$191,214 Salary for a High School Teacher? Our Analysis of Highest-Paid Teachers and Gender Equity

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 3, 2011 | Go to article overview

$191,214 Salary for a High School Teacher? Our Analysis of Highest-Paid Teachers and Gender Equity


Byline: Larissa Chinwah lchinwah@dailyherald.com

The two highest-paid public school teachers in the suburbs made about $190,000 in the 2009-10 school year, the final year before they retired.

That's $190,000 each.

The top-paid teacher was a physical education teacher with 28 years as a high school football coach, while the runner-up was a high school English teacher who also led his school's theater program.

The Daily Herald analyzed the salaries of 14,217 teachers in 89 districts it covers in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties. Salary information for full-time teachers who worked a traditional nine- or 10-month school year was taken from the Illinois State Board of Education.

The 2009-10 data, the most recent available from the state board, includes extra-duty pay for coaching and clubs, vacation and sick-day buyouts and bonuses. It does not include the cost of employer-paid health insurance.

The average salary for the 150 highest paid teachers was $141,327. The average salary of the 14,217 teachers the Daily Herald analyzed was less than half that at $68,377.

The $100,000 club

More than 10 percent of teachers in the 89-district sample made more than $100,000 in the 2009-10 school year even as districts struggled to balance budgets, according to the analysis, which also found that men were more likely than women to make six figures.

Former Stevenson High School football coach William Mitz finished his 28-year career with a number of accolades, including state runner-up, 197 wins and 21 straight playoff appearances dating to 1999.

But one statistic Mitz isn't talking about: He was the highest-paid schoolteacher among the 89 districts in the 2009-10 school year, making $191,214. Mitz did not return five phone calls seeking comment on this story.

Mitz retired as a teacher after the 2009-10 school year, and he returned to the field last year as head football coach at Jacobs High School in Algonquin.

When he retired as a physical education teacher at Stevenson in Lincolnshire in 2010, his base salary was $116,766.18. He made $28,425 for extra duty pay for coaching football, wrestling and track. Add to that $43,802 in severance pay for post-retirement health care.

At Stevenson, Mitz was among more than a dozen teachers who announced their retirement in spring 2006, just before the district and state made changes to early retirement options.

"We will never again see these types of retirement programs (because) incentives for retirees have been significantly reduced, as have benefits for new hires," said Mark Michelini, assistant superintendent for business at Stevenson. "It is a thing of the past."

The state made changes to the retirement system that now limit increases to 6 percent per year for a teacher's final four years. When Mitz and others in the top 10 announced their retirement, that bump allowed 20 percent for the final two years.

Michelini said Mitz's position was not filled; his coaching duties have been assumed by other faculty members, and the stipends he made will be recouped through lower faculty numbers.

"He was kind of an anomaly," Michelini said. "He was a very successful coach of three sports. Nobody coaches three sports anymore, just like you don't see three-sport lettermen anymore."

While Mitz took home the highest total salary in the 2009-10 school year, James Liesz, an English and drama teacher who retired from East Leyden High School in Franklin Park at the same time, made a base salary of $122,470.80. His total salary, which does not include post-retirement health care benefits, was $189,218. He made $48,030.67 in stipends. And, Liesz says, he worked hard for that money during his 34-year career.

"I lived at school," said Liesz, who said he would turn on the coffee pot and start his day before anyone else arrived at the school. …

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