Super gets another year added to extension in 230

By Jeff Vorva

After granting Superintendent James Gay a five-year contract extension last year, High School District 230 board members last Thursday extended Gay’s contract one more year.

Gay will make $190,550 for the 2012-13 school year and his salary throughout 2016-17 will be determined each year by the school board, which recently has been using the Consumer Price Index percentage increases to determine a raise.

Gay said on Monday that he is happy to have a long tenure with the district.

“This district has some of the best students, staff, community members and parents,” Gay said. “The triangle of success is to have good schools, homes and students and we are blessed to have all three.”

Gay will have a few big decisions ahead in the coming years. Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Liz Johnson is scheduled to retire at the end of the 2013-14 school year and Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Steve Langert is planning on retiring the following year.

“The process hasn’t started but it’s definitely on the top of my list of things to do,” Gay said. “I will keep my eyes open because these are two important positions and I want to eventually recommend the most outstanding candidate to the board.”

Gay has been the superintendent at the district since 2007. He’s a graduate of St. Laurence High School who has been an educator for 26 years. He was a teacher, coach and principal at DeLaSalle Institute for 16 years before moving on to become an assistant principal and principal at Andrew High School.

In the fall, Gay was criticized in some circles for proposed district changes. He wanted to change to eliminate District 118’s option zone of allowing students in the Palos Park and Orland Park areas choosing between Sandburg in Orland Park or Stagg in Palos Heights and require that they attend Stagg.

He also wanted District 146 students who lived in Orland Park and attended Central Middle School in Tinley Park to attend Andrew in Tinley Park instead of Sandburg.

Eventually, Gay kept the District 118 option zones status quo but the board voted to make the switch in District 146. For the next four years, students in that area will have the choice of Sandburg or Andrew but starting in 2016, they will attend Andrew.

Gay’s recommendation to eliminate the District 118 option zone would have required students who live across the street from Sandburg to attend Stagg, which is five miles away. That community presented an 875-signature petition to the board during a special board meeting Sept. 18 that drew close to 500 people at the Center School gym and communicated its concerns with the board via emails and website feedback and Gay took that all into consideration.

Gay said it was an effort to boost declining enrollment projections at Andrew and to try to even out the long-term enrollment figures at all three schools.

After the board voted on the District 146 switch on Sept. 27, board member Mike Hastings lauded Gay’s role in the decisions.

“Dr. Gay is a strategic leader and is making a very informed decision on the interest of Andrew High School and the best interest of the district as a whole,” he said. “This will help equalize and stabilize the enrollment differences between Andrew and Sandburg.

“I understand the taxpayers’ concerns,” he added. “But sometimes they are a little bit short-sighted.”

Gay said on Monday that he knew some people wouldn’t be happy with the changes.

“You always have emotions when changing a school zone,” Gay said. “But I have to look at the district as a whole and do what’s best to make sure the students of all three schools have the same opportunities. It was a collaborative process and in the end, I believe it was the right decision even if everyone was not happy.”