Palatine Dist. 15 superintendent to retire at end of proposed 4-year contract
Superintendent Scott Thompson says he will step down at the end of a new, four-year contract up for a vote Wednesday night by the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 school board.
"It is a retirement contract," Thompson said Tuesday of the tentative pact, structured to help him end his career with a deal that won't trigger state penalties for so-called pension sweeteners.
Thompson, 58, said he initially considered retiring once his current contract expires on June 30, 2017. But school board members sought to lock him in place through the 2018-19 school year.
The board will decide whether to approve the deal at its meeting at 7 p.m. at Walter Sundling Junior High, 1100 N. Smith St., Palatine.
If the contract is approved, Thompson said he's committed to fulfilling the terms and won't step down until the deal runs out.
"There's some really exciting, significant work to be done in the next four years," Thompson said.
One of his and the board's tasks will be figuring out a plan to pay for major fixes to the district's aging schools. A state-mandated safety audit of its buildings, required every decade, uncovered more than $20 million in high-priority work, some of that addressing plumbing and electrical infrastructure.
A committee of residents, consultants and administrators, including Thompson, will present some possible strategies to the board Wednesday night.
"I want to make sure that we've taken care of the buildings," Thompson said.
School board President Peggy Babcock wouldn't comment Tuesday on the proposed contract, but she said negotiations were collaborative.
"All the board members participated," Babcock said.
Under a 2005 Illinois law, school districts are penalized for awarding large pay increases to educators approaching retirement, and thereby hiking pension costs.
Currently, districts face penalties for raises above 6 percent a year. But Gov. Bruce Rauner has called for a stricter threshold: handing down penalties for pay increases above the rate of inflation.
Unlike the district's contract with its teachers union, Thompson's proposed contract doesn't specifically address the 6 percent cap.
But it allows the board to adjust Thompson's annual salary "or other creditable earnings to the extent necessary to eliminate such excess employer contribution or penalty" to the Teachers' Retirement System.
Thompson would receive a $253,558 salary during the first year of the contract, the 2015-16 school year.
Then, his annual salary would amount to the previous year's total creditable earnings -- increased by 3 percent. The district reports creditable earnings -- compensation that can be used to calculate benefits -- to the retirement system.
In July 2010, Thompson was hired as the district's interim superintendent after Dan Lukich was ousted and given a $185,000 severance. Thompson permanently got the job as the top administrator in the 12,000-student district later that year, starting with a $198,000 base salary.