Monthly Archives: February 2015

COD, Nazi speech & rebuttals

During public comment at the December 18, 2014 COD board meeting Richard Jarman responded to an speech given by Trustee McGuire at the previous COD board meeting in which she compared ‘the TEA Party’ to Nazis.

He began with “German Theologians at board meetings…  Impassioned speech against the critics at the gate or rather the overflow gallery…”  He referenced being approached in September to join forces against ‘the TEA Party.’  And concluded with a question “Is it ‘the Tea Party’ we have to fear here, or is a distraction?

Trustee McGuire’s original speech

And Matthew Tyrmand spoke about McGuire’s speech from the perspective of someone whose grandfather survived the Halocaust.

He demanded that Trustee McGuire resign.  He said

“McGuire used rhetoric evoking Nazi Tyranny in a comparison with those who would demand honesty and integrity in government. Those that invoke Nazis in a spending debate have no place IN government and especially in a position of trust in a public educational institution. McGuire’s statement goes well beyond politically incorrect and approaches hate speech.”

Wheaton-Warrenville, CUSD200 – Engage200

Community Engagement

– or –

           Community manipulation in support of a new pre-school

  • In 2013, the taxpayers gave a resounding “NO” to the Jefferson, Early Childhood center referendum.
  • In 2014, the district conducted six “Engage200” sessions (January 15, 2014 to June 18, 2014)
  • The stated purpose was to determine what the community wanted. They claimed it was not about Jefferson.
  • However, the district had hired Unicom-ARC as a consultant for this process. Unicom has a reputation of using the ”Delphi technique” to lead communities  to a desired result.
  • At Engage200, district presentations, the questions asked, and the make-up of the self-selecting community members all leaned towards the need for a new pre-school. It was not representative of the community as a whole.
  • May 2014, Superintendant, Dr Harris resigned. July 30, 2014, new superintendent, Dr. Schuler’s contract was approved.  Schuler, who had served on the LUDA (Large Unit District Association) with Harris, was recommended for the job by Dr. Harris.
  • On 1/7/2015 the Dailey Herald reported that Superintendent Jeffrey Schuler said “… and very clearly, early childhood education was a big theme in that Engage200 process.” Read it here.

But, is this true?  Or a manipulated process – a “Very well oiled machine” to deliver the “desired outcome?” 

Let’s look at the facts, which we have from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, or from being personally involved.  I am Jan Shaw.  I was a candidate for CUSD200 School board in 2013. I have made public comments at several board meetings.  I attended five out of the six Engage200 sessions. Mary Ann Vitone, who has been a CUSD200 watchdog for years, helped gather this data.

 

Jefferson referendum history:

Jefferson was built as an elementary school that had been closed due to lack of need.

CUSD 200 began using it again when the state mandated pre-school for  3 and 4 year olds with special needs.

As of 2013, all students qualifying for special needs early childhood education were receiving services and enrollment was relatively flat.

preK-enrollment-chart-1024x441

 

The District’s own architects designed a new early childhood center in 2007 at the same time as the Hubble plan.  Had Hubble been scaled back a little, both Hubble and Jefferson could have been built for what was spent on Hubble. Jefferson was not a priority until the school board decided to put a $17.6 million referendum on the ballot in 2013.

jeffferson-comparisons2-1024x234

 

The district planned to borrow the entire amount despite having received a $14.46 million grant in May 2012. The grant application dated back to 2003 and was for classroom additions to both high schools.

Jan Shaw, CUSD 200 candidate in 2013, stated that this money should be used for capital improvements prior to asking the taxpayers for any more money.  She recommended a “NO” vote on the referendum.
On April 9, 2013, the taxpayers gave a resounding “NO” to the Jefferson referendum.

 

Engage 200 – Community Engagement

In 2014, the district conducted six “Engage200” sessions (January 15, 2014 to June 18, 2014)

Hiring of Unicom-ARC

When we read that the district planned to hire Unicom-ARC, we did some web searches.  We discovered that Unicom-ARC had worked on two previous CUSD 200 referendums.

  • In 2002, Friends of the schools (a PAC) paid Unicom-ARC $18,250 for consulting.  That would be for the politics of selling the high school referendum.
  • In 2006, CUSD 200 paid Unicom-ARC $578.  The Hubble referendum was in February 2008.

We discovered that Unicom had a reputation for facilitating committees that arrive at a predetermined consensus.  And so, we asked board members to NOT hire Unicom-ARC!  On November 13, 2013, the board voted 5-2 to hire Unicom for $49,500 as consultants for conducting community engagement (Gambaiani and Mathieson voting No).

The description of the Unicom plan as reported in My Suburban Life sounded to us like the Delphi Technique.  See our previous write up on DuPageWatchdog.

Unicom-ARC’s website had been scrubbed, but http://www.illinoisloop.org/spinmeisters.html  has data
that they quote from Unicom’s site prior to the scrubbing.

Turns out that UNICOM-ARC is no run of the mill “research” company. In a description of itself that UNICOM-ARC posted on a directory of union shops (maintained by the Union Label & Service Trades Department of the AFL-CIO), they say, We are all-union communications and public relations firm that specializes in serving labor, non-profit and community-based organizations. Unicom-ARC is experienced in
media outreach, planning campaign strategy and developing effective messages through focus groups and polling …

The bulk of their business comes from school districts who hire them for the explicit purpose of spiffing up their image as a prelude to passing tax hikes.

…Since 1970, our INTEGRATED approach has helped the
UNICOM•ARC team build an 80% “win” record in 118 election campaigns…

Mary Ann Vitone put in a FOIA requesting copies of emails from the district regarding Unicom.  The district refused.  She contacted the Illinois Attorney General (AG).  The AG told the district that they must comply.

ILAG FOIA emails

 

There was one email set in which Erica Loiacono, Director of Public Relations, described Naperville 203’s sessions as a “VERY well-oiled ‘Machine’” and noted that they were working with Unicom-ARC.

very well oiled machine

 

In another, Superintendent, Brian Harris to board members Jim Vroman and Brad Paulsen confirming a meeting with Unicom to discuss the details of the process including the “desired outcome.”

desired outcome

 

Of course the invitations to attend and media coverage all said that they wanted the community’s opinion.   But, an email dated August 15, 2013 from board member Barb Intihar, mentioned the district providing “exact wording” so “to let him know we were not lying when we told him the effort would be broader than Jefferson.”

exact goal wording

 

Jim Vroman & Brad Paulsen were in charge of picking the steering committee.

steering commitee picks

To understand how the Engage 200 sessions were conducted, see “Illinois taxpayer says school districts use ‘Delphi Technique’ communication strategy to manipulate voters” which was published by EAG news on April 30, 2014 click here

Some school leaders respect the voters’ decision and carry out their duties the best they can without the additional revenue. Others, however, refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer and look for ways to wear down taxpayers in advance of another referendum vote…

According to various sources, the Delphi Technique works something like this:

Officials representing a school district (or some other government body) hold a community meeting to gather input from citizens about which policies the district should pursue. But instead of seeking genuine feedback, district leaders manipulate the discussion so citizens end up “recommending” the very policies that the leaders wanted originally.

After the input meeting, district leaders take the recommended plan of action – created  through audience manipulation – and put it on the ballot. The leaders effectively tell voters, “The community thinks we should proceed with that special building project (or tax increase, etc.), and anyone who disagrees with it is out-of-step with the majority.”

 

Having attended (and from FOIA’s for sign in sheets) we know that the self-selecting participants of Engage200 included many member of district staff, and pro-Jefferson-referendum individuals.  Every session began with a presentation from District staff.  Then each table was to discuss the evening’s questions and come to a “consensus.”  The presentations would contain nuggets of data to give the desired answer to the questions.  The questions tended to lean towards the need for a new larger pre-school and more money.  Our comments, even when others at the table agreed with them, were written down only when I was the scribe (I wrote everybody’s ideas down).  They did not make the final report.

Verbatim responses, the list of questions and the presentations can be found on the district’s website.  For session 5, Finances: click here.  Our table’s responses were unique in that we had ideas which were not in the presentation.  I was amazed to see them highlighted on the district’s web page:

engage200_ses5_verbatim_tbl22

 

Also see our comments from the last meeting.  The instructions were to review the draft… We had a great conversation and wrote only a few comments down (table 22) click here

engage200_ses6_verbatim_tbl22

Final Engage200 products are available  on the district web  click here

Note: Board Members Jim Gambaiani and Jim Mathieson both voted against hiring Unicom-ARC.  From the November 13, 2013 CUSD 200 Board meeting minutes:

The Board discussed the community engagement process and the recommended vendor. Member Mathieson stated that he supports community engagement but will be voting no because he would have liked to have seen more vendors considered. Member Gambaiani stated that he supports the goal 100% but differs on the process and cannot support the recommendation due to the cost. All other Board members support the recommendation.

Board members Jim Vroman and Brad paulsen took the lead in the Engage200 process.

Jim Vroman and Jim Gambaiani are both up for re-election on April 7, 2015.

CUSD 200, Sorrick & Belha, Admin Retirement Games – Costs Taxpayers

On April 15, 2013, less than a week after the school board elections, the Daily Herald reported that CUSD 200 paid a fine of $140,000 due to recent pension spiking.

“Most of District 200’s penalties from the last school year, though, came from two administrators who had decided to retire and take raises under a deal struck before the 2005 law.  But when they stayed on two years longer, TRS decided the original contract had been altered and was no longer grandfathered in, and the district had to pay.”

http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20130415/news/704159922/?interstitial=1

From a FOIA:  The date on the bill from TRS to CUSD 200 for the two administrators (Belha and Sorrick) is 5/12/2012 and for the teachers is 8/25/2012. Penalties paid:
Sorrick $57,548.82
Belha $54,023.61
Cella $13,773.08
Hobson $4,562.20
Ingram $5,634.58
Morehead $10.02
Wagner, C $4,492.05

From a FOIA, we get the following data for the administrators:

Belha Belha Sorrick Sorrick
Fiscal Year TRS FOIA % increase TRS FOIA % increase
2005-2006 $146,537 $149,007
2006-2007 $156,728 6.95% $158,337 6.26%
2007-2008 $185,674 18.47% $190,004 20.00%
2008-2009 $185,674 0.00% $190,004 0.00%
2009-2010 $196,814 6.00% $201,404 6.00%
2010-2011 $208,623 6.00% $213,489 6.00%

We also found out that

  • Ms. Belha purchased 10 years of  out of system service and received 1.979 years of service for unused sick leave from TRS.  From the district, Belha received $25,200.86  for unused vacation and $11,214.36 for unused sick leave.
  • Ms. Sorrick purchased 1.026 years of  private school service and received 1.974 years of service for unused sick leave from TRS.  From the district, Sorrick received  $6,487.76 for unused vacation and $14,597.46 for unused sick leave.

Belha and Sorrick had contracts that promised a 20% end of career salary spike.   When the law changed so that school districts would be penalized for giving more than 6% raises during the last four years, CUSD 200 changed to giving four years at 6%.  This wide spread practice of end of career salary spiking is a leading cause of Illinois’ pension crisis.   Sorrick and Belha put in for their 20% bump, and requested that they could stay on another year.

During the time when Dr Drury was superintendent [2007-2009], the district cut aids, programs, and froze salaries that could be frozen.   Belha and Sorrick both had one year of no salary increase.

Dr. Drury left (with severance), Dr Baker served as interim Superintendent, then Dr. Harris became superintendent.  Belha and Sorrick both stayed two more year, with their 6% end of career salary spikes.

Comparing the average of their last four years, to what they were earning prior to the first spike, we see that they both increased their pensions by around 25%

Belha:

  • last four year average: $194,196
  • original [2006-2007] pay : $156,728
  • increase: 23.91%
  • Assistant superintendent for Human Resources
  • Retirement letter dated 2/15/2007
  • Contract at that time ended June 2009
  • Requested a one year contract extension – retirement date to 6/30/2010.
  • Actually retired June 2011

Sorrick:

  • four year average: $198,725
  • original [2006-2007] pay : $158,337
  • increase: 25.51%
  • Assistant superintendent for educational service
  • Retirement letter dated 2/5/2007
  • Contract at that time ended June 2009
  • Requested a one year contract extension – retirement date to 6/30/2010
  • Actually retired June 2011

Based on Ms. Sorrick’s retirement letter she was well aware of the rule change and was taking advantage of what she could:

 

sorrick retirement letter

Ms. Belha even noted that the board would not need to pay any penalty if she put in for retirement on June 30, 2009 and a one year extension to June 30, 2010… but would actually like 2011.  She also mentions being paid for unused vacation and sick leave days.  Belha summed it up as “I have no desire to retire but feel it is necessary for financial planning.”

belha retirement letter

In the December 17, 2008 meeting agenda, under Consent agenda, supplemental personnel report (which is dated October 8, 2008 in the document’s header) we found approval of their contract extensions.  The board did this despite knowing that the school district would need to pay a penalty.  

belha sorrick contract extensions

 The meeting minutes for December 17, 2008 meeting state: “Member Intihar moved, Member Slater seconded to accept the Consent Agenda as presented.  Upon a roll call vote being taken, the vote was: AYE 7, NAY 0.  The motion carried 7-0

Sorrick’s original contract allowed for a 20% increase in her last year of work.  The updated contracts simply referenced the retirement plan in the original multi-year contract.  Nothing in these contracts allowed for the 20% three years prior to her last year or the 6% increases.  Looking at the personnel reports  for July 2006  to May 2015, nothing references end of career pay raises or any raise for Sorrick and Belha.  How, When, By whom were these raises approved?

 

Sorrick 2004 to 2009 contract, Retirement Clause

 

sorrick 04_09 retirement clause Sorrick 2009 to 20010 contract, Retirement Clause

sorrick 09-10 retirement clause

 Sorrick 2010 to 20011 contract, Retirement Clause

 

sorrick 10-11 retirement clause

Their co-worker, Linda Knicker, did not trigger a penalty, but triggered a small penalty, $1,655.34 that was paid later than the original set.  Her late in career raises were as lucrative for her.

Fiscal Year TRS FOIA % increase
2005-2006 $134,786
2006-2007 $154,728 14.80%
2007-2008 $164,011 6.00%
2008-2009 $173,852 6.00%
2009-2010 $184,283 6.00%
2010-2011 $195,340 6.00%

 

  • Her contract allowed for 4 years of 6% increase.
  • Sick day payout in 2011: $13,356.54 and $42,666.72 for unused vacation.
  • On April 25, 2007 the personnel Report lists, Linda Knicker becoming an Assistant Superintendent Special Services, SSC Additional $9,955.  Effective:  July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2007.  
  • Average salary for the last four years: $179,372 which is 33.1% more than 2006 earnings, and 15.9% more than her 2007 earnings.

The good news is that starting in 2012, the teacher contract no longer gives an end of career salary spike that count toward the pension.  They replaced it with a lump sum bonus.

Why should any public employee receive any end of career bonus?  Why should anyone be allowed to accumulate vacation and sick leave days to count toward service or money at retirement?  How expensive are these practices?  More data to collect…

 

last updated 6-10-2015. changes indicated in blue

Superintendent shell game

School districts giving Superintendents contract extensions with large raises, only to have them leave seems to be common. For instance, consider the Harris – Schuler musical chairs.

Superintendent, Brian Harris abruptly left Wheaton-Warrenville, CUSD200 on May 29, 2014 to take over as superintendent of Barrington Unit District 220. As a result Harris’ base pay went from $219,370 to $260,000. A year earlier, on May 28, 2013, with three years left on his on contract, Harris had received a new five-year contract with a $20,000 base salary increase. When Harris announced his departure, he had served CUSD200 for four years and still had more than four years left on his five-year contract.

CUSD200 forgave Dr. Harris’ $40,000 get-out-of-contract-early penalty in exchange for Harris recommending his own replacement.  Harris was replaced by in June 2014 by Dr. Jeff Schuler, from Kaneland. Schuler’s starting base pay was $225,000. In February 2013, Kaneland had voted 6-1 to boost Schuler’s base pay from $158,525 to $175,000. Schuler and Harris had served on the LUDA (Large Unit District Association) together in 2012-2013.

Then Kaneland appointed interim Superintendent Ken Sorrick, who left the job after one day.  Sorrick’s wife, Margo Sorrick was a retired administrator from CUSD200.

Is this all a coincidence?

Source material

COD in the news – COD President, Dr Breuder to retire

Background:

COD board vote [ January regular COD Board Meeting]

On January 22, COD board voted to amend COD president Dr Breuder’s contract, giving Dr. Breuder a $762,868.77 Golden Parachute when he retires on March 31, 2016.  We still did not know all the details.  The details were not read into the record.  The document was not available on line until a few hours after the vote.  This violated the Open Meetings Act.

Media Coverage (January 22):

COD board  [ January 28, Special Board Meeting]

Late on Monday, January 26, 2015 we discovered  that a special meeting was to be held on Wednesday, January 28 for the purpose of re-voting the Addendum 4 to Dr. Breuder’s contract.

The normal board room seat about 50, most of which have “reserve” signs on them during regular board meetings, leaving most of the public standing along the back or across the hall watching a video feed.

COD board room

Talk radio, newspapers, facebook posts and emails told District 502 residents that a meeting would take place.  And the community turned out.

cod 1_28 special board meeting

The crowd overflowed the larger space – 300 chairs and standing room only along the side, the back and the balcony.

After almost two hours of public comment, giving the board plenty of reasons to vote “no” the board once again voted 6 -1 for the agreement that will give Dr. Breuder a $762,868 golden parachute when he retires in March 2016 and name the homeland security building after him.

Tying it all together,