School chief’s contract on board agenda

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board is scheduled to discuss Superintendent Hardy Murphy's contract when it meets Monday evening.

No information was immediately available about the substance of the planned discussion, but the school board has drawn criticism in the past for giving Murphy contracts that extend five years into the future — beyond the term of any sitting school board member.

Murphy was out of his office when Evanston Now called this morning to ask about the contract, as was the district's public information director, Pat Markam.

School board member Tracy Quattrocki this morning said she wanted to check whether the contract was still subject to confidentiality rules covering personnel issues before discussing it. Last August, Quattrocki was the only board member to vote against extending Murphy's contract, saying a five year agreement wasn't in the district's best interest.

Murphy's current contract extends through June 30, 2014.

Murphy, in a statement after the contract extension vote last August, said he hadn't asked for a salary increase for the school year that's now ending out of concern for the tough economic times the district was facing.

Since then the district has been forced by uncertainty about state funding and other economic issues to layoff dozens of teachers and other staff, although some may be rehired before the new school year starts in the fall.

The school district operates independently of the city. But Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz proposed a five percent pay cut for himself and the city's department heads in the budget for the city's fiscal year that started in March. The City Council approved those cuts as well as laying off dozens of city workers to balance its budget.

The head of the Evanston PTA Council, Mindy Wallis, said that given the current economic situation, she hopes Murphy "would show leadership by taking a pay cut and not a pay raise. In fact, all the administrative staff could take 5 percent pay cuts, like the department heads at the city."

"I don't necessary object to Dr. Murphy having a five-year contract," Wallis said, "although I do wonder how the board can ensure accountability when his employment is guaranteed."

"What I have a problem with is the way in which this process proceeds. Each time Dr. Murphy's contract is discussed, it seems to be when school is not in session and parents are out of town. If the board seeks to reward Dr. Murphy for his job performance by extending his contract, you would think they would want to publicize it, rather than apparently doing it under the radar," she added.

The school board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the district's administration building at 1500 McDaniel Ave.

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