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Special Report: Does 186 Have Too Many Administrators?
Despite cutting more than $6 million from the budget, District 186 still faces a financial challenge. It remains millions in the red. While teachers, security, and librarians were on the cut list, some taxpayers want to see cuts elsewhere. Some are asking: Does District 186 have too many administrators, and are they paid too much?
District 186 has 85 administrators, as defined by the State Board of Education. These positions include the superintendent, principals, assistant principals, deans, directors, and others.
"There are way too many," parent Laquita Wilder said. " I don't understand why there are so many administrators."
"How can they make that much money and then cut all these programs that are helpful to these people?," parent Lora Kelsey said. "Education should be something we focus on, since we lag behind."
The list of 85 administrators does not include positions some consider administration, like assistant directors, administrative interns, or district spokesperson Pete Sherman.
"We have been cognizant of the perceptions out there that the district may be top heavy," Sherman said. "It's our belief though, over the past few years, we have done a good job trimming at the Central Office."
For example, the School Board decided to cut several administration positions in the next budget, like six administrative interns. But as for administrators, numbers show similar school districts and the state average serve more students with fewer administrators. Each administrator in Peoria's school district serves 239 student. In Decatur, it's 206. But District 186 has one administrator for every 177 students.
"We have on average, small schools, then some other urban districts of similar size," Sherman said. "That requires us to have a principal at each of those buildings and in many cases, an assistant principal."
District 186 has 15 high school assistant principals, for three high schools. Some make more than $100,000 a year. In Champaign's District 4, there are 10 Assistant High School Principals, for three high schools. While Champaign serves fewer students, their salary range is considerably less than their counterparts in Springfield.
Sherman said duties across districts can be different.
"Many high schools have deans that oversee the freshman class, sophomore class, junior class, senior Class," Sherman said. "That is what our assistant principals do. We don't have deans at those levels. We have guidance deans. These are deans that help seniors apply to college, get scholarships, and help them choose the right coursework so they can pursue whatever career they wish to pursue."
Despite cutting $6.6 million from the budget, the District 186 School Board still has millions to go to get out of a multi-million dollar hole. Cuts thus far include closing the Capital College Preparatory Academy, consolidating two schools, cutting 24 teaching positions, and Sherman said, three administrators.
Bill Looby is an outgoing District 186 school board member. He said the one way to cut more administrators is through more school consolidation. But not everyone is in favor. Looby said cutting administrator salaries needs to be discussed.
"I think they are higher than they should be, overall," Looby said.
In total, District 186 spends more than $8 million on the 85 administrator salaries.
When the Springfield school board decided to cut ties with superintendent Walter Milton Jr, he was making $220,000. The board also approved a $178,000 settlement under a separation agreement. The new school board's first major priority is to hire a superintendent.