When I recently read a short piece in a local weekly newspaper about the Director of Communications for Lake Forest School Districts 115 (High School) and 67 (K-8), I became curious about the dispute and the descent by three of the seven votes. I was also struck by the representation from a Board Member that the contract went from a 10-month to a 12-month agreement. And finally, the expression of the “invaluable” qualities of the Director and the “hard work in creating and launching the new web site,” captured my attention.
First a question, does “invaluable” imply irreplaceable, of just a statement that the person in that position carries a high value to the District? Then, there is the matter of hard work with respect to the web site; are we talking unusually long hours or heavy lifting? In reality, no one person is irreplaceable and hard work is rather expected in these days of “do what is needed to get the job done.” To be sure a good job done is appreciated, but in today’s culture, expected. Furthermore, sound compensation policy is, or should be based on the content of the job and the skill set of the person in the position, not hard work or irreplaceability. These qualities are, or should be required to keep the job. Finally, the move from a 10-month contract to a 12-month agreement sounded odd after all these years in the position. What changed?
Consider the following:
- The average annual compensation for the incumbent was $193,500 for the past 10 years (2007-2016) with the last two years being $210K and $201K respectively. PR is important, but more important than, say a math or science teacher with a masters or Doctorate who are not so richly rewarded?
- The compensation has been paid monthly in 12 installments, each year since 2007. How does an administration function receive compensation each month with a 10-month contract, especially when the District’s Administration staff is on 12- month contracts and duty? Did the compensation increase by 20% as a reflection of 20% more time on the job?
- Web site development is no longer Neurosurgery, rather it is a skill possessed by many, including the children and grandchildren of residents in the area. It may take a few more hours of effort and code writing, but heavy lifting, for those who are trained, not so hard. Nor is it a $200K slot.
- Why was the Board so split on the compensation change? Perhaps some members of the BOE are just a bit exhausted by the lionizing and generous compensation of a PR function in the districts when the primary role is education.
The incumbent Director of Communications has been with the Districts for many years and a skill level and a work ethic are no doubt there, but this is an expensive PR shop at a time when austerity is in order. Three BOE members showed restraint but were over ridden by an Administration and four other BOE members who value the role of a single person in the Administration over the tax payer’s interests.
Consider the generous PR package as a symptom of a never ending inflation of the costs of running these two districts and attention to all things not relevant to teaching and education. What should be of greater concern is what we don’t know? How many more inflated, non-teaching slots are there in Districts 115 & 67, such as the new position of Education Services that was a surprise even to BOE President and one other Board member who said they were “blind-sided” by this new hire?
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