Monthly Archives: March 2017

Superintendent History – CUSD 200

How much has District 200 been paying for superintendents over the years?

superintendent salary

Note: Curley was an acting Superintendent. 1999 to 2012 data was downloaded as excel files from the “Family Taxpayer association” website. 2013-2015 was found on
The inflation calculator is (based on federal government statistics.

Dr. Catalani’s contract called for end of career salary spikes of 20% per year compounded for 3 years.  When he turned 60, his 3% compounded annual COLA (cost of living adjustment) kicked in.
Illinois taxpayers are paying for Dr Catalani pension ($293,220 in 2015) and District 200 is still paying for his medical insurance.


catalani pay and pension

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.

CUSD 200 – Far more staff today – at what cost?


Enrolment  vs.  staff count

CUSD 200, student enrollment is declining, while the number of administrators and teachers are up… and average salary has grown faster than inflation!  No wonder salaries and benefits take the bulk of the budget.  In fact, at the League of Women Voters candidate forum for CUSD 200 on 3/20/2017, Jim Mathieson said “84% of Operating income is spent on salaries and benefits.”

Data sources:
elrollment v staff

Notice the jump in staff numbers between 2001 and 2007.  I have not found the report cards 2002 to 2006.

  • Dr. Catalani was superintendant during that time.
  • And the federal “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” was implemented during that time period.


Salary & operating cost per student over time vs. inflation

Looking at the average teacher salary, beginning teacher salary and operating cost per student.

Using an inflation calculator to see how the actual compares to what one would expect based on 1986 or 1998 start points adjusted for inflation. We see in 2016 all were well above what one would expect!

Data Source:

The difference between 2016 operating cost per student vs. expected 2016 operating cost per student based on the 1998 number adjusted for inflation is $3,251

Multiplying that by the k-12 enrollment in 2016 (12,560) is $40,832,560.

That’s $40 million.  WOW.

Did they change the definition of “operating cost per student” or is this due to the increase in salaries, increase in the number of staff  and decrease in the number of students? (1986 enrollment is a guess)

total op cost

That’s only a difference of $25 million in 2016.  That would still go a long way toward building maintenance!


How does District 200 compare to the state?
d200 v stat salary op cost

Looks like the whole state is going over this fiscal cliff together. 


SOURCE DATA – Old paper school report cards

cusd200 1990 report card

d200 1990 RC cont

school report card 1999

school report card 2000

school report card 2001

Sum data found on current on-line school report cards,

Missing grades were estimated based on the data that is given.

school report Card enroll 2016

 Cost data from the District profile page on School Report Card

2016 school RC summary


IL state RC 2016

data from the district website  click on “Departments” -> “Business office” in the tabs,
then click “Enrollment Report” in the left column,
then “Enrollment Presentation 2012-2013” in the center
Enrollm ent Presentation 2012-2013 on page 16 of the pdf, we find:

historic enrollment
series A is a high estimate, B most likely and C low estimate/

Actual for 2017 is between the most likely and low estimate.


Salary curve from the current WWEA contract for teachers

2016 salary curve

Salary curve from precious WWEA contract for teachers

2007 cusd200 salary schedule

Vitone – Open letter to CUSD 200 Administrators and School Board

I received an open letter to Wheaton-Warrenville, Community Unit School District (CUSD) 200 Administrators and School Board from Mary Ann Vitone.  She challenges them to

 either own up to your neglect in providing a safe environment for our students and resign or disavow the scare tactics being utilized by the “Yes for 200 Schools” website that is trying to manipulate and “guilt trip” the good people of District 200.

See it here:  An open letter to District 200 Administrators and School Board

Mrs. Vitone is very well informed. She is a previous PTA president of both Lowell elementary and Franklin middle schools.  She attended and frequently provided public comments at school board meeting for years.  And even now, after her son has graduated, she  occasionally submits freedom of information act (FOIA) requests, make phone calls, and most importantly, pays attention.

“Yes for D200” propaganda on funding is misleading

The pro-referendum information is full of half-truths and misleading information.  For example:   says:

These are not “wants.” They are crucial repairs and updates needed to protect our student’s health and safety, the educational excellence our community expects, and our property values. You may ask, “how did we get to this point with our buildings?” In large part because the state of Illinois is 50 out of 50 in percentage of funding for education. Dead last. This has meant that since 2008, District 200 has lost $40 million in state educational funding. Therefore, it is up to us, citizens of District 200, to repair our schools.

 Technically, this (50 out of 50) may be true.  Most states collect and disperse education funding through the state. Illinois funds our schools primarily via property taxes.  Operating costs per student would be a much better measurement.  Adjusting that for cost of living differentials would be even better.  The number they are using is the percentage of education funding from only state sources. Yes, IL consistently ranks around 49 in that regard. However this is a disingenuous number since the state funding formula is based on the amount of local funds that go to support education. When you consider total funding, Illinois is ranked 14th (see:…html).

  • We have some of the highest paid teachers.
  • Salaries (& operating cost per student) have gone up faster than inflation.
  • Number of students in district 200 has been going down. (The number of pupils peaked at 14,484 in the year 2000, and had dropped 12,560 not counting pre-K or to 13,024 counting pre-k in 2016.)
  • Number of administrators, teachers, and support staff up.

I have in my files a copy of the 1990 school report card.  It has a five year look back:

cusd200 1990 report card

According to it, in 1986

  • Average teacher salary was $31,728
  • Average administrator salary was $45,595
  • And operating cost per student was $3,317


Placing these numbers in an inflation calculator, based on  inflation we would expect the following in 2016:

  • Average teacher salary inflation adjusted should be $69,427
  • Average administrator salary inflation adjusted should be $99,846
  • And operating cost per student inflation adjusted should be $7,264

In 2016 the actual values are:

  • Average teacher salary is $74,282
  • Average administrator salary <haven’t found yet>
  • And operating cost per student is $12,636

operating cost

That operating cost per student, $12,636 vs.  $7,264 is 74% higher than one would anticipate.

Yes FB per stu

In 1986 the student/administrator ratio was 304.1 now it is 239.
My guess is we’ve gone from around 43 administrators in 1986 to 55 now. Why?

Teacher Salary

The average 2016 salary of $74,282 vs. the anticipated salary of $69,427 is $4,855 higher than anticipated. Multiplying $4,855 by 1079.68 (the number of full time equivalent certified staff (teachers) in 2016 (from a FOIA))  we get that the district would have $5,241,646 ($5.2 million) more per year if the average teacher salary increases had not exceeded inflation.  The annual increase of the salary curves did not slow down until they literally ran out of money.

No wonder so many of us are declaring “NO NEW TAXES”

Problem-Based-Learning – PBLs – Activism or Education

A friend had sent this letter awhile back about “PBLs” or Problem-Based-Learning.  I re-read it the other day.  It is well worth reading.  I asked if I could post it.  The answer: “I have no objections to sharing it… I’d prefer to keep my name off it… for now.”  And so I post it with permission, from “anonymous.


It contains nuggets such as:

  • How am I to feel? How should I react if my own son is scoffing at me because he seems to have been convinced that I kill Penguins because I bought a pumpkin?
  • The solutions always attempt to control other people’s behavior… Are you trying to mold them all into life-long activists instead of life-long learners?
  • Why should kids be stemming the tide of the ocean when they can’t tie their own shoe?  Shouldn’t we focus on basic skills before saving the world?
  • By veering off course with a PBL-based curriculum, we are leaving our children under prepared for junior high and high school.
  • Being able to regurgitate someone else’s opinion is not the same as being able to think critically.

All presented with real stories and thoughtful analysis.


LETTER – It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again…

The attached letter was written by a former CUSD 200 resident in regards to the school facilities referendum.  He lived in Wheaton for 23 years and sent 3 sons through the district from K – 12.  He moved out of state this past summer to start a business and escape the unsustainable tax burden in Illinois.  In selling his home, he experienced an 8% decline in value versus 2 years prior.  Others in the neighborhood have lost more, so the tax burden is having an adverse impact.  He still cares about friends and neighbors, so he wrote them the letter in hopes that it would help them.  I think it presents a compelling argument, so I’ve chosen to share it with you.


Dear Friends,

We have settled nicely into our new home in Indiana and have kept up with the events in Wheaton.  I was upset but not surprised to learn about the school facilities referendum put forth by the CUSD 200 school board.  I urge you to vote NO.

The planned projects are not all priorities, and the extremely high cost is being misrepresented.  Given the school board’s past record of maximizing the burden on tax payers, the merit of this $228 million investment must be seriously questioned and ultimately rejected.  The cost presented in the referendum is $132.5, but the principal and interest payments will total $206 million.  Another $22 million in taxpayer money is being committed from “reserves and future budgets.”  I, like most residents of CUSD 200, take pride in and support our schools and students.  If an investment is beneficial, I have always supported funding.  That is not the case with this referendum.  While there is merit in doing some of these projects, the benefits for doing everything are weak.  People who take the view that “it’s for the kids” or “it’s an investment in our future” need to recognize that it is not an all or nothing proposition.  Smart investment in our kids is what matters, not doing everything regardless of the cost.


“It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again…”

In fact, this referendum approach should feel very familiar.  It’s just like the initial referendum for the high schools (2003) that had a big wish list of projects and $125 million price tag.  Fortunately the voters turned it down.  When the school board came back with a more “focused” $72 million version, it got approved.  With the Jefferson Early Childhood Center, they started with a jam packed $30+ million version then cut down to a $26+ million dollar version before the $17.6 million dollar option was put in a referendum.  And while this was already voted down, they are back with a rehash for $16.6 million within an even more massive tax request.


The People Spoke… And Were Ignored

District residents are not opposed to reasonable requests.  But with the state’s current situation and ever-growing taxes, this request is excessive.  I was initially pleased to see that the school board fielded a survey to determine the support for a list of 12 “needed” projects.  But the research revealed that only 3 of the 12 were selected as high priority projects.  The bar for high priority was low as it meant that 50% of respondents agreed a project was high priority.  Yet, the school board included all 12 in the referendum.  Why pay for a survey when you disregard the feedback?  Well, because it didn’t support the board’s agenda.  The three “high priority projects were:

  • Replace major mechanical and other systems (65% high priority)
  • Reinforce the secured entries at the six elementary schools (75% high priority)
  • Renovate the technology lab at Wheaton North High School (50% high priority)

Why Fund Cadillacs When a Chevy Will Do?

Furthermore, there does not appear to be consideration for scaling back any of the projects much less eliminating them.  Projects can cost more or less depending on how they are defined.  What evidence do we have that the project estimates reflect an appropriate level of design for the supposed purpose?  Well, consider the $58 million dollar cost for Hubble.  It’s a beautiful school.  But did a state-of-the art facility improve student progress?  Arguably no.  And now it operates at 60% of capacity with a declining student population.  Do we really need to spend $36 million on Franklin when the enrollment has declined 10% in the last 4 years (just one example)?


When the Check Engine Light is On…Check Your Engine!

What makes the proposal especially difficult to support is that a large portion of the expense is due to inadequate provisions being made to keep the schools in reasonable operating shape.  Rather than budget appropriately for operating expenses to support maintenance and make planned capital enhancements over time, the school board diverted funds to other uses.  If you neglect to maintain your car for long enough, you know you’re asking for a much bigger repair bill down the road.  That’s the situation we now have.  It’s not the taxpayer’s job to bail out the school board from their poor planning.  And yes, the state has made things worse by failing to provide its committed share of funding.  But the school board consistently put its head in the sand and ignored planning for a rainy day, literally.  Our schools have leaky roofs, HVAC systems that don’t work and other issues caused by neglect.  Bailing them out sends a bad message.


That Giant Sucking Sound is Much Louder than You Think

If you still think the referendum is worthwhile, it might be because you don’t know what it will really cost you.  The school board, and our highly paid superintendent, work extra hard to keep the focus on one small part of the cost which is very misleading.

They will say that the bond issue will initially cost a taxpayer who owns a median priced home ($322,300) an extra $180 per year.  Now for the big BUT:  the added tax obligation goes on for 19 years and increases dramatically over time.  The cost is $180 for the first three years and increases annually before jumping to $667 in years 10 – 19.  The total cost over the life of the referendum is planned to be $7,282.

If your home is valued at $600k, then your initial incremental tax is $345 for the first three years climbing to $1,018 each year in years 10 – 19.  The total payments for a home owner who stays all 19 years would be $13,957.

It’s deceitful to focus taxpayers on just the “low” initial cost.  You can expect that type of “promotional game” from Comcast but not your school board.  The following table has the real costs by year and the total amount you would pay if you are a taxpayer for the ife of the bond (if their assumptions are true, meaning there is risk of even higher costs).

Incremental Tax Obligation – Annual Increase based on Home Value

tax impact LTE

Please talk with friends and neighbors and reject the referendum.  When it is defeated, the board will hopefully learn its lesson, again, and develop a reasonable proposal.  We won’t tolerate leaky roofs, but we’re not an infinite source of funding either.

I also hope we’ll stop tolerating a school board that does not have your interests (yes, including your children) at heart.  You have a chance to elect new board members who think about you and won’t vote in lockstep every time. Jim Gambaiani is the only current board member who fights for taxpayers, but he is continually outvoted 6 – 1.  He needs thoughtful colleagues who can balance support for quality education with responsible financial management.  Please consider voting for Lonks, Hudock, Harnen and Hamilton.  Make your vote count on April 4 and send clear messages to the school board:  NO and out you GO!


Best Regards,
Ron Zhiss