Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat got a pat on the back and a healthy salary increase from board members. Not much was shared by adoring supporters about her accomplishments, but everyone agrees she’s a vast improvement over Dr. Grenita Lathan. Still, someone needs to expand in greater detail why she was given a bonus last year of $10,000 and this year increased her pay to $260,000 and extended her contract to five years. If my math is correct, the superintendent will make $1.3 million over those five years regardless of student success or failure.
That kind of a contract might be great for professional athletes, however, one wonders why in business and education. I’ve heard more than one person choke on a bagel when the pay for the Caterpillar CEO is mentioned or the head of Amazon or Microsoft. We change board members, but the propensity to throw taxpayer money around like Christmas bonus checks remains. The huge salary was opposed by members Dan Walther and Dr. Robert Davison-Aviles. Both men wanted to table the motion to allow greater discussion of Dr. Kherat’s job performance for the benefit of Peoria taxpayers. Didn’t happen.
Dr. Kherat, when questioned, praised her work, saying she was worth 10 times the amount she’s paid.
Last year Bradley University rewarded basketball coach Brian Wardle with a contract extension to 2023 because the team won 20 games. As I write this month’s column, the Braves are a miserable 1-5 in the Missouri Valley and will struggle to keep from finishing last in the conference. Obviously, Bradley can’t go back and reverse the contract extension, nor can the Peoria Public Schools board take back their generous pay increases for Superintendent Kherat. And why should they?
On the Other Hand
I remember sitting on the Peoria County Board for some 22 years and dealing with the fear the county manager was going to leave if we didn’t raise his salary. We did, as virtually everyone parroted the same argument, “We can’t afford to lose him.” Well, we did, eventually. He went on to bigger and better things and so did the county. My point is, no one is indispensable. This rush to pad the paychecks of executives like they are irreplaceable is financially foolish. Evaluating coaches is easy by simply looking at wins and losses. It’s a different story for school superintendents.
We don’t even know what criteria the board used for justifying the bonus, salary increase and contract extension. Do you? This is not a criticism of Kherat or Wardle. Both came in to make positive changes and they did. They were paid for their accomplishments. On the other hand, do we have to sweeten the salaries every year and if so, how much is too much?
Everyone Out of the Pool
Former teacher, coach and union president, Terry Knapp, wondered at a recent Peoria Public Schools board meeting why students are not taught swimming. Knapp said pools at Manual and Richwoods are used by swimming teams, but not for P.E. classes. The Olympic-sized pool at Woodruff is empty and the Park District pool across the street from Peoria High reportedly is used by community swimming clubs, but not by Peoria Public Schools. Knapp says every student should learn how to swim and can’t understand why the life-saving skill isn’t taught.
The Loss of Another Great Man
He was born in Galesburg, but Art Holst was also known for his 37 years living and working in Peoria. The 96-year-old Holst, who died in December in Fort Myers, Fla., was nationally known as an outstanding official in the National Football League and as an accomplished speaker who had an amazing talent for telling funny sports stories. He served with distinction in Germany during World War II rising to the rank of captain under the leadership of Gen. George Patton. I can say with pride we were good friends. He was a frequent guest on my morning show, especially during patriotic holidays. I asked him one morning to what did he attribute his longevity. He quipped, “First of all, choose your parents very carefully.” I feel very privileged to have known Art Holst and extend my condolences to his wife and family, particularly his children who live in the Peoria area.
Light It Up
Speaking of “Breakfast with Roger and Friends,” heard Monday through Friday on FM 90.7 from 6-9 a.m., the program is known for airing lots of news and information with some pretty special people. On a recent show, Ashley Schreck, director of public relations and marketing for Epic!, not only gave us an update about that wonderful agency that helps people with disabilities, but she also told listeners about plans to light up the Murray Baker Bridge.
While that was done a few years ago, this project is totally different. Instead of single white bulbs, this time they’ll use strips of colored LED lights. The lights will have the capacity to change in color for events, such as green during St. Patrick’s Day, red, white and blue for July 4th, and perhaps red and green for Christmas. It’s a novel idea. Ashley said they’ve talked with officials in cities where the lighting concept has been implemented. As one would conclude, funding will be the primary challenge. Stay tuned.
I want to thank those who have been so kind and supportive following the loss of my wife, Nancy. Coping with her loss has not been, and is not, easy. We were, and are, fortunate to have so many wonderful friends who have provided encouragement, strength and comfort. God bless you all.
Quote of the Month
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” –Charles Dickens