Super's Pay Far Outpaces Peers Analysis: U-46 Compensation Exceeds Similar Districts
Krone, Emily, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Emily Krone Daily Herald Staff Writer
Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent Connie Neale this year will be paid at least $100,000 more than any superintendent in the country directing a district of similar size and wealth.
The Daily Herald analyzed the annual salary, benefits and bonuses of superintendents in school districts that have enrollments within 5,000 students of U-46 and median family incomes within $5,000 of U-46. Nine districts in the nation fit that description.
According to U.S. Census data, U-46 enrolls 38,936 students and has a median family income of $68,037, placing the district squarely in the middle of the sample group on both measures.
But Neale's contract isn't middle of the pack.
She makes 43 percent more than the group's next highest paid superintendent, Don Stockton from Conroe, Texas.
The salary and extra payment totals for the other nine districts ranged from a high of $230,000 to a low of $160,479.
Neale's current package weighs in at $329,667.
A current proposal would inflate that package to $391,403 to lead Illinois' second largest school district.
The disparity stunned some educators and legislators.
"This is about money and contracts and selfishness," said state Sen. Chris Lauzen of Aurora. "What this does to damage the reputation of public education is just disgraceful."
If U-46 board members formally approve the $20,000 raise and 10 percent tax-free bonus they agreed to during Neale's annual review last month, Neale will make about $161,403, or 70 percent more, than Stockton.
Neale would collect nearly 2 1/2 times the compensation of the group's lowest-paid superintendent, Bradley Barrett of Gilbert, Ariz.
Neale refuses to further discuss her contract, though she had defended it by saying it simply is a reflection of the market.
Critics say the Daily Herald's findings refute that assertion.
"As you begin to examine what other school districts are putting in the compensation packages, it just doesn't match up locally or, apparently, nationally," Elgin Teachers Association President Tim Davis said.
Neale's contract has been scrutinized since board member Dan Rich resigned last month, saying he could not support the board's decision to sweeten Neale's contract.
Taxpayers, teachers and legislators all expressed outrage as more and more details of Neale's compensation and benefit package came to light.
The remaining six school board members publicly have stood by Neale's contract, citing the competitive market for superintendents as justification for a pay package that teachers and residents have deemed overly generous.
"I am convinced that she is a very marketable employee," school board President Ken Kaczynski said the day after Rich resigned and made public the board's closed-door debate over Neale's contract.
"I believe we have a responsibility to the kids to make sure her compensation is competitive," Kaczynski said.
But competitive with whom?
School board members emphasized that as superintendent of the second-largest school district in Illinois, Neale has few in-state peers.
The district's law firm advised school board members that Neale's pay likely ranked among the three top administrators in Illinois - even without the proposed raise and bonus worth about $60,000.
"I understand community-wise, it raises an eyebrow because there's no one here to compare her to," said longtime board member Karen Carney, who sat on the board that hired Neale in 2002 from a 15,000-student district in Texas.
"Our board members have been exposed to national board members outside of Illinois," Carney said shortly after Rich's resignation. "We're well aware that there are other superintendents out there that are getting more. …