It's the dream of every working stiff to be making more than the boss.
For Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 Assistant Superintendent Mohsin Dada, it's a reality -- thanks to a 22 percent pay raise he received not once, not twice, but three times during the course of his current seven-year contract.
How Mohsin Dada got to $ 341,747District 54 Assistant Superintendent Mohsin Dada
2010 salary: $ 341,747
2005 salary: $ 177,111
* 22 percent in 2007
* 22 percent in 2008
* 22 percent in 2009
Makes $ 60,000-plus more than his boss.
Third highest paid public school employee in Illinois.
In 2010, Dada's salary was $341,747, according to the Family Taxpayers Foundation, a school financing reform advocacy group based in Carpentersville. That salary was roughly $60,000 more than District 54 Superintendent Edward Rafferty and remains similarly disparate this year as well, district officials said.
"It's not a sign of who we like better," said school board member Bill Harper, one of four current board members also in office when Dada's contract was approved. "It was the final years of Mohsin's contract and that's what a lot of districts were doing at the time. Do I feel bad about it? No. He is an excellent administrator. The guy's a genius. Is he highly paid? Yes. Is he worth it? Yes. Do I regret it? No. He's probably saved us more than we paid him. If he worked on commission he'd be a millionaire."
Dada, who did not return phone calls seeking comment, is considered by the board to be the district's chief financial officer and is retiring at the end of this year. He received those big raises in 2007, 2008 and 2009, which allowed him to nearly double his 2005 salary of $177,111 within six years.
Dada's 2010 salary also made him the third highest paid public school employee in the state.
How did this happen? Dada's timing was impeccable. When Dada negotiated his last contract, state laws limiting annual pay increases weren't in place like they are now. Nowadays, school boards that award raises above 6 percent in the last years of an educator's career have to reimburse taxpayers for the extra future expense of paying the inflated pension.
Rafferty, meanwhile, requested his own salary be frozen at the 2009 level for the past two years at a little more than $280,000. Had he taken raises, though, he'd still be making less than Dada.
Rafferty has spent his entire professional career at the district, starting as a teacher 34 years ago. He's been a district administrator for 25 years and is in his seventh year as its superintendent. Dada, meanwhile, has two years less professional education experience and has been with the district since the mid-1990s.
Board members believe they got a bargain in Dada.
"The reality is District 54 would not have had a balanced budget for the last 15 years without someone like Mohsin," said board Secretary Karen Strykowski, who also noted she wasn't on the board at the time Dada's contract was negotiated. "This is the largest elementary school district in Illinois with over 2,000 employees and 14,000 students. In the private sector he would be making twice as much."
But in the private sector, taxpayers wouldn't be supporting his lofty salary for the remainder of his life. Dada is in line to receive an annual pension of about $250,000 a year, according to the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System pension formulas.
Throughout Illinois government, it's not unusual for employees' salaries to top their bosses. Heck, 652 state employees made more than Gov. Pat Quinn's $174,013 salary in 2010, according to state data. That list includes the president of the Aurora-based Illinois Math and Science Academy, an Itasca lawyer hired by Senate Republicans to represent their redistricting interests, House Speaker Michael Madigan's chief of staff (who also makes more than Madigan), a former state police sergeant, almost all of the state's judges and even an assistant comptroller.
It's up for debate which jobs are more important. But taxpayers will continue to support most, if not all, of these employees into their retirement with pensions based on these salaries.
Watchdog groups contend this is one of the major causes of the state's poor financial shape.
"I don't think it's our job to tell governing bodies they shouldn't pay at certain levels," said Andy Shaw, Better Government Association president. "But I don't think they've done a good job collectively. The salaries for these positions should be determined by whether it is competitive and comparable to the same kinds of jobs in the private sector."
Rafferty sides with the board on Dada's pay, noting the district is debt-free and has reduced its property tax rate by more than a dollar between 1996 and 2009.
"I know it's not common practice," Rafferty said of the discrepancy between his salary and Dada's. "I think he's fairly compensated for what he has done and what he's been able to do for our district."
Got a tip?
Got a tip for the suburban tax watchdog? Contact Jake Griffin at email@example.com or (847) 427-4602.