The Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education rejected a proposal to freeze administrator salaries next year, instead voting 5 to 2 at its April meeting to give most administrators 3-percent raises. 

Two administrators, Blythe Park School Principal Casimira Gorman and Ames School Principal Todd Gierman, will be getting raises greater than 3 percent because they’re taking on additional duties.

At the school board’s April 15 meeting, board finance committee chairman Jeff Miller proposed freezing the salaries of administrators, citing the sudden and steep downturn in the economy as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, saying that tough times are ahead.

Miller said the raises were fair and reasonable when the board informally agreed to them in March before the pandemic hit Illinois in full force. 

“But the changes have come so fast in the last month the world is no longer in the same place,” Miller said during the meeting, which was conducted via Zoom videoconference. “I think we should put a hold on these raises for now, freeze salaries for administrators for one year, and then next year we can evaluate where we are at in terms of the economy. And then, if things are good, we can give larger raises, retroactively, and go from there.”

Shari Klyber also voted to reject the pay raises, saying she would like to revisit the issue later when economic conditions are clearer, perhaps at the start of the 2020-21 school year in August.

“I just think in this current temporary situation I’d like to revisit them later when we can really figure out what the impact is and be sensitive to our community,” Klyber said.

But the rest of the school board voted to forge ahead with the raises while acknowledging they might have to have a wage freeze next year.

“I’m comfortable moving forward this year as we decided,” said board member Lynda Murphy. “Obviously next year will be a whole different ballgame.”

Board member David Barsotti noted that the district is in a strong financial position and that the contracts are all for only one year.

“While I agree that this is a very uncertain time and things are changing and everybody’s pointing toward a severe economic outlook, it’s still an unknown,” Barsotti said. “But I do think next year we’ll be having very serious discussions about salary freezes.” 

Board President Dan Hunt said that he didn’t know of other school districts forgoing raises for administrators.

“I just don’t think it would be the best move for the district given what we’re facing right now and the job the administrative team has done to date,” Hunt said. “I think we definitely need to reward that and be supportive of that. “What happens next year will be a different time, and we’ll have better information to evaluate when we get there.”

Gorman, who will take on additional duties as the district’s early learning coordinator as well as continuing as the principal at Blythe Park School, will get an 8-percent raise, upping her annual salary to $116,067.

Gierman is getting a 4-percent raise as he will have a larger building to oversee next year when the expansion to Ames School is completed. Gierman’s salary next year will be $127,141.

Director of Teaching and Learning Angela Dolezal, Director of Finance and Operations Jim Fitton, Special Education Director Pam Shaw, Director of Technology Don Tufano, Hauser Principal April Mahy, Central School Principal Pete Gatz and Hollywood School Principal Kim Heffner will all get 3-percent raises.

Dolezal will make $139,050 next year. Shaw will earn $143,802, Fitton $143,222, Tufano $138,558, Mahy $119,216, Gatz $121,296, and Heffner $116,048.

The school board has not yet determined what kind of pay raise Superintendent Martha-Ryan Toye will receive next year as she enters the final year of her current three-year contract. 

Ryan-Toye’s current salary is $193,640. The board is delivered its performance review to Ryan-Toye on April 22. Her raise, if any, will be determined in the upcoming months.