health Insurance Fund (THIS) contribution.
In their latest contract settlement, the teachers agreed to pay their own THIS. The teachers also have 9.4 percent automatically deducted from their salary to pay for their retirement.