Guest Column: Rockford school board is at war with our educators

November 16, 2011

By Mary Jo Powers and Watchdogs for Ethics in Education

Historically, the Rockford Public School District 205 website has always been a window into school activities and necessary information for the parents, community and staff members. There is a recent addition called Focus on Tomorrow: Addressing the Long-Term Future of the Rockford Public Schools. District 205 resources, aka your taxpayer dollars, are being spent on a one-sided agenda, including distorted data that appears to be the basis of their negotiations. This is not acceptable!

Here are some things the website doesn’t tell you.

• We are presently paying 53 central office administrators more than $5 million.

Educators are aware of the escalating costs of health care and are realistic about this. However, it is not only unreasonable, but completely irrational, to increase their health premiums 10-fold in a single year.

This board also seems to have forgotten that our administration has the same or better benefit package.

Following is an outline of the total compensation for key administrators in our district (salaries are rounded to the nearest $1,000):

Robert Willis, superintendent $185,000 base salary, plus $40,000 benefits package totals $225,000;

Ehren Jarrett, assistant superintendent — $135,000 base salary, plus $42,000 benefits package totals $177,000;

Matt Vosberg, assistant superintendent — $135,000 base salary, plus $42,000 benefits package totals $177,000;

Martha Hayes, assistant superintendent — $135,000 base salary, plus $17,000 benefits package totals $152,000;

Colleen Cyrus, chief of student support services — $119,000 base salary, plus $23,000 benefits package totals $142,000;

Lori Hoadley, board attorney — $155,000 base salary;

Cedric Lewis, chief financial officer — $152,000 base salary;

Todd Schmidt, chief operating officer — $110,000 base salary;

Earl Hernandez, lead investigator — $103,000 base salary, plus $13,000 benefit package equals $116,000; and

Earl Dotson, director of communication — $105,000 base salary.

(Note that just the salaries included above total $1,369,000.)

The following are facts about the education profession, according to

90 percent of teachers spend money from their own pockets on supplies for the classroom and students.

Many teachers work up to 10 hours during the school day and grade papers three hours daily at home.

50 percent of teachers quit their jobs within the first five years.

25 percent of teachers are dismissed in their first two years — arbitrarily, without reason stated.

77 percent of U.S. adults feel teaching is among the most under-appreciated professions in the U.S.

52 percent of U.S. adults think parent involvement will impact higher performance.

61 percent of U.S. adults think teachers are underpaid given their level of training and importance to society.

Let us not forget that teachers are never done being educated and continue their education all through their careers. The wage increases on this new website do not reflect this. We also must not forget that Rockford teachers have endured a 25 percent chance of being terminated at the end of each school year for several years.

From the Nov. 16-22, 2011, issue

Clearly, educators are no more or less perfect than any other profession. However, teachers too often serve as scapegoats for society’s ills and are expected to repair the damage. The way to attract and keep the best and the brightest young people into the teaching profession is to show them that educators are valued by our society. If we are truly focusing on tomorrow by addressing the long-range goals, how can we do this by constantly degrading them?

According to this new website, Rockford Public School District 205 is the largest employer in our city. That leads us to ask the question: Why wouldn’t you lead by example and set the standard for the community by valuing, supporting and empowering your employees who daily impact the children of our community?

We had high hopes for this administration. Unfortunately, our hopes are quickly fading.


  1. arlys Mills

    November 16, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Last night I heard a committee wants to reduce teacher salaries and raise the salaries of administrators.

    I realize the argument for reducing salaries has to do with budgeting in these difficult times but why would you raise administrators salaries.
    This is another slap in the face of good teachers.
    If you could not get administrators you
    might have to raise salaries but the administrator positions are filled. I realize the superintendent is only temporary but shelling out big bucks doesn’t seem to help get a good Superintendent.

  2. Sue

    November 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    And… the news last night announced that the district thinks the administrators deserve more money, while the teachers are being paid too much based on comparisons with other cities – most of which are not within driving distance of the Chicago suburbs. If I’m already driving a half hour to get to school, I’m ready to make it an hour one way and work in a district where I’ll get some respect. Does one of those still exist?

  3. for the kids

    November 17, 2011 at 6:17 am

    Thank you, Mary Jo & WEE>

  4. Carol

    November 17, 2011 at 11:46 am

    I would love to know where the large annual increases in salary exist for the teachers to which many refer. After 30+ years in 205, I didn’t receive a “raise” for the last 10 years unless there was a new contract and that factor was built into it. Most years it was $500 for each IF you had less than 20 years. Thankfully, in spite of the attacks by administration, teachers continue to carry on educating the children of Rockford. Educators in this district have been the single factor of continuity for the students.
    Great job, Mary Jo, WEE and those who spoke out at the board meeting.

  5. Richard Kanak

    November 17, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I am more concerned that the University of Illinois football coach is the highest paid U of I employee at $1.5 million.

  6. John

    November 18, 2011 at 7:59 am

    I am no sympathizer with teachers or their union. That said, I am definitely a critique of this administration, and this weak-kneed board.

    If I had to choose sides, I side with the taxpayers. Our hard-earned money is being mindlessly squandered on fraud, waste, and abuse.

    That said, I appreciate Ms. Powers and her efforts to bring this orgy of wasteful spending out from under the rock our elected board chooses to hide it.

  7. John

    November 18, 2011 at 7:59 am

    critic…not critique

  8. monkey

    February 26, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    The problem with teacher salaries is that we pay them way too little at the front ends and back ends of their careers. In other words, we start a new teacher at $33,000 and then wonder why people don’t want to become teachers. Then we have k-garten teachers making $100,000 because they’ve been doing it for 30 years. Start teacher pay at $50K, hold them more accountable for performance. End these crazily generous guaranteed pensions that are bankrupting the state. Intead, have teachers contribute and draw from Social Security. Give them a 403(b) or 401(k) like the private sector and take them off defined benefit packages which, again, are bankrupting the state. Have them contribute more to their health care, like the rest of the private sector. And, base their salaries on 10 months of work.

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