Let’s Pretend…That The D-64 Board Was Transparent To Its Taxpayers (Updated)


Today we’re going to play a game of “Let’s Pretend.”

Let’s pretend you’re a member of the board of directors of a $70 million service company that employs a few hundred people.

One day someone at the company discovers that a particular employee “engaged in dishonest and unprofessional conduct” during a one-year period that cost the company thousands of dollars. And upon this discovery being made, the company conducts an internal investigation that confirms the employee’s dishonesty and extent of the company’s loss.

And let’s pretend that, upon receiving the investigator’s report, the company’s CEO – whom you and your fellow board members consider such a superstar that, after only one year into her original 3-year contract, you unanimously extend her contract another year at its $250,000-plus salary – recommends the employee be fired.

Would you review the investigation report, accept your superstar CEO’s recommendation, and authorize the firing of that dishonest employee?

If you said “No!” then you’re qualified to be Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board member.

Because, as reported in an online Park Ridge Herald-Advocate story (“School officials mum on Park Ridge teacher’s $16,500 fine.” September 22, 2015), that $70 million “company” is D-64; the employee reportedly is D-64 middle-school teacher Kate De La Pasqua; and the superstar CEO is Supt. Laurie Heinz.

Since this was a D-64 Board decision, you don’t have to read the H-A story to know that every important discussion and decision related to it was held in closed session.

When it comes to hiding from the taxpayers, Board president Tony Borrelli’s transformation into predecessor John Heyde is almost complete: watch the opening minutes of a few Board meeting videos and you can almost feel Borrelli’s delight over running into closed session – which seems to have become a permanent feature of every Board meeting – so that he and his backbone-challenged fellow Board members [Mark Eggemann cast the only “no” vote on this closed session] can talk with the kind of candor they’re afraid to express in open session.

Or maybe they just don’t want a public record of their cluelessness and/or spinelessness.

According to the H-A article, the District cut a deal with De La Pasqua that includes a “remedial warning” and a $16,500 “fine.” And because the deal was cut in D-64’s Star Chamber, not only did the District fail to post even a redacted copy of the settlement agreement or any details of the settlement on the District’s website prior to the August 27th meeting when the deal was approved, but it made sure the settlement agreement contained a confidentiality clause.

The better to make sure that not only would no member of the press or public get any advance warning of this latest pre-cooked morsel of Board business-as-usual, but that they would have trouble learning about it even after the deal was done.

To its credit, however, the H-A issued a FOIA request and, in response, D-64’s minister of propaganda and disinformation, Bernadette Tramm, produced a highly-redacted copy of the agreement and notice of remedial warning that blacked out any information about the charges against De La Pasqua – other than that she “failed to adhere” to a D-64 employee ethics policy and some unspecified Board policy.

So if you pretend you’re a D-64 Board member who actually believes in honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability in D-64 governance, would you say: “Gee, Ms. Tramm, can’t you publish the redacted version of the settlement agreement on the City’s website so that no FOIA request is required?”

Apparently not.

And when the H-A asked for an un-redacted copy of the settlement, Tramm pled privacy concerns and cited the Illinois School Student Records Act, 105 ILCS 10, et seq.  So the H-A reportedly is taking its case to the Illinois Attorney General. And good for it.

Naturally, this kind of backroom deal-making has led to a lot of speculation and rumors, with the most interesting one being that De La Pasqua and her hubby may have scammed D-64 out of thousands of dollars in tuition by lying about the residency of some un-named (wink, wink) student(s).

Based on the 2-year old D-64 salary data we could find, De La Pasqua should be making over $100,000. And she is listed as the owner of a condo at 1301 W. Touhy Avenue that she purchased for $125,000 in 2014. But public records also show a “Katherine De La Pasqua” at 5024 Nagle Ave., Chicago.


We also find it interesting that the settlement included a $16,500 “fine” which – SURPRISE!– D-64 apparently has not explained. Does that amount represent D-64’s total loss from whatever “dishonest and unprofessional conduct” De La Pasqua allegedly engaged in, or just a small fraction of it – with the remainder having been negotiated away by the Board and, consequently, eaten by the D-64 taxpayers?

And if she ripped off D-64’s taxpayers for that much, is she being charged interest for the one year (until June 2016) she and her hubby are getting to pay it back?

A few years ago we published a post about how D-64’s botching of small tasks – at that time, the school lunch supervision program – very well may portend the botching of much bigger tasks. This $16,500 backroom deal with De la Pasqua is another one of those small tasks.

Meanwhile, the same Board members who just a few months ago unanimously proclaimed Heinz a superstar, and extended her contract like one, have signaled that on a small matter such as this they might not really trust her judgment.

With teacher union contract negotiations on the horizon, that does not bode well for D-64 taxpayers who can count on nothing more than being kept in the dark by this decidedly non-transparent Board.

UPDATED 09.27.15.  On of our readers in the real estate business has advised us that Ms. De La Pasqua sold the Nagle property in 2010 and purchased 6234 N. Olcott (Norwood Park, Chicago) that same year.

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