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CUSD 200 PR spending

How much has CUSD 200 been spending on public relations?
Was this a good use of taxpayer funds?
What did it provide for the students?
Should this and other funds (we are working to identify) have been spent of building maintenance instead?

Jan Shaw put in a FOIA:

…all money spent on consultants (facilitators, survey takers, or outside firms) for community engagement and public relations from 12/1/12 to present (2/4/17).  This should include, but not be limited to purchased services for:
  • The 2013 Jefferson referendum.
  • Engage 200.
  • Community surveys.
  • Videos about the District.
  • Mailings.
Rather than insisting upon invoices for all, we agreed to data queries for payments made.  Sorted data, determined most likely project for some vendors based on the date, and the vendor website, summed entries… In summary:
prejeff pr spending
They did not give up – in the next 4 years:
pr spending 2017 ref

* Jim G was told the final cost for Engage200 was $80,000.  The board approved estimate for Unicom was $49,500.  See below for more detail.
† Jim G said the community survey was $30,000.  Are we missing something?

This (almost $200,000) figure for PR in anticipation of the referendum  does not include:

  • Perkin Wills for the Master Facility Plan project ($250K)
  • Engage 200, table & chair rental, room set up and take down, printed handouts (done in-house), snacks or
  • staff time.

Prior to 2010, public relations was part time work for one of the administrators and administrative assistants.  A new PR position  was created in 2010.  From the supplemental personnel report dated 9/22/2010:

pr erica hired 9_22_2010

She is now Erica Loiacono, Director of Communications.  According to Ms. Loiacono earned $73,588 in 2015.
And she has an assistant, Mary Ann Gudmundson (did not find her salary)

[update 3/2/2017 – From the IMRF Compensation report for school year 2015-2016 we find that ERICA LOIACONO has a base salary of $79,317, and $41,441 for other benefits for a total compensation of  $120,758. The report can be found on click department->human resources then in the left column “Compensation Reports.” Her assistant is not listed.]

TOTAL Spending on Public Relations is the salary and benefits for these two people, the purchased services ($198,000 in the last four years, as documented in this post) and the celebration the PR department hosts (see )  We have a rough estimate of at least $200,000 per year.

Purchased Services in more detail – same data

There have been a lot of mailers, meetings, and surveys.  (“pdf page(s) refers to the page in the response file linked at the end of this post)


pr_FOL newsletter


po online print


pr boost marketing

See:   cusd-200-referendum-videos

There have been 3 more videos posted in February 2017.  Will there be more charges?  When were these charges approved by the board?

pr_2017 referendum

pr_2017 ref mailer

pr grand total

And finally, for those who would like to see the raw data:  the pdf response file: pr purchased services

CUSD 200 Referendum videos


CUSD 200 paid Boost Marketing LLC $19,818 from 1/30/2015 to 12/30/2016. We believe this was for a series of  18 videos – total run-time 33:40.
Three of these videos have been posted in February. Will there be more charges?


Investing in Our Future – April 4 Referendum Overview 4:08 1,033 views 4 months ago
April 4 Referendum – Capital Improvements 1:15 184 views 3 months ago
April 4 Referendum – Secure Entry 2:15 436 views 3 months ago
April 4 Referendum – Library Learning Centers (LLC) 2:15 251 views 2 months ago
April 4 Referendum – New Early Learning Center 2:17 407 views 3 months ago
Why do we need to renovate our schools NOW? 1:11 228 views 3 months ago
April 4 Referendum – Financial Impact 1:18 83 views 2 weeks ago
April 4 Referendum – What Happens if a referendum is not approved? 1:45 93 views 2 weeks ago
April 4 Referendum – Why is there so much work? 1:36 69 views 1 week ago
Facility Projects at Franklin Middle School 2:28 946 views 3 months ago
Facility Projects at Monroe Middle School 1:59 869 views 3 months ago
Facility Projects at Edison Middle School 2:34 745 views 3 months ago
April 4 Referendum – Projects at Bower Elementary 1:29 255 views 3 months ago
April 4 Referendum – Projects at Emerson Elementary 1:23 374 views 3 months ago
April 4 Referendum – Projects at Hawthorne Elementary 0:49 245 views 3 months ago
April 4 Referendum – Projects at Johnson Elementary 1:07 209 views 3 months ago
Facility Projects at Wheaton North High School 2:06 943 views 3 months ago
Facility Projects at Wheaton Warrenville South High School 1:45 817 views 3 months ago


Retirees Out-Earn Teachers Who Replace Them

Look at the “TRS IL Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ending June 30,2015”

pdf page 100 has active member data.  Page 109 retirees.


In 2015,

  • Average salary for new teachers (under 5 years of service) is $47,796
  • Average salary for soon to retire teachers (25-29 years of service) is $94,410
  • and (30-34 years) $100,785


Then look at retiree data.

  • Those retired less than 1 year who worked 25-29 years have an average starting (and current) benefit of $3,222/month = $38,664
  • And 30-34 years experience have $5,646/month = $67,752


Note, those retired longer, may have a higher current pension.  Current pensions peak for those retired 10-14 years ago (that would be retired in 2002-2006)

  • 25-29 years experience have a current pension of $4,580 = $54,960
  • and 30-34 years experience have a current pension of $6,295 = $75,540

This tells us a couple things.

  1.  When a teacher who worked a full career (30+ years) retires, the retiree will have a starting pension ($67,752) for not working that exceeds her replacement’s starting salary ($47,796) for working.
  2. Retiree COLA (3% annually compounded) exceeds the amount the salary curves are going up.

From page 100 of the pdf (active teachers salary chart)

trs salary2015

From page 109 of the pdf (retired teachers pension chart)

pension data 2015 p 109

The Common Core controversy

Common Core is being implemented across the USA, including all public and most private schools in Illinois.  For voters and school board candidates who don’t already know what it is, I’m proving a few links to give you a basic understanding of what is going on… and why the controversy.

Common Core: what it is,

where it came from, who is behind it.
Video   18:21

Poet: I can’t answer questions on Texas standardized tests about my own poems


Why the Education Establishment Hates Cursive

5 Years Into Common Core, 15-Year-Olds Behind 35 Countries in Math – it’s not working!!


Addition strategies

video  4:38


Nanny helps explain Common Core subtraction

video  1:36


Common Core math [multiplication] explained

video  6:31

GLSEN and their LGBT Common Core Public School Agenda

CUSD 200 Existing Bond Repayment Schedule

Wheaton-Warrenville, CUSD 200 is planning on placing a $132 million bond referendum on the April 2017 ballot.  The actual vote to approve (or not) should be during the regular board meeting on January 11, 2017.  The agenda must be posted at least 48 hours prior to the meeting. (normally agendas are available late Friday prior to the meeting)

In preparation for this, take a look at the existing debt.

The question (yet to be answered) is: Could the district have set aside $5 million more per year for capital projects by cutting back elsewhere?  With 20 building, one should assume something will need fixing or replacing every year.  Items such as the roof, mechanical systems, flooring, etc. should be part of the annual budget rather than requiring a referendum. 


Starting at the districts home page

  • Click on “Departments” And in the drop down menu, “business office”
  • You will see several different financial reports (left hand column).  The one that contains the bond repayment schedule in  “Financial Audit Reports.”
  • Click on it to see links to financial reports 2012 to 2016.

From 2016 report

Bonds issued after 2009 were all “working cash bonds” issue without referendum


  • May 9, 2012        : $10,250,000
  • March 25, 2015 : $ 9,540,000
  • April, 2015          : $ 5,890,000
  • Total new debt  : $25,680,000

(Update 3/20)
I was asked where this data came from – I’m not finding it.  Suspect it should be the following based on the “issued…” in the audit pages shown on this blog.

  • May 9, 2012 : $10,250,000
  • March, 2014 : $ 9,540,000
  • April, 2015 : $ 6,140,000
  • Total new debt : $25,930,000

 How much debt is that?

  • Total debt from the 2016 report: $198,845,494
  • Total debt from the 2012 report: $261,451,798
  •  If the $132,000,000 referendum passes, the new total debt will be $198,845,494 + $132,000,000 = $330,845,494
  • which is $69,393,696 more than we owed 4 years ago.


Graphing the planned payments from the 2012 debt services schedule , vs the 2016 debt services schedule with actual bond repayment, interest and new bond issues for the years 2013 to 2016 we see:

bond repay graph

Note: with the existing bond repayment schedule, debt services will soon become un-affordable.  Expect the district to refund/reissue some bonds, hopefully for lower interest, but also to lower the annual payments, most likely extending the repayment period.


The data for this graph comes from pages 110 & 111 of the 2016  pdf  (105 of the doc)

debt service 2016 cusd200

Pdf page 93 for 2012 pdf

debt service 2012 cusd200

Pdf page 95 for 2013 pdf

debt service 2013 cusd200

Pdf page 81 for 2014 pdf

debt service 2014 cusd200

Pdf page 112 for 2015 pdf

debt service 2015 cusd200



CUSD 200 Food Fest

Recent news stories about the COD board feasting at the Waterleaf restaurant reminded us of a CUSD 200 FOIA response.

Rather than meeting candidates for  a new Superintendent at a district conference room and ordering moderately priced refreshments, District 200 rented a conference room at the Hilton and had their own food fest. They ordered   “Hilton Breakfast” at $18. 50 each, Asparagus & Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli with Tomato-Basil Sauce at $32.25/person… Grand total for using the Hilton’s conference room with A/V rental, food and soft drinks was $1,346.12.  That was for eight people – Most likely the seven board members and perspective superintendents (one at a time).

see the pdf    sup search food

In the pdf, after the Hilton receipts, there are two receipts for local restaurants on 7/17/2015.  Mary Lou Sender (Superintendent secretary) and Bill Farley (Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations) each took one candidate out to lunch.

The $600. for the Abelson Group was for what?  The Abelson Group webpage lists assessments

Then there is a list of “community member” names.  Our FOIA asked for the list of people involved in the selection process.  These people interviewed the final candidates and recommended one.  Note:  one of these “community members,” Diane Dillow, does not live in the district.   Conspicuously absent from the list is Harold Lonks who has run for school board twice, is an active member of the PTA and attends most, if not all school school board meetings.

Why did the League of Women voters and the Park District send representatives?

  • Dave Brummel – Mayor of Warrenville
  • Michael Gresk – Mayor of Wheaton
  • Diane Dillow -Warrenville Park District, lives out of school district
  • Gregg Ireland – Warrenville Park District
  • Chris Crabtree – PTA, on Engage 200 facilitating team and 2015 school board candidate
  • Eleanor McNear – Engage 200
  • Kyle Neninger – Tiger Paws (past president) and 2013 school board candidate
  • Susan Booten – President SEA Alliance
  • Jeanne Burda – President Gates 200
  • Joan Fefferman – League of Women Voters, Wheaton
  • Bob Hupp – Engage 200
  • Kathy Gotter – PTA
  • Michelle Triscik – PTA
  • Judith Zapf – PTA, on Engage 200 facilitating team and 2015 school board candidate
  • Jim Vroman – School board member and candidate 2015

Still wondering “WHY” these people were picked to interview the final candidates, but my FOIA for names and resumes was denied.  Response Letter rammer 9_22_2014  “…as only the name and resume of the successful candidate for a position with a public body are subject to disclosure under FOIA.”  However, once the district brought in the PUBLIC (even if only a select few) the argument can  be made that – the information is no longer PRIVATE – and should be released in a FOIA.  Other school districts have released the names of candidates under consideration.  CUSD 200 chose to release them to a selected few.


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.



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.



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  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:



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


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.

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