Geneva School Board President Explains Superintendent's Contract, Car Deal

Mark Grosso at a December 2013 Geneva School Board meeting.
Mark Grosso at a December 2013 Geneva School Board meeting.

Back in August, Geneva School District 304 extended the contract of Superintendent Kent Mutchler for another year, to 2018.

The contract has come under some fire, most recently by Geneva TaxFACTS co-founder Bob McQuillan, who questioned in his Nov. 12 blog on Geneva Patch why Mutchler received a 2.5 percent salary increase, a $9,000 performance bonus, an $800 monthly travel allowance and "a two-year interest free car loan."

Mutchler’s 2.5 percent salary hike pushes his annual salary to more than $203,720 for the 2013-14 school year.

Grosso sat down this week at 318 Coffeehouse, discussed the decision-making process and explained some of the board's reasoning regarding the one-year contract extension as well as the overall direction for administrative salaries down the road.

Mutchler has what's called a "rolling, five-year contract," which is renewed annually. Grosso said that does not mean Mutchler would collect the full five years' salary and benefits if he were to leave the district for any reason during that time period.

Grosso said the superintendent's compensation was performance based, and Geneva's ACT scores — one of the most-recognized measures of student performance — was one reason for the $9,000 bonus. The ACT scores bucked a state and national trend and rose in 2013.

"When we looked at this past year, the ACT scores were acknowledged as part of his accomplishments, as well as implementation of the teacher evaluation process," Grosso said.

"In 2012, we looked at surrounding districts and found that most hired additional employees to assist with that evaluation process — which was mandated by the state. Some had to hire five to seven people to support the evaluation and administration of that process. Dr. Mutchler said he could do it with the folks we had in-house. He carried it out successfully, without hiring new employees.

"I felt, and the board felt, that just that was a huge savings to the district. If we had to hire even one employee, it would have been (a far-greater expense.)"

Grosso said the one-time bonus was important, because it recognizes performance without adding to Mutchler's base salary or retirement benefits. 

"While we did give him the money, it is not counted as creditable earnings," Grosso said.

The distinction is significant, Grosso said, because it is a signal for the way the board would like to approach compensation in the future.

"I would like to see us trend in that direction with the rest of our administrators and pay for performance and less on the base," Grosso said.


Vehicle Deal

Grosso says the arrangement regarding Mutchler's car was "no sweetheart deal."

"We needed to make a decision whether to purchase a new vehicle," he said. "We're talking about a 2006 (minivan) with 120,000 miles on it. We looked at cost of leasing a vehicle and what other districts were doing. We’re always looking at ways to reduce cost, and part of that is reducing our fleet of vehicles. In leiu of that, we gave Dr. Mutchler a vehicle allowance."

Under the agreement, Mutchler is paid $800 a month but must pay for gas, maintenance and insurance.

"It’s probably a wash as far as the lease and insurance," Grosso said.

"He did request if he could purchase the vehicle. We could have taken the 2006 vehicle to CarMax, but instead, the superintendent paid us what we paid for the lease agreement. I feel we were compensated very well for that 2006 Ford, and I think it was a good business decision on our part."

In his blog, McQuillan described the deal as a car loan and reissued his suggestion that Mutchler donate the $4,300 to the Music Boosters to purchase nine new band uniforms.

Grosso's position was that the arrangement just made sense.

"There was no sweetheart deal there, he said. "You could put it out on the street with a $4,000 tag on it, and I think it would be there for a long time."

"It’s like anything. There’s another side of it," he said. 

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Mike December 12, 2013 at 07:31 PM
Grosso, to little to late. If you would have answered the question when asked, you and your board members might have saved yourself the embarrassment. Now stand up like a man and tell the Geneva tax payers who inflated the enrollment numbers.


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