School District 64: Hiding In Plain Sight


Park Ridge – Niles School District 64 recently swore in four new board members: Pat Fioretto, Russ Gentile, Sharon Lawson and Eric Uhlig, all of whom ran uncontested with the endorsement of the General Caucus.  Those last two facts virtually guarantee that none of them have any inviolate principles or other “sharp edges” that might prevent them from going along to get along. 

Given that sad “pedigree,” we don’t hold out much hope that any of them will help construct a “new majority” of the school board which will be inspired to bring some much-needed transparency and accountability to what historically has been the most opaque, cost-ineffective and self-congratulatory arm of Park Ridge local government.  If you don’t believe us, just take a look at the District’s website,, basically a collection of self-serving factoids and quasi-analysis which predictably makes the District look like a much better-run organization than it has ever been.

For example, check out the “District Finances” section.  The “ISBE Profile” section brags about the fact that the District has received the Illinois State Board of Education’s “Financial Recognition” rating – the highest rating offered by the ISBE – since 2007, when the voters approved the whopping multi-million tax increase referendum just a couple of years after the District snuck through $5 million in non-referendum working cash bonds (“WCB”s) by telling the Big Lie: That those bonds were needed to combat delayed real estate tax revenues.  In fact, those WCBs were used to free up those belated tax revenues so that the latter funds could partially replenish the District’s depleted fund balances.

Not surprisingly, there’s no mention of the fact that those fund balances were depleted during the first half of this decade by the financial bungling of Superintendant Sally Prior and her fellow high-ranking administrators, which was rubber-stamped during that time by Caucus-anointed school board members Steve Lieber, Barbara Jones, Jane Meagher, Joe Baldi, Rich Brendza, Sue Runyon, Dean Krone, Steve Latreille, Christina Heyde, Ares Dalianis, Chris Mollett, Ron James and Marty Joyce – or that the District desperately needed those multi-millions of dollars generated by the WCBs and tax increases to prevent the ISBE from stepping in to manage the District’s finances because of several years of the District’s receiving the ISBE’s unfavorable “Financial Early Warning” and “Financial Watch” ratings. 

That’s not to say that those folks are bad people.  They aren’t.  But with the exception of Krone’s one brief shining moment (when he suggested, unsuccessfully, that any leftover “New Emerson” construction funds be rebated to the taxpayers rather than rolled into the general education fund), they also showed in no uncertain terms that they lacked the understanding, the ability and/or the courage to oversee the District’s management by its administrator in ways that maximized educational quality within the constraints imposed by the tax caps that were instituted way back in 1994.  And they also displayed a clear lack of understanding, ability and/or courage to tell the taxpayers the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the practical results of their stewardship of the District.

That’s why, although presiding over the District’s relatively straight-line decline into financial crisis, they regularly patted each other on the back even as they caved in the face of a brief strike by the teacher’s union, and even before they began giving Prior all the salary increases that have pushed her compensation beyond $215,000 (as best as we can tell).  Meanwhile, the District’s budget has grown even larger than the City’s.

Want to find out the state of District 64 (apparently its version of the State of the Union, or the State of the State)?  Go to, and click on, the “About Us” heading.  Then click on the “State of the District” [pdf] and you’ll find it…as of Fall, 2006!  That’s not the level of candor, or even the level of attention to detail, that inspires a whole lot of confidence.

But when it comes to student performance, we couldn’t find anything on the District’s website that showed us where the District ranks among the other districts in the Greater Chicagoland area in terms of ISAT scores.  We’re guessing that’s because, as best as we can tell from the ranking information that is available from other sources (such as the Chicago Sun-Times), District 64’s performance on those tests is lackluster at best…although you’ll never get the administration or board to acknowledge it: When they can’t avoid the topic, their mantra is always one of the many variations on the theme “we don’t teach to the test.”

Can’t you just hear Prior or the designated District 64 spokesman sneer (in her/his best “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” bandito voice): “Test scores?  We don’t need no stinking test scores”?

The District’s website also furnishes a variety of information about compensation of teachers and administrators, but it does so by nameless categories, tables and fictional examples (“Teacher A” and “Teacher B”) that really don’t tell the taxpayers much at all. The simpler and better alternative would be to publish the compensation of each individual teacher and administrator by name – so that the taxpayers can tell exactly to whom they are paying how much for whatever quality and quantity of service each such employee is providing.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for that level of transparency and accountability.  District 64 hasn’t provided it yet, and we don’t expect to see it anytime soon.  For the people who run the District, and for the Caucus folks who were instrumental in putting them in office, warm and fuzzy propaganda is always preferred over straight-shooting. 

17 comments so far

Actually if you go to the web page listed below published Feb 1, 2009 you can the compensation for admin and teachers in Dist 64. When you fill in the search criteria just don’t put in the name of an individual and you will get everyone starting with Sally.,illinois-salaries-teacher-administrator.article

You can get the most dreadful part of the story if you go to the Appendixes A, B and C of the teachers contract. If you do it right, by taking Step or Year 1 in Appen A, Step or year 2 from Appen B and Step or year 3 From Appen C or do the same thing any place else in the table you will find that the increase for showing up each year is about 6.7% per year. That doesn’t allow for other increases that can be earned for courses and degrees. And of course performance is not part of this

Wages account for about 75% of the budget give or take. Here is the problem. You always run out of money when your major expenses go up 6.7% and the tax cap says you can only raise tax revenues 5% or the cost of living whichever is smaller. The tax cap is supposed to protect us from Boards like the one you described above.

So what happens. Teachers are not renewed and class size increases and performance falls. Parents go crazy. Eventually we get the kind of tax increase antics you described above.

The system works fine for all the employees ,except those let go. It just doesn’t work for the kids and we see it in the lack luster achievement you mentioned.

How does a teacher fare? If I can round 6.7% to 7% then the salary doubles every 10 years.
Start $40,000
Year 10 $80,000
Year 20 $160,000
Year 30 $320,000
Year 40 $640,000
Retire $480,000 Max is 75% after 38 years, but the retirement is cost of living adjusted

Not bad!! except for the tax payers
It was even worse but the state has sort of stopped allowing districts to boostsalaries 20% in the finals 3 years for long timers

I know the union people who peruse these sites and get personal about info like thiswill be all over this but it is basically correct

Thank you for the tip, Anonymous, along with the additional comments.  The fact that this information is on the Sun-Times website instead of District 64’s, however, sadly seems to prove our point about District 64’s lack of candor. 

Also the Sun-Times info shows that Supt. Prior was paid $228,911 in school year 2007-08, which is more than the $215,000 we attributed to her.

Thank you for this post. This has been a burr under my saddle for years, both as a parent when my kids were in D-64 schools, and as a taxpayer.

I looked at those salaries on the site linked by anon 10:37, and when you consider the fact that the teachers earn that in less than 9 months (or even 8, if you figure in summer vacation and all the breaks, holidays, etc.), and that they get great benefits and funded pensions after 30 years, that’s a pretty sweet deal. If you annualize it by adding 25% for all that time off, the top jr. high teacher makes $125,000, the top elem. teacher makes $122,000, the head nurse makes $115,000, and the top social worker makes $113,000. Even without the annualization, they are still above the median HOUSEHOLD income for Park Ridge!

Rorschach already resented the waste of his large, annual tax payment on school district mismanagement — the majority of his large, annual tax payment, mind you. We must watch these watchmen. When is the next school board meeting? Are the agenda posted on their website?

So the head nurse at D-64 makes $115,000 annualized, or about $86,000 for 8-9 months. My sister-in-law is a nurse who doesn’t make that, and her job is a lot tougher than being a school nurse. No wonder we’re being taxed to death.

Is she a member of the teacher’s union, too?

Here I go being contrarian again but I find it difficult to be outraged about a head nurse for a school district making 86K. I do not know how many nurses report to them but if I am not mistaken there are appoximately 4500 kids in the district. They deal with a variety of different health issues, special needs, state requirements etc. This does not seem like an outrageous amount of money for the position.

I went to the link provided by the first poster in the thread. I agree we have to watch what we get for our money but as a whole I do not see these numbers as outrageous. It would appear that at the time of that article was written there were 390 district 64 employees on which they have data. There are 19 people making 6 figures. If you click on the details section for the higher paid teachers, they all have 20+ years experience (that does not mean they are good). The article does not show what additional training or education they have undertaken. I looked up one of the teachers I have had experience with on the list. Excellent teacher (in my opinion) who has a post graduate degree and has 9 years experience. They were at less than 60K. That seems low as hell to me. Of course there are bad teachers. Some have been around for 20 years and that is a part of the problem. But for the teachers that I have had experience with thus far in the district I do not think they are overpaid. A first lawyer at a major firm in the city starts at about $125,000.

That first year lawyer will likely be expected to work 3000 billable hours-thats nearly 1000 hours of overtime in one year on a 40 hour week. In addition, they will not have 8 weeks off in the summer, two weeks at Christmas, one week in the spring and will likely work every holiday. They also will fund their own retirement funds. Also, if they are a “bad” lawyer, they will be fired. No tenure for a lawyer (or most other professions)-good or bad.

anon on 06.09.09 6:01 pm:

I make and spend a lot more than $60,000 a year, and I have no interest in teaching.

But $60,000 for 8-9 months of work, no heavy lifting, summers and all holidays off, can’t be fired, can’t really be blamed for success or failure of your students, can’t have your job outsourced to Nogales or Bangalore, with a defined benefit pension plan and solid health care doesn’t sound “low as hell” to me.

anon 1:33:

Your statements are all true. Please do not misunderstand what I said earlier. I do now want bad, unmotivated teachers (and I know that there are some out there). For motivated good teachers, like those who I have met thus far in my experience at district 64, I do not find the numbers on that list to be at all offensive.

Sorry about the lawyer example, but I do find it ironic that many first year lawyers make more than a good teacher with a 20+ year record and a graduate degree.


This reminds me of all the debates about the school referendum when I first moved to PR.

All I can say is that I guess you and I have very different opinions about the value of a good teacher and what is involved in the job.

I would also say that, on this topic and others, it sometimes appears to me that people are stuck in a time warp. I mean come on, in this day and age 60K is not a lot of money.

This is annon 10;37 with an additional data source

For the grand daddy of all teacher salary sites go to

read it in wonder!!

Annonymous on 06.16.09 2:12 pm,

Not to quibble, because I think the source you provided is very legitimate and informative, but the amounts cited by are, I believe, the TOTALS in compensation for each teacher, not just/merely/only salaries.

There is surely measurable dollar value to the bennies teachers receive…however, the numbers at are not just/merely/only cash, as “salaries” are understood to be.

I could be completely wrong about all this…but I don’t think so.


Thanks you for the information. That bolsters my point even more. I looked at the link and there are 16 people in total making over 100K (if you are correct including bennies). Virtually all have the position of principal or administration. I clicked on several of the 90 K + names and all I saw had 20 years or more of experience.

I just do not see how these numbers are out of line. Oh well.

anon on 06.16.09 6:37 pm,

You’re welcome. I agree it does bolster your point, if the point you are making is that D64 staff aren’t over-paid, as would seem to be indicated by your statement “I just do not see how these numbers are out of line.”

However, that goes both ways…the numbers are not out of line in terms of D64 staff being under-paid either, which seems to be what the PREA would have us all believe every time contract negotiations roll around.

Don’t forget, these compensation packages are doled out for much less than the usual yearly work schedule with which regular private-sector job hodlers have to contend, if they’re fortunate enough to still hold their jobs…no such thing as tenure in the private sector.


Alas, Unions negotiate! This may seem like a fine point but I was not arguing that they were underpaid. I was arguing that the general numbers do not make me feel like they are over paid. Of course individual cases may vary!

I was responding to the posts offering evidence about the “huge” salaries for teachers. I moved here during the school referendum and remember seeing the fliers citing teachers (by name) and salaries. Apparently this information was and is provided to make me outraged about how much teachers are paid. It did not work.

Certainly we have to continue to train and/or weed out those teachers who are not performing, but a teacher who is a high performer with a Masters Degree (paid for out of their own pocket) and who has 20+ years of experience and makes 90K – I think that is a good thing.

anon on 06.16.09 7:10 pm,

Alas, you’re being hyperbolic and silly; not a single comment posited any opinion about any “huge” salaries. Rather, there have been a number of comments suggesting that teaching, at least here in Park Ridge, with the salaries and benefits, schedule and expectations (or lack there of) is a “sweet deal.” I would agree with those sentiments.

There is such a thing as negotiating in good faith. I believe most of the time, most union negotiators do so. However, I’ve also seen when they do not and I will remain suspicious of the negotiating posture continually adopted by the current leadership of the PREA, if that leadership is still who I believe it to be.

Instead of believing the information about teacher compensation is provided to induce a sense of outrage in you or anyone else, have you considered the possibility that the information is provided for clarity? The type of clarity that can only come from being provided with information?

Since teaching is a profession that is paid for through public funds, as far as I’m concerned the teachers and union can cry to the moon and I will have no qualms about telling them to tell their troubles to Jesus, because He might care about their “personal” salary information being provided to the people who pay their salaries; I assure you, I do not care about their sense of “outrage” at having such “personal” information revealed.

If teaching weren’t a sweet deal, our district and many others wouldn’t have the proverbial pick of the patch when it comes to job openings. If teaching weren’t a sweet deal that provides more benefits to its practitioners than it doesn’t, those practitioners wouldn’t seek Master’s Degrees, paid for out of their own pockets.

Whether consciously done or not, people DO engage in some measure of cost/benefit analysis. Teaching and teachers are no exception.


I guess I read too much into some of the posts. Sorry if that is the case.

The man who posted the chart about a teacher earning 640K at year 40 would seem to me to be making a case for overpaid teachers. The man talking about the difficulty of his sister in laws job versus the head nurse was making that case as well, no?? “My sister-in-law is a nurse who doesn’t make that, and her job is a lot tougher than being a school nurse. No wonder we’re being taxed to death. Is she a member of the teacher’s union, too?” Without question, the flier I referenced during the referendum was intended to say ” we do not need to give the schools more money becuase the teachers are already overpaid, see!!” Just my opinion.

Just to be clear, I too have no problem with this information being published. Our tax dollars are paying their salaries and the public has a right to know.

On your last point, about cost/benefit anaylsis, I would not deny what you stated for a second. Of course teachers see benefits in their jobs (financial and otherwise) as we all do – and some days do not. My point was never that that we should feel sorry for them or that they did not choose their career path. Many of these teachers might very well consider it a sweet deal. I can’t relate to that as I could never be a teacher no matter what they paid me.

Maybe that is the crux of the problem. I look at it from my own perspective and experience. I could never do it. I have had great experiences thus far with D64 from admin, office staff, teachers all the way down to bus drivers. Then I look at my own work history. I am far from a rich man but if I would have decided to be a teacher many years ago when I graduted from college my financial situation would be different versus today. I look at the value of dollar today and then I look at the numbers.

I am certainly not saying we should somehow feel sorry for the teachers. They choose their job, just as some who might think they are overpaid choose their careers. I am simply saying that I do not find the numbers to be unreasonable or outrageous of out of line.

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