Would D-207 Voters Give Superintendent 5-Year Extension?


Let’s start this post out by saying that we’ve got no personal beef with Maine Twp. High School District 207 Superintendent Ken Wallace.

But just how ridiculous is it that the D-207 School Board – save for member Mary Childers, the only “no” vote – recently voted to give Wallace a 5-year contract extension after only four years on the job?  Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville received only a 3-year contract extension, and that was after winning his second Stanley Cup in four years!

What leads to such bizarre decisions by our elected School Board members?

A rumor that Wallace was going to declare for free agency?  A report on TMZ that Wallace will be directing the next Batman movie?  A job offer from Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 that included a $20,000 raise and an Arby’s franchise?

Last week’s Park Ridge Journal story (“Dist. 207 Supt. Granted 5-Year Contract Extension,” Oct. 16) and this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate story (“District 207 superintendent gets five-year contract extension,” Oct. 21) provide little more than the following insight, compliments of Board president Margaret McGrath:

“Dr. Wallace has demonstrated exemplary leadership, not only in setting the tone for the professional development of teacher leadership and classroom innovations that are resulting in improved education and opportunities for students, but also in effectively managing and resolving budgetary, personnel and student issues.

“The extension of his contract ensures invaluable continuity as the district follows through on several initiatives, the continued success of which has been integrated into his contract in the form of performance goals.”

Can one fit more meaningless bureaucratic buzz-terms – “exemplary leadership,” “professional development,” “teacher leadership,” “classroom innovations,” “invaluable continuity,” “several initiatives,” “continued success” and “performance goals” – into a mere two paragraphs?

We doubt it.

When you read horse hockey like that, you can be pretty sure that there’s way more foam than beer in the glass.  But from what we’ve seen of the D-207 Board members over the past several years (with the exception of Childers and former member Ed Mueller), they are masters of foam over substance.

Where are the performance metrics – that objectively measurable, hard-number data that proves the achievement of Maine Twp. High School students actually has increased over the four years of Wallace’s tenure?  All we’ve seen over the last four years is a decline in performance and rankings, even for the flagship of the D-207 fleet: Maine South.  And the most notable headlines involving D-207 we can think of during his four-year tenure have been the ones related to the Maine West hazing scandal.

According to the Journal and H-A articles, in addition to the 5-year contract extension Wallace was also given:

  • a $3,000 raise (1.5%, from $206,916 to $210,000) in his base pay, and locked-in 1.5% increases in each of the following four years;
  • 22 vacation days and 12 sick days (almost 7 weeks) per year, the former of which he can accumulate at the rate of 5 per year up to a total of 69 (for cashing in and adding to his salary for purposes of pension calculation when it’s time to retire?);
  • 82 sick days (or over 16 weeks worth) to start the contract;
  • a boost in his car allowance from $450 to $600/month; and
  • a reduction, from $30,000 to $25,000, in the amount of liquidated damages Wallace would have to pay D-207 if he bailed on the District mid-contract.

But perhaps the most significant benefits conferred on Wallace by the new contract are eligibility for two separate “merit pay” increases, one for up to $26,000 and the other for up to $25,000.  He picked up the $25,000 increase for the 2011-12 school year, which bumped his pay for that year up to $221,950 according to a TribLocal story from June 7, 2012 (“D207 superintendent gets pay raise, $25K job-performance bonus”).

Caesar’s sports book in Vegas isn’t even posting a betting line for Wallace getting at least one $25,000 bonus: it’s virtually a sure thing with this current Board, which means that his new salary effectively will be $235,000 during the coming school year, and could soar to $260,000 if that second bonus kicks in.

School superintendents, like presidents and governors, are often unfairly blamed for their predecessors’ mistakes, and unjustifiably credited for their predecessors’ accomplishments due to the delayed effects of governmental decision-making.  But presidents and governors only get re-upped for only four years at a time, if at all; and the voters are the ones who get to do the re-upping.

How likely is it that the voters would give Wallace a five-year deal, even without all the compensation and vacation/sick day increases?

Can you say “NFW”?

Is D-207 a 1.5% better school district than it was last year?  Will it be 1.5% better in each of the next 5 years?  Was student performance 1.5% better last year than the year before, and will it be 1.5% better this year versus last?  Is the property tax bite D-207 takes out of the taxpayer 1.5% less than last year, and will it be 1.5% less in each of the next 5 years?  Do these kinds of things even matter to the D-207 Board?

Can you say “NFW” again?

To read or post comments, click on title.

23 comments so far

What the hell is going on here? YOu’re right, PW, Wallace isn’t Quenneville. He’s not even Dusty Baker! So why are we giving him a 5 year deal for astronomical dollars? Who are these people on the shcool board who can do something this dumb?

EDITOR’S NOTE: People who, like so many of their predecessors at D-207, D-64, the City, the Park District, etc., are willing to go along with just about anything because they are so desperate to get along and be liked.

“People who, like so many of their predecessors at D-207, D-64, the City, the Park District, etc., are willing to go along with just about anything because they are so desperate to get along and be liked.”

Right. because they can’t possibly be looking at actual facts. Last I looked, MS was #20 on the Tribune’s “best high schools” list. Take away the five Chicago selective enrollment schools ahead of MS, which shouldn’t be included because they exclude everyone but the city’s highest achievers, and that’s pretty darn good. There are over 500 high schools in the IHSA.

But the are only giving up their time to serve for the personal accolades. Please.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “There are over 500 high schools in the IHSA” suggests that we should be comparing Maine South to high schools in Robbins, Harvey, Effingham, etc. Seriously?

As for the Tribune, its May 1, 2013 story reports that, according to U.S. News & World’s latest rankings, Maine South is the 27th-best high school in Illinois.

Maybe the taxpayers would be better off if people who are content merely to “give up their time” rather than actually accomplish something more than rubber-stamping self-serving recommendations by bureaucrats, kept their time to themselves.

Well at least there was lots of discussion, debate, and a thorough explanation of the increase and new contract. That’s something the voters can hang their hats on. Wait, what, no discussion, no debate? Par for the course with this Board.

You are right the lot of them are better off keeping their time to themselves.

What’s that Mark Twain said about School Boards?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re not sure if there was any discussion, debate, or thorough explanation of the new deal – but only because we weren’t at the meeting and haven’t had a chance to watch the video. But we’re betting this was one of those pre-packaged deals with the press release written in advance, with the only unscripted portion being Mary Childers’ “no” vote.

Thank you, Watchdog, for saying something that has needed to be said for some time now. Volunteers who do stupid things are worse than empty chairs.

One time when I had to fire an employee, she had the audacity to tell me that the job was unattractive and that I was lucky that she was willing to fill it. Yeah, she really said that. My response was that as long as she was filling it with underperformance, I was depriving my company of the possibility of employing somebody better, so maybe I’ll be luckier filling it after she leaves.

The same could be said about our volunteer officials, and our well-paid employees.

Per the second anonymous comment above, yes, bravo — Main South is a great high school. The teachers deserve their salaries. I suppose the administrators deserve their salaries, too.

But does the superintendent, already making a base salary of $206,916, deserve a guaranteed 1.5% per year increase for the next five years? Not to mention bonuses?

I’m sure the school board appreciates Dr. Wallace. Do they equally appreciate that every pay raise, every perquisite, every budget increase all add up to higher tax bills for their neighbors?

Could it be that they’re feeling relaxed after announcing a $1 million rebate to the community, thanks to recent budget surpluses? Why would that justify more spending — is our money burning a hole in their pockets?

We’re getting hit at all levels of government. Springfield will make permanent the income tax increase to 5%. According to the Herald-Advocate website, new tax increases are on the way from the Park District (which has been spending money like crazy the past couple of years) and even the City of Park Ridge.

By the way, the City’s potential tax increase would attempt to make up the debt they — we — owe to the Uptown TIF fund. That debt stems from revenue the City pays to the school districts, who were afraid of losing revenue due to tax breaks given by the City Council to prospective Uptown businesses. In other words, the City tax increase would also be a school tax increase.

On top of all this, the public employees’ pension bomb is ticking away. When it explodes, the pressure to make good on promises to teachers will be exacerbated by all the money paid to administrators like Dr. Wallace.

It may be unfair for the publisher to say that our elected representatives — our neighbors — go along with all this spending “because they are so desperate to get along and be liked.” But they are indeed going along with all this spending, seemingly unaware of the impact it has on residents’ tax bills.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Steve, are yoiu also succumbing to the group-think with your “Main [sic] South is a great high school” comment?

Maine South definitely is a very good high school. But “great”? Only if your response to virtually every aspect of daily life in Park Ridge is “Awesome!”

Most people who seek or accept a position as a public official are “our neighbors” and decent folks. But after studying local government here in Park Ridge for the past 20+ years, having served in elective office for 8 of those years, having served in appointive office for the past two years, and having gotten to know (and personally like) many of the folks who have held elective or appointive office during that time, this editor stands by his go-along-to-get-along comment.

It’s always easier to say “yes” than “no.” And it’s always easier to spend OPM than your own, especially if the all-knowing bureaucrats are telling you to do so and you, your family, or your friends want (or can benefit from) the things you’re spending it on.

Hence, all the travelers on the path of least resistance.

Based on what I read in the Advocate last week, the Board may be too busy adjusting policies to allow for kids (and their parents) to feel pressured to follow their “coaches” to their private businesses outside of school to help them make their respective teams, to have time to debate contract extensions for Wallace.

“….astronomical dollars?”

Really??? Astronomical?!?! Your kidding, right??


You have had every opportunity to fire them. It is called an election. Ya see they are not just volunteers, they are elected volunteers. These board members (some recently) won elections for these positions (did you vote?).

I believe the next terms expire in 2015 so you will have time to mount a candidacy or find a candidate.

In the mean time perhaps you could try for a recall.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly the right point to make.

On the other hand, until relatively recently, all our local governmental bodies enjoyed the high-orbit satellite scrutiny applied by our local newspapers, whose idea of hard-hitting, incisive journalism was to talk to the head bureaucrat of the public body du jour and report it, unquestioningly, as gospel – especially when it was endorsed by unanimous rubber-stamping by the elected officials of that body. Transparency and accountability were understandably in short supply under that system.

That’s a lot harder to do today, if only because each local public body has at least one member who is not the classic go-along-to-get-along usual suspect; and the City has several, led by Mayor Schmidt – who not only solidly beat an old-style Howard Frimark but got re-elected by trouncing a warmer and fuzzier Frimark-lite challenger.

So maybe, just maybe, people are slowly starting to wake up to the fact that what goes on locally matters; and that, unlike in Washington and Springfield, they can do much more about government locally.

Bob, thank “yoiu” (sic) for responding to my above comment. You have much more experience than I do, so I can’t challenge your judgment of our neighbors who seek or accept a public position. I also have zero experience with Maine South, and am not really concerned about whether it’s a “great” or “very good” high school.

What DOES concern me: Even if we were to say that Maine South is “great”, the continual piling on of pay raises, perquisites and budget increases is adding an unacceptable burden to taxpayers. Don’t the people who seek or accept public office understand that?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Steve: Sure you can…and you should. That’s what this blog is about: no rubber-stamping, even of the blog or its editor.

The reason for defaulting to go-along-to-get-along as an explanation for what these public officials do is because, frankly, I can’t come up with any better explanation. To paraphrase a great quote from the movie “Dave”: If they spent as indiscriminately as they let their public body spend, they’d be broke.

For some of these folks, it seems like public office is the adult version of homeroom rep on the student council. And anything more intellectually demanding than building the homecoming float is left to others – in this case, the bureaucrats who can always spend as much as they are given and more.

“…..the continual piling on of pay raises, perquisites and budget increases is adding an unacceptable burden to taxpayers. Don’t the people who seek or accept public office understand that?”

Here in lies the problem. Ya se Steve, you are expressing your opinion. The board members and others in PR they hear from may very well have a different opinion.

Some may not find tax rates to be an “unacceptable burden”. Others may find it a burden but want cuts in other areas besides education.

Another telling part of your comment is….” I also have zero experience with Maine South, and am not really concerned about whether it’s a “great” or “very good” high school”. Ya see you are not their “target audience”.

Before the yelling starts, the way it should be is that the school board represents ALL TAXPAYERS, not just those who have children currently in school, but the truth is that those with kids in school tend to be more vocal and visible and they are generally very pleased with the schools.

Add all of the above to the pathetic voter turn out in school board elections and it is clear the “unacceptable burden” message is simply not getting through.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So are you saying that we’re electing simpletons who operate on “squeaky wheel gets the grease” theory and, in so operating, happily abdicate their duty to represent and consider the interests of the vast majority of non-squeaky taxpayers?

Guess we may have too many spare-no-expense parents of kids who are getting $13,000/yr., $17,000/yr. or whatever/yr. educations for the $2,000-3,000-5,000 their parents pay in property taxes to the applicable local school district.

Give a mouse a cookie and he’ll want/expect a glass of milk?

I love it when you pretend innocence!! Come on PD. You have a great deal of experience in business, public office and life. You know that like it or not, right or wrong, the squeaky wheel gets the attention. Hell look at what a very squeaky minority was able to do in congress over the last several weeks.

But it isn’t just squeaking….it is voting. You said the following…..”Guess we may have too many spare-no-expense parents of kids who are getting $13,000/yr., $17,000/yr. or whatever/yr. educations for the $2,000-3,000-5,000 their parents pay in property taxes to the applicable local school district”.

Or perhaps we have too many people who love nothing more that bitching about taxes and the downfall of PR and/or America but are unwilling to get off their ass to go vote.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We prefer to leave the beefing about Congress to all those talking head fakes on MSNBC and Fox (and their followers here in Park Ridge) who can’t discuss issues without prefacing every statement with “the Democrats,” or “the Republicans,” or “Obama,” or “the Tea Party,” etc.

You’re right: we deserve the mopes we elect, and we do have far too many people in Park Ridge who are “unwilling to get off their ass to go vote.” One of the main purposes of this blog is to wake them up, inform them, fire them up, and hopefully get them off their derrieres and into a voting booth.

Thanks, Anon, for a charmingly straightforward description of why property tax bills in Park Ridge go up so much, so frequently.

Last time I looked, District 207 was bigger than Maine South. Although it’s nice to talk about how “great” MS is, has anyone thought about how the performance of the other high schools should effect the superintendent’s salary?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, if the admiral can’t ensure that even the flagship of the fleet is on course, he’s already forfeited his ration of rum.

OK…if you would rather avoid Congress I can go more local. How about a Park District that pushes their authority to spend a huge amount on a new pool complex without putting it to referendum (as you go on and on about)an puts a multi million dollar park expansion to referendum (because the are required to do so) and yet they win the referendum and turn out still sucked!!!! Who won?? the squeaky wheel. The People who organized and had cookouts and parties at bars…..and VOTED!!!!!!

These two represented a hell of a lot more than the superintendents contract and still voter turnout sucked.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, they did. And yes, it did. So your point is what exactly?

Good discussion. Sounds like there are two camps. (1) Belief that most people are OK with taxes continually going up. (2) Belief that most people complain about taxes going up but don’t pay attention, don’t express their opinion to elected officials, and don’t vote. Put me in camp #2…but I believe the tide is turning. Taxes have gone up so much that people are starting to notice and get upset enough to take action. Would anyone like to go to the next D-207 Board meeting?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Perhaps, but what exactly would it accomplish, FWT? If 100 D-207 taxpayers showed up at that meeting and demanded that this Board rescind Wallace’s contract, do you think this Board would vote to do that?

Frankly, we hope not – because that would indicate they are mindless windsocks rather than malleable tools of the bureaucrats or committed tax and spenders. And that would encourage decisions based on nose counts of how many people show up on any particular night. That’s not what the Founders intended, either.

My point, dear editor, is that we need more people showing up at meetings who pay the bills, rather than just those who cash the checks. I’m quite sorry I didn’t know in advance that the board was even considering this kind of package for Dr. Wallace. I think the board wants it that way. On the other hand, the PTA and the teachers’ union go all-out to fill meetings when they need to “show support” for some new spending initiative.

I agree that decisions should be made on the merits, not on how many people show up to a meeting. But merits and drawbacks come out in vigorous discussion among all sides. So few taxpayers have shown up that the merits — and the drawbacks — are not well understood.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t disagree with your first statement.

Nevertheless, our republic form of government wasn’t intended to make legislative deliberation and decision-making a battle of the cheerleaders, with the prevailing argument based on who has the most cheerleaders in attendance and/or cheers loudest. That such a situation seems to work at all is just another indictment of those local officials who bend like Gumby, or simply pander, to the cheerleaders’ will.

And remember: When the PREA members (or any other organized interest group) show up at meetings, they usually have designated spokespeople working off the same scripted “fact” sheets, talking points, etc. devised to inspire a “four legs good, two legs bad”-style chorus in response to any dissent or resistence. So just turning out a number of unorganized taxpayers will be about as effective as the folks who showed up to object to the new Centennial water park – a few beefing about taxes, others who cared only about rainwater flowing onto their property, others complaining about the sight of waterslides out their window, others complaining about losing trees, etc.

If you want to organize a “Park Ridge Taxpayers League” to show up at public meetings and be the taxpayers’ “cheerleaders,” however, we think that’s a great idea.

@8:22, I don’t think it’s as black and white as “camp 1 and camp 2,” but if I had to choose I’d say camp 1 seems closer to reality. I wouldn’t say people love taxes or tax increases but they know it’s the price of living in a society, in a town with decent schools, a good library, nice parks and a functioning infrastructure.

Don’t you like those things? If you’re against higher taxes then how do you propose that we pay for them? Would you like to see school buildings continue to deteriorate (have you seen the state that Maine South is in, it’s pretty shabby)? Would you like to see the library shut down or the parks and playgrounds crumble? We lose those things and we lose the essence of what makes Park Ridge so appealing. Even if you don’t care about any of those things, plenty of people do.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What a sad commentary that the high-end property taxes Park Ridgians already pay can only get us “decent schools” and “a functioning infrastructure” – and that without even higher taxes we won’t even have those anymore. And how interesting that Maine South is so “shabby” while the rubber-stampers on the D-207 Board are giving the superintendent (who let it get that way?) a new 5-year contract and even more money.

This blog and everyone associated with it are 100% pro-Park Ridge. But we’re vigorously “anti” all the problematic misplaced priorities and stupid/wasteful spending, to which most of this community’s financial problems can be attributed.

The only reason public infrastructure – including buildings – deteriorates to the extent you complain about is malicious or benign NEGLECT by our public officials who rubber-stamp whatever the bureaucrats tell them. And whenever it comes down to a choice between more compensation for the bureaucrats or more money for infrastructure, the bureaucrats always choose compensation…until the insfrastructure goes critical, at which point the bureaucrats cry “The sky is falling!” and stampede the rubber-stampers and the sheeple into crisis expenditures that never seem to involve REDUCTIONS in compensation but, at most, the mere slowing of the increase until after the crisis is averted and the cycle is re-set.

PWD @9:32. How do you propose we break that cycle? I agree that compensation is the place to start. So then WHY is Shawn Hamilton’s salary so high, for example? It seems that this administration is still part of the problem as you define it.

As for the sad commentary on what we get for our taxes, it is what it is. Compare us to other towns that are more than “decent” and/or “functioning” and I’d bet that the residents of majority of them are paying higher taxes than we are.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On what basis are you claiming Hamilton’s salary is so high? On what basis are you betting that “other towns” with better schools, infrastructure, etc. pay higher taxes than we do?

9:32, you are resorting to two time-honored tactics: Putting words in my mouth, and making those words into a reductio ad absurdum argument.

I love all our local institutions and don’t mind paying for them. That does not mean, however, I don’t mind paying any price for them.

As the moderator says, everyone here is 100% pro-Park Ridge. It’s not a loyalty test to always want more spending.

All I’m saying is that we have to stop the automatic annual increases, because they are adding up, and getting bigger than our paychecks and property values will allow.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Except, of course, for those public employees who get their annual raises locked into multi-year contracts, with defined benefit pensions that are constitutionally guaranteed.

the bottom line is that when private-sector employment treated human resources as human and as resources, and provided pensions, health insurance benefits to the family as well as the employee, and other key life enhancements that are part of a fair wage package, these public sector people were considered modestly compensated. It’s only since we have entered a global economy — in which a majority of people who are NOT hands-on in a service job such as teaching are all but abandoned by their employers — that the public sector looks like it’s living high off the hog. We need to tell them how it is out here in Realville, but we don’t have to demonize them because employment is a race to the bottom for the rest of the populace. We can say “no” without being hateful and blaming them, because they are not at fault.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just like it’s not the fault of the wives and children of crooked public officials who close their eyes to their husbands’/fathers’ corruption and crimes while they enjoy “la dolce vita” that corruption and those crimes provide?


Based on your first sentences, it is clear you feel that you are being mistreated and not receiving a “fair wage package”.

So what is your answer?? Make sure everyone else is getting screwed too!!

That is the essence of your argument. “I am getting screwed so I want to make sure they are getting screwed too.


12:19 I have no idea how you got to your conclusion from what I stated. I don’t think anyone should be getting screwed, and as I stated quite clearly, I do think public sector employees need to understand what the private sector taxpayer is dealing with, rather than harkening back to the good old days. I merely
suggest that blaming public employees for the screwing of the private sector worker is not productive. In fact, it’s just the distraction what those in charge of the private sector want us to focus on! Blame the Jews, blame the gays, blame the gypsies, blame the Hispanics, blame the blacks, but don’t blame us; we’re just obeying the heavy hand of the market (modified only by our lobbyists’ thumb on the scale). If you feel your compensation matches your contribution, congratulations. We can agree to make sure our administrators and others earn their pay, too.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Typical modern public employee: “[W]e’re just obeying the heavy hand of the market (modified only by our lobbyists’ thumb on the scale).” That’s exactly why you deserve to be blamed – you don’t even have the integrity to accept responsiblity for telling your “lobbyists” to cheat on the weight.

I think that what 5:47 was getting at is that when the “public pension systems” were devised it was to compensate the worker who took lower paying public service jobs, at a time when working for the private sector was more “lucrative”. We all know the numerous reasons for the decline of those private sector jobs with all those amenities.

The point is that the public sector jobs now are equal to or exceeding in “pay” with the private sector jobs. So the tax burden for private sectors is becoming too great to support the pensions taxes for those who make equal to or more than they do. The private sector has to pay into their retirement fund and to those of the public pensions. And alot of these “public pensioners” will make a hell of alot more from their public retirement pensions than those that will only get social security.

And to make matters worse, all of that money in is in the hands of governmental bureaucrats who persist in willfully and negligently wasting OPM. I call that a rock and really hard place.

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