Prior to a new set of school board members being sworn into office in late April, the former majority of the Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 Board of Education provided Superintendent Carol Baker with a two-year contract extension and an escape hatch should she decide she wants out before her deal expires.

While Baker has said she has no plans to leave the district now that a new majority is in control, her deal now allows her to leave voluntarily without having to reimburse the school district up to $15,000 to search for her replacement.

Baker’s original contract included a clause requiring her to pay up to $15,000 to help for a superintendent search if she chose to leave before the end of the deal.

But, in case she wants to stay on through the entire term of the deal, there’s an additional incentive for her to do so.

The amendment also generously provides for Baker to receive post-retirement family medical and dental insurance – with no contributions required by Baker – if she is still employed by the school district on June 30, 2021 and retires from the school district.

Better yet for Baker, the school district will provide that insurance coverage at no cost to her until she turns 65 years old, unless she takes a job that offers employer-paid medical and dental benefits.

According to school district records, for the 2016-17 school year, District 103 contributes $21,035 for Baker’s health insurance premiums. In 2021, Baker will be 54 or 55 years old, based on a Chicago Tribune profile of Baker in 2013, when she ran as a school board candidate in Consolidated District 230, which listed her as 46 years old.

 If Baker qualifies for that post-retirement benefit, the district could expect to pay about $200,000 before she turns 65.

The post-retirement health insurance benefit appears to be unprecedented for an outgoing superintendent in District 103. 

In addition, the amendment increased from 30 to 50 the number of vacation days Baker is allowed to accrue and for which she is to be paid at her per diem rate at the time she leaves the district. 

Her per diem rate for the 2016-17 school year is $553.44 and will be about $586 in 2017-18. At the latter rate, Baker would receive about $29,000 as a severance payment if she’s banked 50 vacation days when she leaves the district. Baker gets 20 vacation days per year, per her contract.

The District 103 school board on April 13 voted to amend Baker’s contract and approved new one-year contracts for all other administrators of the district, including a couple of employees who never had contracts previously.

The action provided a one-year safeguard for administrators hired after the 2015 takeover of the board by a slate of people whose campaign was funded by Lyons Village President Christopher Getty. In addition to extending administrator contracts through the 2017-18 school year, most also got 3-percent pay raises.

But the school board provided bigger raises to two administrators in particular, Baker and her administrative assistant, Charline Latronica. The Landmark obtained copies of all of the new administrative contracts on May 16 in response to a Freedom of Information request sent by the newspaper in mid-April.

According to the contract amendment passed by the school board, Baker received a pay raise of 5.8 percent to $153,500 for the 2017-18 school year. The amendment also extended her contract by two years, instead of the one-year extensions given to all other administrators. Baker’s contract now expires on June 30, 2021.

Baker’s original contract, inked a year ago, expired at the end of the 2018-19 school year and paid her $145,000. That contract called for automatic raises each year of 3.25 percent, but allowed for greater increases if the board determined Baker met performance goals related to student performance, fiscal management and communication with district staff and the community.

According to the amendment passed on April 13, Baker had “met” or made “substantial progress” on those performance goals.

In addition to striking the provision calling for Baker to pay for a search to find her replacement if she leaves early, the contract amendment approved in April increases the number of paid sick days from 12 to 13 per year.

A final amendment to Baker’s contract gives her “final say” over who is selected to fill the position of assistant to the superintendent, a job held by Latronica.

On April 13, the school board approved a one-year contract for Latronica – something no other district administrative assistant has ever received – which included a pay raise for the 2017-18 school year of 6.5 percent. She will be paid $65,775 next school year.

Unlike other administrators in the district, the school board must give notice of non-renewal by Feb. 1 or the contract will be renewed automatically for one year. Other administrators must be notified by April 1.

D103 board to revisit contract renewals

The Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 board will hold a special meeting on May 31 to review the administrator contracts that were approved by a 5 to 2 vote of a lame-duck school board on April 13.

 

The most significant action taken at the April 13 meeting, which was held nine days after two incumbents were defeated in the school board election, was extending Superintendent Carol Baker's contract for two additional years. 

 

School board President Marge Hubacek said she called the meeting because some have questioned the way the contracts were voted upon. Before the vote there was no public discussion of the terms of the contracts.

 

The Landmark has filed a request for review with the Illinois Attorney General's Office to determine whether the school board followed the requirements of the Open Meetings Act in approving the new contracts.

 

Sharon Anderson, who voted against the new administrator contracts at the April 13 meeting, said that the district's new law firm, Robbins Schwartz, will examine the contracts and advise the school board of its options.

 

"We'll see what we're advised by our new law firm and take it from there," Anderson said.

Bob Skolnik

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