Maine Township High School District 207 Superintendent Ken Wallace has been at the helm of the district for more than four years, but it's been the past 12 months that have been the most volatile.
He's overseen a district that's been trying to recover from a hazing scandal at Maine West High School that's resulted in a pending lawsuit from five students who say they were sexually assaulted as part of a hazing ritual at school.
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Wallace's management of the district since the scandal broke last fall -- and the desire to ensure continuity in managing the fallout down the line -- may have been one of the reasons school board members voted this week to give him a five-year contract extension.
"He's handled numerous issues, not the least of which was hazing at Maine West, in a fashion that has been in the best interest of the district, and kept board members apprised," said board President Margaret McGrath. "I feel we can count on him when significant issues arise, that he is going to roll up his sleeves and get in there with his team when he's dealing with the issues of the district."
McGrath said Wallace's handling of the hazing scandal wasn't an "essential factor" in granting him the contract extension, which would keep him in his job until June 30, 2019. She also pointed to the district's strong financial condition, negotiation of a three-year teachers contract last year, and student learning success under Wallace's tenure.
But she says board members agreed to the long-term extension to "ensure invaluable continuity as the district follows through on several initiatives."
One of the goals identified in the contract is providing "effective leadership during any unforeseen high level legal and/or personnel issues that arise, whether they generate negative publicity or not."
Under the terms of the contract, Wallace will receive a base salary of $210,000 during the 2014-15 fiscal year, and will receive pay increases of 1.5 percent each year thereafter.
He is also eligible to get "variable pay" of $26,000 in the first year of the contract if he attains annual target goals. That amount increases by $1,000 each year. He is also eligible for "additional variable pay" up to a maximum of $25,000 each year.
Last year, Wallace made a total of $227,701, including an additional merit pay boost awarded by the board.
He is expected to earn a base salary of $206,916 this year -- the final year of his original five-year contract. He is eligible for additional merit pay.
Board member Mary Childers was the lone person to vote against the new contract in a 6-1 vote Monday night. She said that was the first time all board members had the opportunity to discuss the contract during a closed session meeting.
"I don't think you make a decision like that in one night," Childers said.
Before becoming superintendent in 2009, Wallace served as the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for four years.
District 207 serves about 6,500 students at three high schools: Maine West in Des Plaines and Maine East and Maine South in Park Ridge.