Critics: District 128 superintendent's new contract too long, pay too high

Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School Superintendent Prentiss Lea has received a four-year contract extension - but not without some controversy.

Several Libertyville residents criticized the deal before it was approved at Monday night's school board meeting. Some objected to the length of the contract and others opposed Lea's compensation, which includes a retirement package and other benefits.

But the deal had supporters, too. Three District 128 administrators, including the principals of Libertyville and Vernon Hills high schools, rose to praise the work Lea has done during his nine years as the district's top administrator.

"His support and leadership is priceless," Vernon Hills High Principal Jon Guillaume said.

Lea's contract was set to expire in June 2018. He's now in the district's employ through June 2022.

Lea was to earn a $293,535 salary this year. Under the extension, his salary for the current school year will drop to $290,672.

Future salaries will rise at the same rate as the consumer price index, which measures the change in retail prices of certain goods and services over time.

If the index increase falls below 1.5 percent, Lea will receive a 1.5 percent pay raise.

In addition to his salary, Lea's health insurance premiums will continue to be covered by the district. He also will continue to receive a $6,000 annual transportation allowance and other benefits.

Libertyville resident Lisa Roti was among the half-dozen people who spoke against the proposed contract Monday.

"The dollar amounts are obscene," Roti said. "How much more can we afford?"

Lane Hasler, a Libertyville resident who serves on the Oak Grove School District 68 board, objected to the length of the deal. He suggested a one-year pact would be more appropriate.

No audience members spoke in favor of the contract. That task fell to Guillaume, Assistant Superintendent Rita Fischer and Libertyville High Principal Tom Koulentes. In a rare move, all three left their usual seats and walked to the lectern during public comment to support Lea and the contract extension.

Board President Pat Groody voiced strong support for the deal and Lea's work, too.

"This is the person we want to be superintendent for as long as he wants to be superintendent," Groody said.

Board member Karin Lundstedt called a contract extension "essential" and expressed concern Lea might leave the district for a new job if the panel didn't act.

The board approved the contract with a 6-0 vote. Trustee Kevin Huber abstained, saying the duration of the contract "seems a little bit long to me."

After the vote, Lea thanked the board members for their confidence in his ability and their comments. He also thanked the audience members for sharing their opinions.

Lea joined District 128 as an associate superintendent in July 2005 and became superintendent in July 2008. In that time, both Libertyville and Vernon Hills high schools have been consistently ranked among the best high schools in the state.

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