Tying pay to student performance is a new hurdle for teachers and principals to jump through, thanks to evaluation changes put in place by the Illinois Assembly. But some think other school administrators should also be evaluated on performance, and paid accordingly.

The Proviso Township High School District 209 school board asked the administration to look into “merit pay” for administrators. A draft proposal was submitted to the board at the meeting, May 13. 

The district didn’t have to look far. Craig Schilling, retired school finance director and volunteer chair of the D209 Financial Oversight Panel has written several books on managing employees in schools. The district prepared a memo for the board using some of the ideas in Schilling’s Managing Human Resources and Collective Bargaining.  

When the subject was mentioned at the board’s May 13 meeting, board member Kevin McDermott cautioned that the initiative was not going to be helpful unless the evaluation process is “transparent.” 

Schilling agreed after the meeting, although the Financial Oversight Panel has not yet seen the proposal.

What is merit pay? Schilling said he preferred the term “performance pay.” 

“I think bonuses are bad,” Schilling said. “If you don’t perform, you don’t get a raise.” He gave an example that an administrator’s performance might be evaluated on how well students reached goals such as academic milestones and test scores. Another goal might be to meet benchmarks for attendance or a reduction in disciplinary actions by the school.

The secret, Schilling said, was to take time to develop an evaluation tool and make sure employees have incentives to work as a team. Ideally, the administrator would be evaluated both individually and in a group.

“You don’t want them competing against each other,” he said. 

But Schilling warned the tools for evaluation had to be thoughtful. For example, a human resources administrator goal might be to have worker compensation claims drop by 20 percent, freeing up money to be used for student achievement. 

“You have to have performance objectives you can measure,” Schilling said. “I can’t do something that’s a warm fuzzy.”

Furthermore, he said, those goals and evaluations should be available to the board and the FOP. 

“That’s fair. It has to be transparent. You can’t just have some global district goals and everybody’s going to work for those things.”  

 Schilling said teachers in D209 are on the low-end of the state pay scale. But administrators are well-paid, he said. 

“What the district pays is adequate to get good administrators,” said Schilling, who also consults for other school districts. 

The district’s draft proposal provides pay ranges for four categories of administrators. The best-paid “Class 1” group has a pay range of 132,965-$146,363. The group includes Asst. Superintendent Kim Waller-Echols, Finance Director Todd Drafall and Executive Director of Human Resources Brenda Horton. The proposal calls to bump their pay by 1.5 percent for a cost-of-living bonus. But Echols, who earns $159,161, plus a $23,000 insurance benefit, already makes more than the ceiling of the top pay range. 

The proposed pay range for principals would be $128,601-141,085. Currently Proviso Math and Science Academy Principal Bessie Karvelas earns a base of $140,101; TonyValente at Proviso East gets $144,592 and Oscar Hawthorne at Proviso West earns a base of $153,422. All three principals receive an insurance benefit around $23,000. 

Supt. Collins-Hart noted the implied pay cuts at the board meeting.

“These are numbers our administrators haven’t seen for quite some time,” she said. 

The district’s draft proposal calls for a pool of money to be established for merit pay raises. The pot of money would be built on an agreed-upon percentage of all employees’ salaries. If performance ratings were “excellent,” the employee would receive an agreed-upon percentage of his/her salary. Decisions on performance pay would be completed by June 1. Any money left over would be saved for “spot awards” later in the year. 

  Brenda Horton told the board that among 16 “comparable” school districts, only two had instituted a merit pay system.

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Twitter: @FP_Reivew

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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