Chicago Archdiocese freezes teacher pay

When Principal Sante Iacovelli of St. Benedict High School heard the Archdiocese of Chicago issued a pay freeze for its employees, he felt worried, he says.

While he understood hard economic times were to blame, he wondered how the decision might affect his staff.

“I know that it’s being done for a good cause for the good of all, but I’m concerned some teachers might leave because of it,” Iacovelli says. “I will have to find other ways to motivate them.”

The Chicago Archdiocese recently decided to freeze pay for most of its 16,000 employees, including teachers and administrators.

It’s a forward-thinking move designed to prevent layoffs, says Susan Burritt, Archdiocese’s director of media relations.

“It’s our way of being fiscally responsible,” Burritt says. “We are doing this rather than laying off people.”

Principal Bernadette Felicione of Immaculate Conception School on the Northwest Side says when she told her staff about the pay freeze they were disappointed, but understood it was a preventative measure.

“I said, ‘The bad news is it’s frozen, but the good news is you still have a place to work,’” Felicione says.

While the Archidiocese’s annual report shows parish weekly and annual appeals to be strong, that might not last, some schools have been reporting difficulty collecting tuition from parents. 

With the economic climate, it’s possible the Archdiocese could lose more kids than ever before, says Brian Gray, a spokesperson for the National Catholic Educational Association. 

Enrollment in Catholic institutions has been steadily dropping by about 3 percent a year, even without an economic downturn, Gray says.

It won't be known how badly the economy changed that dynamic until next year when enrollment numbers are calculated, Gray says.

Schools use their own budgets to pay for salaries, which are generally set by the Archdiocese, says Ryan Blackburn, the Archdiocese's director of school marketing and communications.

The decision affects almost 90 percent of the 3,800 elementary school teachers and administrators. But only six of the 39 high schools associated with the Archdiocese, which covers Lake and Cook counties, will have to follow the pay freeze.

That's because most high schools are run by religious orders, rather than the Archdiocese.

The six high schools that must follow the pay freeze are: St. Benedict on the Northwest Side; St. Francis de Sales, Leo and Our Lady of Tepeyac on the South Side, St. Gregory on the far North Side and Seton Academy in South Holland.

The majority of those affected by the freeze are priests, religious brothers, nuns, permanent deacons, certified pastor assistants and pastral ministers.

The freeze begins on July 1, at the start of the Archdiocese’s new fiscal year.

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