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Split U-46 Board vote grants raise to Arndt

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 voted 5-2 to give a 7.7 percent pay raise to Kenneth Arndt, the district’s part-time interim superintendent, at its meeting on Monday, June 20.
  Arndt has been with U-46 since the 2014-15 school year when then Superintendent Jose Torres left the district. The board promoted Torres’ chief of staff Tony Sanders to CEO to handle the day-to-day operations, but because Sanders does not hold the required certification by the state, the district hired Arndt to sign documents that need a certified superintendent’s signature.
  “We have asked Dr. Arndt if he would like to continue with us for another year,” said Donna Smith, the board’s president. “He has done a great job. Him and Tony have made a great team in running this district and leading this district forward rather than with interims where you usually just see things stay the same.”
  Arndt will receive $700, up from $650, a day for no more than 100 days meaning he’ll make $70,000 to sign documents and assist Sanders for 100 days of work which comes in addition to his pension that he has been receiving since retiring as superintendent of neighboring CUSD 300 in 2011. According to bettergov.org, Arndt receives $136,433 a year from the Teachers Retirement System.
  Smith did not acknowledge the increase in pay for Arndt but Jeanette Ward did as she and Cody Holt voted against the contract renewal because of the message it sends.
  “I have to say this is a really tough call for me because of the raise and because of the signal that it sends to others in the district, I’m really on the fence upon how to vote on this one,” said Ward who added “it pains me” to vote against the contract because as she later said she’s “very happy with the job he’s done.”
  Holt said “I believe you provide a good value to the district” but is concerned with the state’s budget battle. That same evening, the administration presented U-46’s Fiscal Year 2017 tentative budget which is in deficit with $509 million in revenues and $513.2 million in expenditures.
  “I cannot in good conscience right now vote for a raise,” Holt said. “I would love to give it to Dr. Arndt, I think he’s worth it, but my main concern lies with the situation in Springfield.”
  After talking with state lawmakers, Holt said he was concerned that the district may face needing to make cuts as no education budget has been passed by the state.
  Board members Veronica Noland and Traci Ellis called the contract renewal “justified” and that the raise is small.
  “We feel lucky to have him here, and the idea of trying to find another interim at the moment doesn’t interest me,” Noland said. “We would pay a lot more. I think the ticket price here is much lower than what other interim superintendents are charging in other areas.”
  What should be noted is that most interim superintendents are not part-time, and although in attendance Arndt did not submit to questions from the board at the meeting nor did Noland ask him if he’d leave the district if he didn’t get the raise.
  “I will just make the comment that the raise for Dr. Arndt is $5,000 a year. On a $570, $580 million budget, that’s not even a rounding error,” said Ellis who added she’s “happy to vote yes for this rounding error of a raise.”
  Board member Phil Costello voted for the renewal but said “I think that any budgeting item is very important, and it sends the message to the rest of the budget as far as considering making cuts that we are looking at.”
  Costello added: “I understand that it’s less than a decimal point, but the fact is we have to look at everything that we do. Why I’m voting for this is because I think the team that we would have in place with Mr. Sanders and Dr. Arndt is a very cost effective solution to what we need, and this goes well beyond the value that both of them provide to us.”
  After the vote, Smith said the board is considering updating the contract for Sanders which still has two more years. The district has not sought a superintendent replacement for Torres as it waits on a carve-out from the state to hire a CEO that wouldn’t need the superintendent certification.
  House Bill 4301, which would give U-46 special treatment, was introduced last September and has yet to see a vote. The last action taken on that bill was in April.



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