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On June14, the District 65 School Board, by a 5 to 2 vote, extended Superintendent Hardy Murphy’s employment contract by one year. The contract, which was scheduled to expire in four years on June 30, 2014, will now extend to June 30, 2015.

In casting his vote for the extension, School Board President Keith Terry said Dr. Murphy is taking the District in the right direction and that he did not have a pay increase last year or this year. Dr. Murphy’s salary last year was about $214,000, plus an annuity payment of about $32,000, a housing allowance of $25,000 and fully paid health insurance.

Fourteen persons spoke in opposition to the contract extension during the opening public comment section of the meeting and another four did so at the close of the meeting. About 70 persons attended the meeting and showed their opposition to the extension of the contract.

No speaker criticized Dr. Murphy’s performance. Many who opposed the extension were, in fact, complimentary about his performance. Many speakers said, though, the timing was bad, pointing to the economic climate and estimates that the District is laying off a total of about 60 employees, including teachers, administrative staff and custodians, due to budgetary pressures.

Others said the pattern of extending the contract to five years limited the Board’s opportunity to hold the superintendent accountable and limited the Board’s ability to govern and its flexibility in difficult economic times.

Jean Luft, president of the District Educators Council (the teachers union), noted the reductions in staff due to cuts in state funding and said, “This is not the time to extend multi-year contracts that are not about to expire. …My members ask you to vote no tonight and that you not extend contracts that are not about to expire.”

Board members Mr. Terry, Bonnie Lockhart, Andy Pigozzi, Jerome Summers, and Kim Weaver voted to extend the contract. Ms. Lockhart said, “Extending the contract is a vote of confidence…He’s earned it. He deserves it.”

Ms. Weaver said, “I feel that to extend the contract of someone doing a really good job and that is being paid less than his peers is fiscally responsible. I feel that Dr. Murphy is moving the District in the right direction…”

Mr. Summers listed many programs and initiatives implemented in Dr. Murphy’s tenure as superintendent. Andy Pigozzi said he thought it was financially responsible to extend the contract, saying it would cost more if the District had to hire a new superintendent.

Katie Bailey and Tracy Quattrocki opposed the extension. Ms. Quattrocki noted that the District had just laid off many teachers and administrative staff and was facing painful budget cuts. She said she felt a five-year contract was financially irresponsible and would limit the Board’s ability to govern.

Ms. Bailey said the educational financial system is broken and that the Board should use long-term contracts judiciously. She added that the extension gave the wrong message when other employees were being laid off.

On May 10, the District 202 School Board, by a 6-1 vote, took similar action by extending the contract of Superintendent Eric Witherspoon to 2015.

Multi-Year Contracts For Superintendents Must Be Linked

At the June 14 School Board meeting, several speakers noted that the Illinois School Code provides that a multi-year contract for a superintendent of schools must contain performance based criteria and that all of the criteria must be met before a contract may be extended or rolled over. They asked what the performance criteria under Superintendent Hardy Murphy’s contract were, and whether they were met.

At that meeting, School Board members did not list the performance-based criteria that were applicable to Dr. Murphy’s contract, nor state that all of the criteria were met. Last year, however, the Board set annual and multi-year goals for the District, and Dr. Murphy’s contract dated Aug. 5, 2009, provided that the District’s goals for the coming school year would be among the criteria by which he would be evaluated. Board members who voted to extend his contract said they were satisfied with his performance, without commenting on whether all of the goals were met.

The Illinois School Code provides that school boards may enter into a multi-year contract with a superintendent if it is performance-based. Sec. 10-23.8 states, “”Performance-based contracts shall be linked to student performance and academic achievement within the schools of the districts. No performance-based contract shall be extended or rolled-over prior to its scheduled expiration unless all the performance and improvement goals contained in the contract have been met. Each performance-based contract shall include the goals and indicators of student performance and academic improvement determined and used by the local school board to measure the performance and effectiveness of the superintendent and such other information as the local school board may determine.””

This provision, of course, is equally applicable to the contract of Dr. Eric Witherspoon, Superintendent of School District 202.