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U-46’s Sanders given new, extended contract

By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46 CEO Tony Sanders was given a 3 percent pay raise under a five-year contract approved by the Board of Education at its meeting on Monday, March 4.
  The board voted 6-1 for the contract. Board member Jeanette Ward, who attended the meeting via phone, voted no citing the contract’s length.
  The contract renewal comes despite over a year remaining on Sanders’ current contract which was set to end on June 30, 2020.
  This new pact runs through June 30, 2024 and gives an over $7,000 increase in base salary to $241,679. Donna Smith, the board’s president, said “any increase in base salary will be based on the performance indicators set forth.”
  Along with benefits like health insurance and pension contributions, Sanders will be reimbursed for any coursework taken to achieve his superintendent’s certification. Sanders, who was previously the chief of staff under former Superintendent Jose Torres, has worked for U-46 for 12 years and was promoted to CEO in 2014 despite not holding the necessary credentials to be superintendent required by the state.
  U-46 paid up to $70,000 a year for a part-time interim superintendent to sign documents as Sanders was not allowed to until state legislation, House Bill 4301, took effect in 2017 that granted special treatment to U-46 alone to hire a CEO without the necessary superintendent’s credentials.
  Ward, who agreed with her colleagues who called the goals in the new contract “robust,” said the length of this contract ties the hands of future boards. The upcoming April 2 elections will include four of seven U-46 board seats.
  “I was ok for the contract to go to 2022 which I believe is when the state law ends allowing us to have a CEO,” Ward said. “I just didn’t feel we should tie the hands of future boards all the way to 2024, though I do appreciate the discussions that we had. They were productive, and I do think Tony’s doing a good job.”
  Under HB4301, U-46 was allowed to hire a CEO “for a period of 5 years” but could be reappointed “after the 5-year period if the chief executive officer has made substantial progress towards a standard or alternative administrative license.”
  If Sanders does not receive his superintendent’s certification soon, U-46 could lose it’s state exemption as HB4301 requires an enrollment of at least 35,000 students. U-46, which has lost nearly 2,000 students since 2014, projects enrollment to decline to 35,345 by the 2021-2022 school year.
  Smith called the goals of the contract “lofty” and “robust,” and board member Sue Kerr said “the entire board worked very hard on these goals and had a lot of discussions” and called the agreement “a challenging but a good contract for the district.”
  Board member John Devereux said Sanders has “done a, we believe, a good job which we certainly appreciate. I believe that’s a very widely held opinion across the district.”
  “What this board really wanted to do in those goals was to provide enough concrete measures, and that was an operative word measures, so that he would find the next steps as opposed to saying you know ‘working really hard or some nebulous comments like that,’” said board member Phil Costello who said it does give future boards “latitude” to develop steps toward progress.
  “We’re fortunate enough to have a school district with a lot of great administrators, but we need progress and we know that there’s a lot of room to grow,” Costello added. “And I think that’s what this set of goals accomplishes.”
  The agreement includes 13 goals, three of which are priority including “implement a plan to increase proficiency and measurable growth” for kindergarten through sixth grade students in math, to present a “plan to measure and increase number of teachers and students feeling safe in school” and to review and make recommendations regarding facility utilization and board vision (boundary changes/facility utilization; closing and/or replacing oldest facilities; additional school choice opportunities; transitioning to middle school model of sixth through eighth grade; other necessary steps to support board’s vision).
  The goals include year-to-year targets for identifying and implementing plans and reporting results, but no goals are set with regards to achieving any target results.
  The remaining goals include continuous school improvement, educational pathways, curriculum enhancements, early childhood, multi-tier systems of support, professional development, best practice sharing, board vision communication, investment plan for the so-called “evidence-based” funding formula from the state and developing an equity plan.
  The contract approval came on the same night the board unanimously approved the honorable dismissal of 49 teachers which Ann Chan, assistant superintendent for human resources, said includes “part time positions, one semester, one year only and temporary instructional staff.”
  Kerr asked if the 49 teachers knew they were going to be dismissed which Chan said “in the offer letter it stated that these positions are for the remainder of the school year.”




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