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New CPS CEO to be paid $340,000 salary in 5-year contract

Pedro Martinez’s salary has jumped 31% since December, when former schools chief Janice Jackson was paid $260,000 a year.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez discusses graduation rates in the district during a news conference at Amundsen High School on the North Side, Thursday afternoon, Oct. 21, 2021.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez discusses graduation rates in the district during a news conference at Amundsen High School on the North Side, Thursday afternoon, Oct. 21, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez has been granted a $340,000 annual salary on a five-year contract to lead the nation’s third-largest school system.

The terms, made public Monday ahead of final approval by the Board of Education at Wednesday’s monthly meeting, represent a raise for Martinez and an even larger increase for the district’s top job, which has grown progressively more lucrative over the past few months.

Though Monday marks the 18th business day of Martinez’s tenure after he started Sept. 29, his salary and benefits had not yet been released publicly.

Under questioning, Martinez told the Sun-Times earlier this month he would sign a five-year deal at CPS for roughly the same salary and benefit package he was receiving in San Antonio, a district seven times smaller than Chicago’s. There, Martinez made $315,000 per year, plus 20% or $63,000 toward a retirement account and $8,400 more for a cellphone and local travel.

“The package will be public soon,” Martinez said at the time. “But I can tell you I didn’t come here for the money. It really was because I’m committed to this city, to this district.”

A CPS spokeswoman said Martinez’s retirement contribution in Chicago will be 10%, or $34,000 annually. That would bring his total compensation package to $374,000 a year, though the rest of his benefits still aren’t clear, including travel and technology payments or vacation.

The district still has not released Martinez’s full contract.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS officials had for weeks refused to answer questions or fulfill freedom of information acts about the new CEO’s compensation package, telling reporters the details were still being negotiated — even after he took the CEO’s office.

Yet according to the Board of Education’s meeting agenda, Board President Miguel del Valle and Martinez “executed a contract subject to board approval” on Sept. 30. Meanwhile a quarterly document showing every district employee’s title and earnings was published online Oct. 1 showing Martinez’s salary.

The CEO’s salary has skyrocketed 31% since December, from $260,000 a year for former schools chief Janice Jackson, to $300,000 when she got a mid-winter raise, to $335,000 for interim CEO José Torres, although he only received a portion of that after working just a few months.

When Jackson received her raise, the school board said it was to bring her in line with other major district superintendents who earned far more than Chicago paid. The median salary for chiefs at the 10 largest school systems is around $350,000, according to Chalkbeat.

Jackson’s January 2018 contract was for three and a half years. Martinez’s five-year deal is retroactive to his start date Sept. 29 and runs through June 30, 2026.

“The only way I would take this position is if I could get the longest contract possible because the challenges here — they’re gonna take time, and we need stability at all district levels, including mine,” Martinez said earlier this month.

Martinez will oversee about 39,000 employees.

The district had an enrollment of 340,000 students last year, which has since plunged to 327,000, according to preliminary figures Martinez provided. The San Antonio Independent School District has 48,000 students.

Martinez was asked why, if his compensation package turned out to be comparable to San Antonio, he would accept a bigger and more challenging job without getting a substantial pay raise.

“For me, it was never about the money to come. I hoped to at least just be comparable,” he said.

“Chicago is a more expensive city than San Antonio. But it is my city. It’s my hometown. I love my city. And so, for me, it was never about that.”

Martinez is now one of the highest paid city of Chicago employees, his salary trailing that of David Whitaker, the city tourism chief, who earns a base salary of $380,000 a year.

Martinez is by far the highest-earner at CPS, pulling in $100,000 more than the closest district official. He’s set to make $6,539 per week, more than 23,102 CPS employees — a majority of district workers — make in a month. It’ll take the new CEO about two days to earn the median CPS bi-weekly paycheck.