The Duneland School
Board approved a $22,500 raise to Duneland Schools Superintendent Dr. Chip
Pettit’s base salary at a special meeting Tuesday night.
The new contract
provides for raising Pettit’s base salary from $147,500 to $170,000
annually, eliminates his annual vehicle allowance of $6,000 in favor of
providing a Duneland Schools-owned vehicle for his work-related travel, and
provides that he will be eligible for a $6,000 performance stipend based on
district-wide state accountability ratings rather than a Board-driven
Per the new
agreement, Pettit will also have business and professional expenses paid up
to $2,000, in addition to conference expenses. The contract carries through
2023 and effectively auto-renews annually in perpetuity as long as Pettit is
rated as effective by the Board, according to Board President Brandon Kroft.
The Board approved
the new contract unanimously after one member of the public, and the only
member of the public who attended, local resident Joel Sutlin, weighed in.
Sutlin said he’s
owned a business in Duneland since 1995 and moved here because of the
quality of the Duneland Schools. When he first moved to Duneland, Sutlin
said, he was impressed by then-Superintendent Dirk Baer, who he said refused
his last proposed raise during his tenure.
Sutlin went on to
say that since, he has seen several superintendents who were hired at
increasingly high salaries not commit to Duneland the same way Baer did. “I
don’t attest to the theory that you can buy excellence,” Sutlin said.
“That’s a personal opinion. Track records, I think, have proved me out.”
Sutlin asked if
Pettit requested the raise. Kroft said there was not a direct request.
“There was discussion about doing an increase,” Kroft said, adding that he
can’t give details about personnel matters, “but I will tell you there was
no flat-out demand.”
Vice-president Ron Stone said, though he acknowledged now may be bad timing
to give a raise, disagreed with Sutlin. “For me, I own my own business, and
you say you can’t buy talent, but I buy it,” Stone said. Stone added that
while Baer refused raises over the years, other superintendents took them,
which set Duneland up to be on the low-end of the local market once the
Board was tasked with replacing Baer.
Sutlin, for his
part, said he’s been following Pettit’s progress at Duneland and thinks
Pettit is doing a great job, though Duneland standardized test scores are
“deplorable” in his opinion.
Board member John
Marshall, who yesterday was celebrating exactly 15 years on the Board,
offered his reasoning for supporting the proposed contract: “In the 15 years
that I’ve been here, and I’ve had a lot of them, there has never been an
upside to our superintendent like what we’ve had with Chip Pettit,” Marshall
said. “I made the decision that I think was best for the school corporation.
We made the right decision, and that’s the job of the school board-- that is
one of our sole focuses-- hiring and retaining the superintendent.”
Alayna Lightfoot Pol added, “Whether we like it or not, schooling has become
highly competitive. I’m here because we want change, and he’s the change we
need. We’ve seen great things in the past year.”
Stone added that
Valparaiso Community Schools and the Crown Point Community School
Corporation (where Pettit made his career before he was hired at Duneland
last year) are both in the market right now for new superintendents.
Stone said Pettit
will help improve the test scores Sutlin mentioned, and Pettit will be great
for Duneland in part because he’s from the region and is committed to the
Duneland community. “He’s our guy,” Stone said. “He’s staying here.”
Sutlin said Pettit
is “making plenty of money” and excused himself from the meeting after Board
members scoffed at his final comment: “I just hope you guys aren’t selling