The Time Is Now To Step Up For Change At School Dist. 64


For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, you know that we write a majority of our posts about City of Park Ridge government.

One reason for that is that City government is the most transparent of the four principle local governments; i.e., City, Park District, D-64 and D-207. Another reason is that the issues are generally easier to understand, and because the current mayor and many of the current aldermen seem to try to simplify them more than do their counterparts running the other governmental bodies.

But the City represents only about 10% of our property tax dollars, while the two school districts combine to take almost a 70% bite and the Park District grabs around 5%.

So today we’re going to take a look at D-64 – specifically the topic of a June 17 article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate titled “District 64 school board approves 112 salary hikes, kills bonus program” – which reports that 112 D-64 staff members will get raises ranging from 2% to 3.75%, costing D-64 taxpayers approximately $157,000.


What have those administrators done that has measurably improved the quality of education at D-64?  What have they done to deliver even the same quality of education more cost-effectively?

Don’t expect to have those questions answered if you watch the video of the June 9, 2014 D-64 Board meeting.

If you jump to the 15:09 mark and watch to 42:15 , you will see the Board vote on 6 salary increases and one bonus payment, 5 of which were passed with barely a whisper of discussion by the Board members. And although Business Mgr. Rebecca Allard claimed the raises were tied to both performance and the Consumer Price Index (“CPI”), as best as we can tell only the $40,636 in raises for “Building and District Administrators” and the $18,500 of “Merit Awards” were anything even arguably merit-based.

All $18,500 of “Merit Awards” – including the $2,000 award departing Supt. Phil Bender tried to toss Allard’s way for alleged “exemplary performance and leadership” – were cancelled by a 4 (Board president Tony Borrelli, Dathan Paterno, Terry Cameron & Vickie Lee) to 2 (John Heyde & Scott Zimmerman, predictably) vote of the Board. But at least each of the proposed recipients of those awards, and the amount of his/her proposed award, was specifically identified in a June 9 memo of Supt. Phil Bender.

Neither the recipients nor the individual amounts of the $40,636 of raises passed by a 5-1 vote (Borrelli the only dissenter), however, were identified. And when Allard was asked about them, the H-A article reports that she effectively told the questioner to pound sand, stating that the information should be obtained through a FOIA request.

That’s what far too often passes for “transparency” at D-64.

You may recall from our 02.19.14 post that Allard herself is the recipient of a major sweetheart deal: she’s going to get $212,063 for the upcoming school year, allegedly her last before retiring with a guaranteed pension of what we understand will be upwards of $125,000 a year. For those of us who haven’t made a career of feeding at the public trough, that’s about $3 million worth of 401(k), assuming it’s well-managed.

Why does all this matter? Because D-64 taxpayers are paying premium prices, starting with the price of its personnel, for what is nowhere near a premium education.

Although you’d be hard-pressed to find the information on the D-64 website (we tried for 20 minutes and struck out), a list of D-64 full-time personnel and their compensation published on the Better Government Association website reveals that 79 teachers are paid over $100,000 a year (orange highlight), another 64 are paid over $90,000 a year (yellow highlight), and another 61 are paid over $80,000. And that’s for only 8-9 months of work, meaning it annualizes out to over $130,000, $120,000 and 100,000, respectively.

That’s more than Park Ridge’s median household income of approximately $90,000.

That’s with no risk of their employer relocating to another state or country, virtually no risk of their services being outsourced to private providers, and basically no chance of being fired.  Those great salaries also come with guaranteed defined benefit pensions that generally start at around 75% of the final years’ salaries, and increase annually by a cost of living allowance.

For those teachers who become administrators it gets even better, especially on the pension end.

According to the BGA website, our former D-64 superintendents are doing just fine, thank you: last year Elaine Rieger, who retired in 2000, drew $83,612, while Fred Schroeder, who retired in 2003, drew $170,974; and Sally Pryor, who retired in 2010, drew $183,377.  Meanwhile, former Emerson principal Vicki Mogil, who retired in 2011, drew $133,750; and former Lincoln principal Jim Blouch, who retired in 2009, drew $135,552.

And we believe all of them retired before reaching age 60.

Meanwhile, our elected representatives on the current D-64 Board – like their predecessors for the past 20+ years, at least – keep doling out the cash with no rhyme or reason, just because they can. Without any major qualms, without much in the way of serious debate, without any evidence that our kids got a better education this year than last, and without any demands that our kids will get a better education next year than they did this year.

If you don’t believe that’s acceptable or sustainable for a community such as ours, you can do something about it. But you have to act fast.

Board member Terry Cameron is moving out of the area and must vacate his seat, so the Board will be interviewing for his replacement in the next few weeks.  However, the deadline for applying for that appointment is 4:00 p.m. TOMORROW, MONDAY, JUNE 23!

You can get all the information you need on the D-64 website’s Board member vacancy pageBut you had better act fast, because you can be sure that the Park Ridge Education Association will do its best to fill Cameron’s seat with someone who can be depended on to rubber-stamp higher pay and even less accountability for teachers and administrators – while claiming it’s all “for the kids.”

And because D-64 practices faux-transparency rather than the real thing, the Board claims it will be conducting the candidate interviews during an open Board meeting – but then will adjourn to the ostensible secrecy of CLOSED session to deliberate over its members’ choice of who gets the vacant seat.

Because a majority of the current Board members have no desire to share their decision-making process with the taxpayers who got to elect Cameron but aren’t getting a vote on his successor.

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