Plainfield School District 202 Supt. John Harper and school board members on Monday expressed their appreciation and admiration for the work of administrators and non-union, non-certified support staff, two weeks after the board rejected giving them a 2.5 percent raise retroactive to the 2012-13 school year.
The discussion came after a resident expressed her disappointment that the raises were denied.
Resident Jane Ellingsworth, who said she was not related to the staff members, said these workers are vital to the school district and are often first to arrive to work, last to leave and continue working from home.
Board members agreed with her, saying that the staff members are worthy of raises, but they had to make a tough decision.
“Everybody contributes to the overall success of our kids,” board member Rod Westfall said. “Unfortunately, state finances are catastrophic. … It’s dismal at best.”
On Feb. 11, board president Roger Bonuchi, vice president Michelle Smith and board members Kevin Kirberg, Greg Nichols and Rod Westfall all voted against raises for administrators and non-union, non-certified support staff.
Board member Michael Kelly voted in favor of raises for both administrators and non-union, non-certified support staff.
Board Secretary Eric Gallt abstained from voting on raises for administrators but voted in favor of raises for non-union, non-certified support staff.
The raises, which were included in the budget, would have cost about $315,000 and would have affected about 160 staff members including assistant superintendents, directors, principals, assistant principals and support staff members who are not covered under the Plainfield Association of Support Staff (PASS) union contract.
Harper, who is under contract, would not have been affected by the raises.
At the time, board members cited uncertainty in state and federal funding, as well as an operating fund deficit when denying the raises. Also, general state aid may decrease next year costing the district millions of dollars, and the district is likely to have to pay back $1 million in taxes now that Edward Hospital received a tax-exempt charitable status.
Westfall said the decision to deny raises was “gut-wrenching.”
Harper said the district needs to remain competitive with its neighboring districts and prides itself on staff development and training. Staff members who leave the district means losing out on the district’s investment, he said.
It’s “a race we can’t afford to lose,” Harper said.
Harper added the average assistant superintendent in District 202 makes about $136,000, which is less than neighboring districts.
Bonuchi said the board may visit the administrators’ raises in June for the upcoming 2013-14 school year, but it is not definite.
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