Memo to U-46 board: we'd like to start post-Neale era, but we can't

 
 
Published10/26/2007 12:15 AM

Elgin Area School District U-46 board members are very, very tired of being asked about the terms of Superintendent Connie Neale's retirement.

And I'm very, very tired of asking.

 

U-46 administrators and Elgin Teachers Association President Tim Davis -- trying to negotiate a fair deal for teachers that won't break the district financially -- are very, very tired of the subject.

Readers likely are tired of reading about it.

Teachers are tired of thinking about it.

And taxpayers, surely, are very, very, very tired of finding out about new, creative ways Neale found to wring every last dollar from them.

School board members said they "closed a chapter" when they accepted Neale's resignation Monday.

It's time to move on and look forward, School Board President Ken Kaczynski said Tuesday.

That said -- there's more to say.

It absolutely would be time to move on and look forward, if Neale's contract weren't so very relevant to the current state of affairs in the district.

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First, there's her financial legacy.

Neale will receive more than $1 million in retirement benefits from U-46.

That does not include the pensions she'll receive from three states. Neale's Kansas payout will be particularly generous because U-46 paid $52,000 to add five and one-third years of service to her pension there. For anyone counting, that's one-third of a year longer than Neale worked in U-46.

Teachers, too, still find Neale's pay pertinent. They rejected a tentative deal between the union and the school board, in part because of frustration fanned by Neale's pay package.

Teachers have an easy answer to administrators who ask them to consider the financial implications of a larger raise or smaller class sizes: why should we, when the school board didn't have the same consideration when approving Neale's contract ?

Then there's this salient issue: Neale remains a district employee.

According to the terms of the resignation contract board members approved Monday, Neale will be on the payroll until February. She'll even receive a raise this year for not working in the district.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The raise, which will be tied to what teachers negotiate for themselves, will increase her prorated salary for 2007-2008, as well as her per-diem rate when she cashes in unused sick and vacation days.

Not only is Neale still the district superintendent, under the terms of her retirement deal, she also is now a district consultant.

If Neale talks business with a school board member or administrator, the day will not count against her sick-leave balance, allowing her to cash in on that day at her per-diem rate.

The consulting clause makes possible this impossibly convoluted scenario: On any given day until February, the district could have a superintendent (Neale), a superintendent consultant (Neale), and an interim superintendent (Mary Jane Broncato). Neale and Broncato both earn more than $1,000 per day.

Neale hasn't moved on. As a result, taxpayers don't have the luxury of moving on.

And so board members shouldn't expect to move on either.

• Emily Krone covers Elgin-area schools. She can be reached at (847) 608-2722 or ekrone@dailyherald.com.

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