Thursday night board member Larry Snow presented the Huntley Board of Education with the opportunity for both Superintendent Burkey and the Board to move ahead and formally begin talks for a contract extension for Dr. Burkey.
Snow said this Board had closely worked with Burkey over a seven month period under challenging circumstances during contract negotiations and a strike by the teachers union. He said this Board was in the best position to decide on a contract extension as opposed to a new board starting next May that would have little time to actually work with Burkey.
Currently Burkey has a four-year contract, with a little bit more than one and a half years to run on it. One and a half years may sound like a long time but as a practical matter it isn’t.
The time for a Superintendent search is typically a long drawn out process, typically taking a year. In other words if you want a new Superintendent to start on July 1st, the beginning of a new school year, you effectively have to start the search process the year before.
So what happened?
Nothing about Burkey’s performance or leadership or anything. Not a word about how it would be good for the school district to know there would be a path of continuous educational leadership in place for the years ahead.
Board members Mike Skala, Kevin Gentry and Kim Skaja had faint unenthusiastic comments about Supt. Burkey, but nothing to say about the job he’s done.
The board majority glowingly praised the merits of a Superintendent being on a four-year contract when they hired Burkey.
But only silence Thursday night.
The accomplishments of Supt. Burkey that Snow talked about fell on the board majority’s deaf ears.
The most startling response was from Superintendent Burkey.
In simple terms, Burkey said, “No Thanks,” to the idea of this Board negotiating a contract extension with him.
Burkey said he thought the new board after the April school board elections should decide if they want to keep him as Superintendent. Burkey made no attempt to make any reference to how he wants to stay with the district or how he is the best person to get the job done.
Perhaps Burkey thinks he can get a much more lucrative new contract after the school board election in April.
And, maybe he’s right.
In May and June it would be four years until the next election for four newly-elected board members. That’s a long time for voters to forget, if they give away a huge pay increase to Burkey.
Maybe Burkey learned from the teachers union how to extract the most money from a school board:
Just say no and in Burkey’s case, threaten to go…on the free agent market looking for a Superintendent’s job somewhere else.
Burkey did publicly say “No,” which is a strange reaction from someone who talks of
how “incredibly great” it is to be in Huntley District 158.
Or maybe he has a better offer already in a suburb closer to Chicago. Maybe he wants to replace Grade School District 47 Supt. Ron Miller in Crystal Lake next year. Maybe he will ask to be let out of the last year of his contract.
When Burkey came to Huntley for his first Superintendent’s job, he emphasized, “I am coming to Huntley to stay in Huntley for a long time.”
Normally Superintendents express words of gratitude (regardless of sincerity) for such an expression of confidence that talk of a contract extension represents.
If Burkey said, “Thank you,” then it received so little emphasis, it was completely missed. What was heard was “No Thanks” as in “No Thanks, I’ll like the opportunity to approach the new board for a lot more money when I force them into a decision deadline (a la teachers union).
Maybe he’s dreaming of a Connie Neale-type contract. Connie was Elgin U-46’s Superintendent who took that school district to the cleaners for an incredibly expensive contract. How ironic if there is another teachers’ strike three years from now because Burkey grabs too much money for himself with a new board.
You can bet board members Kim Skaja and Mike Skala don’t want to be on the record as having given Burkey a big pay raise when they are up for election next April.
Few voters remember the huge raise Skaja and Skala gave former Superintendent Steve Swanson on his contract extension. Will the raise Burkey negotiates make the teachers’ blood boil?
Newspapers normally write about Superintendents agreeing to contract extensions. Somehow I doubt they will they write about Superintendent Burkey’s, “No Thanks.”
= = = = =
Huntley School Board member Larry Snow can be seen on the top left. School Superintendent John Burkey is on the right.
Below is the school board without its President Shawn Green on the night when the Huntley Education Association announced its intention to go on strike.
At the bottom is the new Joplin, Missouri, home of former Elgin U46 Superintendent Connie Neale.