Public Watchdog.org

Secret Pay Raises At School District 64?

06.30.11

In our post “City Council Still Not Walking The Fiscal Talk” (06.21.11), we criticized the new City Council’s rubber-stamping of the old City Council’s “blanket, everybody-gets-one, 3% raise that added $185,766 to the 2011-12 budget.”

Needless to say, we aren’t fans of un-merited, across-the-board raises for any employees, but we’re willing to let the marketplace deal with that problem for private companies.  When it comes to public employees who already enjoy minimal/non-existent performance goals and accountability, however, we’re dead set against any pay increases not tied to performance and merit.    

But at least the City Council – both the old one and the new one – had the integrity to publicly discuss both the percentage and the total dollar amount of those across-the-board raises for City employees before voting to approve them, and again before voting to over-ride Mayor Dave Schmidt’s vetoes.  And anybody not in the audience at any of those meetings could still watch the video of those proceedings and judge the debate for  themselves.

That’s not remotely close to the case with the Board and Administration of Park Ridge–Niles School District 64, dominated by Board president John Heyde and Supt. Philip Bender.  Heyde, in particular, acts as if he places the taxpayers’ right to know somewhere between the right to lifetime oil changes at Jiffy Lube and the right to an autographed photo of Hamid Karzai, suitable for framing.

We understand that at Monday night’s meeting, the D-64 Board approved across-the-board raises for school administrators and certain other personnel.  But the amount of those raises, either in percentages or in total dollars, remains a secret because – lo, but not behold – the Board’s meeting agenda is silent on that information, leaving us to guess what is meant by the uber-vague reference to “Approval of Salary and Benefit Changes…” under the Consent Agenda portion of the meeting (8:25-8:30 p.m.).

Although that matter was moved off the Consent Agenda and voted upon as an individual item, it was done with no public disclosure of what those “Salary…Changes” were.  And, not surprisingly, the voluminous meeting materials posted on D-64’s website are completely silent on such “Salary…Changes.”

So what gives, Messrs. Heyde and Bender?  Are you perpetrating yet another lie by omission of information that should have been publicly disclosed before the Board voted on it?  If not, then why weren’t those “Salary and Benefit Changes” a matter of public record well in advance of the meeting, so that interested citizens might have known to show up and speak their piece about them? 

Sadly, if not infuriatingly, this is just the latest in a long line of similar conduct by Mr. Heyde and Mr. Bender (and before him, former-Supt. Sally Pryor) which we have written about in posts such as “D-64 Board Stealthily Picks Architect Of Record” (05.13.11), “More Of The ‘Culture of Secrecy’ At District 64” (09.16.10), “Arrogant And Disrespectful, Or Simply Petty And Juvenile” (04.07.10), “Concealing The Details Of A ‘Fair’ Contract Raises Questions” (09.14.09) and “School District 64: Hiding In Plain Sight” (06.08.09).

The lack of transparency and accountability at D-64 has been a constant since at least when the new Emerson came on-line in 1998, the under-budgeting of which appears to have created the motive for the Board and District administrators to drive the District to the brink of financial crisis while insisting no tax increases were needed – just a $5 million back-door, non-referendum working cash bond issue in 2005, and then a multi-million tax increase referendum in 2007 to keep the Illinois State Board of Education from taking over the District’s financial management.

We can’t quite tell whether the D-64 Board and Administration are simply dismissive, or outright contemptuous, of their “stakeholders” (as all these public-sector propagandists like to label us stiffs who foot the bills).  People who have had so much success in getting their critics to cower at the mere utterance of “It’s for the kids” have learned they can be shameless when dictating to the spineless.

With Heyde playing Cardinal Woolsey to Bender’s Thomas Cranmer, the D-64 Star Chamber is alive, well, and spending our money anyway they please – the taxpaying citizenry remaining none the wiser.

To read or post comments, click on title.

2 comments so far

PW, don’t you know? They’re “doing it for the children.” That’s supposed to cut off all debate.

John Heyde: As our elected representative, can you please comment publicly? And reveal what we just spent?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Heyde? Heyde? Bueller?

Is all the secrecy at D64 a version of cockroaches hate the light theory?



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