With a master’s degree and four years of classroom experience, a teacher in District 209 can expect to take a home a salary of $48,200, according to an agreement with the teachers union.

TaQuoya Kennedy, a public relations consultant with a similar track record, will likely do much better.

Kennedy is in the midst of negotiating a contract with the district, but is already pulling a salary of $60,000 while the details of her agreement are worked out. That paycheck works out to $166 per day, which is smaller than the $266 a day she took home in July when administrators began negotiations with her.

Kennedy was first brought into the fold as a subcontractor for an IT company that reached a one-year deal with the district in October 2007. That company, uxCast, was hired to provide Web site and Internet software services in addition to handling public relations. According to Kennedy, she was hired on a freelance basis by uxCast to fulfill the public relations arm of the contract.

But in June 2008 the board cancelled the Web services and opted to renegotiate with Kennedy. No terms have been agreed upon, but in the meantime, Kennedy is making $5,000 a month in accordance with a pay scale approved by the board in August.

“I think that’s pretty standard,” Kennedy said of her earnings.

The temporary salary represents a cut from the $8,000 paycheck she received in July.

The bulk of Kennedy’s experience in public relations work comes from a four-year stint in the Air Force, she said. She graduated in December from Columbia College of Chicago with a master’s in public affairs. Prior to working for the high schools, Kennedy said she typically charged $75 an hour as a contractor for various clients.

According to her Myspace profile, myspace.com/urchocolatdream, Kennedy is 26 years old.

“I’d rather not put my client base out there,” Kennedy said, declining to name which companies or organizations she has worked with.

To take home Kennedy’s current salary of $5,000 a month, or $60,000 a year, a teacher with a master’s degree would have to work 15 years in the district.

Collecting the $8,000 paycheck Kennedy cashed in July would be impossible, according to the union’s salary schedule. With a master’s degree and 26 years in the district, a teacher can earn $88,200 a year, which falls short of the $96,000 salary Kennedy was on track to receive before her pay was adjusted.

The district’s public relations contracts have long been a source of contention, as much for their size as their necessity. In 2005 the district paid nearly $150,000 to Danielle Ashley, a Chicago agency that contributed services and cash to the school board president’s election campaigns. At the same time Danielle Ashley was on the payroll, District 209 was paying a full-time staff person more than $60,000 a year to handle public relations work.

The Proviso Township district includes campuses in Maywood, Hillside and on Roosevelt Road in Forest Park. Between the three schools there are approximately 5,000 students.

Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart did not respond to requests for an interview, but at a recent board meeting described a crucial role for Kennedy in the district. Collins-Hart told the Forest Park Review that anything she might say to the media would first go through Kennedy and that she would not speak directly with reporters.

Board President Chris Welch did not respond to attempts to reach him.

According to Kennedy, she is required to spend a minimum of 30 hours each week working on District 209 projects. In addition to writing press releases and taking photos of school events, Kennedy said she expects to do more work with the district’s Web sites.

“We try to reach everyone in the Proviso community; parents, students, teachers, staff,” Kennedy said. “We’re trying to improve communications in the community and celebrate the good things in the district.”