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District U46 approves multi-year contract for CEO Sanders

Discussion of a new contract for Elgin-area District U46’s Chief Executive Officer Tony Sanders stirred debate between supporters and opponents of the agreement Monday at the board of education meeting, on the basis of timing the matter too close to the local school board election in April.

In a 5-2 vote, school officials and Tony Sanders agreed to a multi-year extension.

“U46 is my home now, this is truly my home,” Sanders said.

Board action follows legislation that paves the way for Sanders to continue to run the state’s second largest school district.

Board member Cody Holt said he wouldn’t support a decision to approve a new contract.

Holt questioned the district’s decision to act now, rather than late spring or early summer.

“I know that has been (the case) with some of our previous superintendents and even when we extended Tony’s contract originally,” he said. “(The constituents I’ve spoken to) were kind of just curious as to why the board was making this decision as of today as of November, midway through the school year.”

Board member Jeanette Ward agreed.

“I think it’s not wise to tie the hands of the next board with respective to the decision to offer this CEO a contract until 2020,” she said. “Like I said, this current contract is good until June of 2018, so why do we have to be in a hurry. The next board will be in place as of May of 2017 with enough time to hold a search if they so choose.”

The matter arose late in the spring when the board discussed and approved superintendent Dr. Kenneth Arndt’s contract.

Board member Sue Kerr said holding off on Sanders’ contract extension came down to district’s need to iron out the details.

“It’s much more specific than any goals you see on most superintendent’s contracts,” she said. “It took us a while to come to an agreement on this.”

The multi-year performance-based employment contract, in effect Nov. 1, 2016 runs retroactively until June 30, 2020, establishes several conditions to allow for continued employment and compensation, starting with a $221,708.81 base salary for the 2016-17 academic year, the amount already provided as a foundation in Sanders’ previous contract. Reaching the new agreement also calls for a 2.75 percent increase on July 1, 2017, in addition to future raises based on performance.

Sanders’ performance goals align with U46’s strategic plan and targets district needs, to include program oversight for full-day kindergarten, pilot program evaluation for the new elementary science curriculum and talent management.

Board President Donna Smith said approving the extension provides stability and leadership for the district.

“I just want to point out that the goals we had in his previous contract were put there because it was an interim position and they were not real detailed,” she said. “They were more general goals. I think that there are several examples of where he showed progress toward the priorities in the strategic plan.”

Smith cited a few notable areas of progress for Sanders’ work to this point including curriculum and resource approvals, the rebranding of the district’s DREAM Academy and the launch of full-day kindergarten.

Legislation signed into law earlier this year stipulates that a CEO is allowed to run a district, provided that strong administrative abilities and proven management experience is demonstrated. It is also mandated that a qualifying individual hold a Master’s degree, serve as a district employee for a minimum of five years and have all other powers and duties ascribed to a superintendent.

Sanders has served in an interim role for U46 the last two years and previously worked as Chief of Staff. Additionally, he served as Acting Director of Governmental Relations and Public Information for the Illinois State Board of Education and other positions at the Department of Professional Regulation and the Illinois Department of Health.

By approving the contract in accordance to state law, Sanders’s position will hold more permanence by June, at which time interim superintendent Dr. Kenneth Arndt will be leaving his post.

Sanders said he’s pleased to continue serving the district.

“It’s where my kids have been served well since second and fourth grades, respectively,” he said. “I have two high schoolers—one is going to graduate this year, which is just hard to believe. So, U46 is home, is my family’s home. I’ll be here as long as the board wants me.”

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