District 227 extends Leak’s contract
By Sarah Zylstra Correspondent June 20, 2012 11:34AM
Updated: July 23, 2012 7:12AM
The contract of Rich Township High School District 227 Supt. Donna Leak was extended for five years by the school board Tuesday, even though the existing contract didn’t expire until next year.
The district will pay her $200,000 salary and provide her with medical and retirement benefits. The district also covers her Medicare and FICA taxes, pays her $500 a month for a vehicle allowance and gives her 25 vacation days and 12 sick days a year.
The board also ended a policy that requires administrators to reside in the district. Leak lives outside of the district.
Board members Cheryl Coleman and David Morgan voted against the contract extension, calling the move premature. Leak was appointed superintendent two years ago.
“I don’t see the rush to extend it another five,” Coleman said.
The third year of the contract is crucial, Coleman said. The freshmen who started in the district when Leak did will be juniors this year and will take their state tests, which will give the board a good indicator of Leak’s effectiveness, she said.
“She’s a wonderful person, but I’m looking at the indicators and the data,” Coleman said. Attendance and test scores are both down slightly, she said.
Board president Betty Owens said decisions about contract extensions are customary at the beginning of a superintendent’s last year of a contract, and those extensions serve as votes of confidence.
“We aren’t suggesting things are perfect, that she met her goals 100 percent,” Owens said. But there is nothing in the Illinois School Code that says a superintendent must be fired if the performance goals aren’t met, and Leak scored better than 90 percent on her evaluation, she said.
“We feel the district is moving in the right direction,” Owens said.
Coleman said she also is concerned about the generosity of Leak’s contract. While Leak has not asked for a raise in two years, she should be asked to give back some of her benefits — maybe paying for part of her own retirement account, or giving back the car allowance, Coleman said.
“Parents and children have sacrificed,” Coleman said, referencing the district’s recent elimination of a class period and layoff of 48 full-time teachers, 33 instructional aides and 6 administrative staff.
“Students have given up credits to go to college and have given up an elective. That’s quite a bit of sacrifice for the community. I’d like to see some sacrifice in the contract, and I have not seen that,” Coleman said.
Several parents spoke to the board about Leak’s contract.
“We need to have results,” Komaa Mnyofu said. “Are we going to say that only 27 percent of students making AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress on state testing standards) represents success? If so, we need to make a change to our motto, saying failure isn’t an option except in the superintendent’s office.”
Cheryl Mallard disagreed.
“We’re all concerned about test scores of our students, and we should be,” she said. “I, for one, do not believe it all falls squarely on the shoulders of our superintendant.”
Parents also bear responsibility, she said, and Leak has involved more parents in the schools in the past two years, she said.
“If we back up and give her the space to do the job she was hired to do, we’ll see this district soar,” Mallard said.
Leak’s hiring in 2010 followed an eight-month fight that at times was bitter.
Leak, who was the district’s assistant superintendent for student learning and accountability, replaced retiring Supt. Howard Hunigan. She came to the district in 2005 as an associate principal. One year later, she was promoted to executive director of teaching and learning and in 2009 was named assistant superintendent.