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D181 Board Extends Schuster's Contract, But Not Unanimously

The District 181 Board of Education voted to approve a two-year extension of Superintendent Renée Schuster's contract, but two board members raised concerns and voted against it.

The District 181 Board of Education approved a two-year contract extension for Superintendent Renée Schuster, though not unanimously.

Board members voted 4-2 Monday night during a meeting at The Lane School in Hinsdale to approve the contract extension for Schuster, who has headed District 181 administration since 2009 and is currently leading a curriculum overhaul that has often been a topic of board discussion during the last year.

Schuster said improving student learning and fiscal responsibility will continue to be her goals going forward.

“I think we’ve made good progress and I want to keep that progress going,” she said.

Board President Michael Nelson voted in favor of the contract extension along with board members Sarah Lewensohn, Marty Turek and Glenn Yaeger. Brendan Heneghan and Yvonne Mayer voted against it.

Russell Rhoads was absent Monday night. (Though he did leave a comment below saying he would have voted to approve the contract.)

Nelson said there has been more good than bad during Schuster’s tenure.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” he said.

The board president said it was important to get the extension in place so that the administration and board can focus on the needs of the district’s students. Nelson also said he values stability at the administrative level, the lack of which can have a “profound negative impact” on the district’s services. 

Turek said he was pleased to extend Schuster’s contract.

“You’ve taken some bold and aggressive initiatives, I think, to move the district in a forward motion and put it in a better place,” Turek said. “They haven’t been perfect, but I’m confident they’re going the right way.”

Mayer said she was indeed making a vote of no confidence in Schuster. The board member said she’s heard a sufficient amount of concern from parents and teachers about the current curriculum transition year and would rather see the plan for next year before acting on a contract extension for the superintendent.

“I think this vote is premature,” Mayer said. “I think we have a lot of problems that we need to address as a board and for whatever reason we’re refusing to do it and we’re being stubborn about it. I cannot support this current administration for a two-year contract extension.”

Heneghan voted against the contract extension after a motion of his was rejected that would have reduced Schuster’s salary by the rate of the Medicare payroll tax, which Heneghan said the district pays on her behalf.

The total reduction proposed by Heneghan was 1.975 percent.

Only Mayer voted along with Heneghan on the failed motion. 

Assistant superintendent for business and operations Gary Frisch said in an email Wednesday that the district will not be paying Schuster's Medicare tax. 

"The district does not pay for the employee share for Dr. Schuster or any other administrator," an email from Frisch Tuesday reads. "Some employers pay the employee share of the Medicare tax on a few select employees as part of their benefit package, but not District 181."

Since the district bases its salary increases on the CPI of the previous year, Schuster would receive a 3 percent increase in 2013-14 based on the 2012 CPI. The extension also grants Schuster the 1.5 percent current-year increase that was planned for her, but which she has so far not received.

District 181 assistant superintendent for business and operations Gary Frisch said, after Monday night's action, that Schuster's 2012-13 salary will be $214,317, and here 2013-14 salary will be $220,747.

Schuster’s increase for the second year of the contract is not yet known and is at the discretion of the board, according to the wording of the contract, which was sent to Patch by District 181 communications director Bridget McGuiggan.

Monday’s vote came two weeks after Nelson and the board delayed action on Schuster's extension after they were set to vote at around 11 p.m. on Oct. 29, following a post-meeting executive session.

After Mayer and Heneghan raised issues with both the content and context of the contract vote, Nelson said that it didn’t feel right voting on the item at that time and place.

Editor's note: This article previously stated that District 181 pays the employee share of Schuster's Medicare payroll tax. Frisch said that is not the case, and qoutes from the assistant superintendent for business were added to reflect that statement.

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Russell Rhoads November 13, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Due to a work commitment I was unable to attend last night's meeting but I would like to say I do support the extension of Dr. Schuster's contract and would have voted with the majority. Russell Rhoads D181 Board Member
Joe O'Donnell November 13, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Thanks for the message, Russell. I'll add a little note above directing folks down to this comment.
Jim November 13, 2012 at 08:30 PM
When a Superintendent's contract is up for a renewal vote, it is imperative for every board member to be present. Rhoads has missed many meetings during his service on the BOE. How interesting he chooses to support a Superintendent who has been reckless in her leadership and fiscal responsibility in this district.
Russell Rhoads November 30, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Jim (or whatever your real name is) - I have missed 5 meetings in 4 years and it has always been due to my primary job required me to be on the road. I resent your comments that have no factual basis. Russell Rhoads

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