DOWNERS GROVE – The Community High School District 99 Board of Education gave Superintendent Hank Thiele a vote of confidence Aug. 6, awarding him a new five-year contract that includes a $22,387 pay increase.
The board voted 4-2 to approve the contract, which features a $230,000 annual salary. Thiele, the superintendent since July 2016, previously earned $207,613.
Board members Rick Pavinato and Dan Nicholas voted against the contract. Both voiced support for Thiele but said they could not support the amount of the pay hike.
Board member Donald Renner did not attend the meeting.
Reading from a prepared statement, Pavinato said he’s always told residents the school board thinks twice before spending taxpayers’ money.
“It was a true statement until tonight,” he said.
Pavinato added Thiele has done a good job, but the board cannot fill in a "blank check" when it comes to his salary.
“Some things are plain wrong," he said. "They can be diced, sliced and parsed to make particular tangents feel right, but they’re still wrong. This is wrong."
Terms of the contract were negotiated in closed session meetings for more than two months. Pavinato asked his colleagues if they would approve the pact if it had been discussed in open session.
“When does reasonable and deserved become ridiculous,” he said. “The optics of this does matter, especially after passing the referendum.”
Voters in March overwhelmingly approved a referendum measure March 20 seeking $136.6 million to fund significant improvements at both Downers Grove North and South high schools.
Nicholas, who cast the lone vote against placing the referendum on the March ballot, said he agreed with Pavinato but added Thiele did deserve a pay hike.
“I’m very happy you're our leader in this district,” Nicholas said. “I support you fully in the future.”
Board President Nancy Kupka said the purpose of the pay increase was to bring Thiele’s salary in line with superintendents in other area high school districts. She added the district has worked over the past several years to bring many staff salaries to market value.
“In my opinion, part of the reason we’re doing this is to bring Dr. Thiele’s position to that equilibrium,” Kupka said.
Board member Sherell Fuller agreed.
“We have not gone above and beyond what the market is showing out there,” she said.
Fuller added stability in district leadership is important, especially as the district moves forward with the master facility plan.
“I think we want to keep very talented people in our district,” she said. “I am comfortable with the decision we have made.”
Board member Michael Davenport agreed, saying a disruption in leadership would cost the district.
“[Thiele] is putting in more than what’s being asked,” he said.
Thiele thanked the board for its support.
“These are not easy conversations,” he said. “You just had a tough vote. You just had a tough conversation.”
Thiele added he appreciates that the board does not let differences get in the way of doing business.
“Every single one of you puts in the work,” he said. “It’s good, it’s healthy for a board to come out with what they truly believe. We’ve got a lot of work to do over the next five years. We’ve got a lot of hard decisions to make going forward.”