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Deerfield, Highland Park teacher salaries tops in state

Deerfield High Deerfield High School science teacher Bill Stafford works with his class Friday May 6 2011  Deerfield. District

Deerfield High Deerfield High School science teacher Bill Stafford works with his class on Friday, May 6, 2011 in Deerfield. District 113, headquartered in Highland Park, has the top-paid teachers in the state, which includes Deerfield HS. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 31, 2011 12:19AM

Want to wind up making at least six figures as a public school teacher?

Send your resume to Highland Park or Deerfield High School, both in Township High School District 113.

The district — which has no teachers union — boasted the highest average teacher pay in the state last school year, at $104,737.

More than half of all District 113 full-time teachers — 55 percent to be exact — pulled down at least $100,000 in total compensation, including benefits and extra pay for extracurricular activities.

“I would love it if we weren’t number one,” said District 113 School Board President Harvey Cohen. “Our goal isn’t to say, ‘Lake Forest pays $50,000 so we’ll go $60,000.’”

But, Cohen said, in a consistently high-scoring, affluent district with average ACT scores of 25.7 and highly credentialed teachers, “you get what you pay for.”

As teachers’ salaries face national scrutiny and calls for pay tied to student performance, an analysis of educator earnings, based on total compensation last school year, found that public school teachers who make at least $100,000 like those in District 113 are the exception rather than the rule in Illinois.

Statewide, 11.25 percent of high school teachers and 2.26 percent of elementary-grade teachers hit that mark. Statewide, the average elementary teacher made $61,140 — including all benefits, summer school pay, after-school stipends and retirement payouts. The average high school teacher took home $69,366.

As expected, most of the top-paying districts are affluent, serving few low-income kids.

At Township High School District 113, headquartered in Highland Park, officials tout highly degreed, often double-degreed teachers, low teacher turnover, and a large chunk of teachers who supervise extracurricular activities for extra cash — something that gives them a different kind of perspective on their students.

District 113 science teacher Bill Stafford said he was attracted to Deerfield High because of its academic reputation and had no idea the district held the highest-paid teachers in the state — or that more than half of its teachers made at least $100,000 in total compensation.

“Wow,” Stafford said. “I’m kind of shocked. I didn’t know that was where we ranked in the state.”

In addition to his base salary, Stafford says he makes about $13,000 extra a year by serving as boys soccer coach and girls assistant soccer coach. After six years at Deerfield High, he is not yet in the $100,000-plus club, but hopes to hit the top of the credential pay schedule this year by completing 60 credit hours beyond a master’s.

At Deerfield High, “Teachers have a real thirst to expand their craft and knowledge,” Stafford said. “I wish I could take some of the classes that my colleagues teach, because they do it masterfully.”

Highland Park resident Peter Koukos, who put two kids through a District 113 high school, said there’s no question the district’s teachers are highly qualified and provide a great education.

But, said Koukos, the area’s former assessor, “One reason it took three and a half years to sell my house is because of the high taxes, 70 percent of which go to the schools.”

“...You have high-quality teachers, but is it necessary to have the highest-paid teachers in the state?” Koukos said. “If we had the fifth-highest paid in the state, I don’t think the quality of our education would be any less. If it was 10th, I don’t think the quality of our education would be any less. We just happen to be first.”

The district has been without a teachers union for more than 100 years, officials say, and teachers elect peers to represent them in pay discussions. Board President Cohen said the lack of a union is a non-factor when it comes to pay and “I think our employees see that there is no purpose or reason to join a union. We’re fair and open with our employees.’’

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