Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Approved Administrator Contracts and Salaries for the 2014-2015 School Year Raise Questions of BOE's Lack of Fairness, Fiscal Responsiblity and Careless Disregard for the Interest of the Community

Over the weekend the D181 Board of Education published on Board Docs all of the administrators' contracts it approved on May 29, 2014, as well as the Personnel Agenda listing their salaries and length of the contracts. We have had a chance to review all of these documents, calculate the percentage increase in the salaries, as well as analyze the terms of and inconsistencies found amongst the contracts. Below, we will discuss the "highlights" and raise concerns and questions we have with the contracts.
We begin by stating that in our opinion, we unequivocally believe that the BOE has shown a complete lack of fairness and equity in approving inflated raises for most of the administrators for next year, when compared to the CPI base raises given to the D181 teachers for next year. Further, in our opinion we believe the board has shown a lack of fiduciary duty to the D181 taxpayers by approving multi-year contracts for 6 administrators that are effective 5/30/14 (during the 2013-2014 school year). We also believe the BOE has shown a careless disregard for the interest of the community in approving multi-year contracts for two central administrators, Dawn Benaitis and Gary Frisch. And finally, we believe the BOE has once again sauntered down a dark path sorely lacking in transparency.
Links to relevant Board Docs:
A. Length of the Contracts:
With the exception of 6 administrators, all others executed one year contracts, effective July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015. Last year, on 3/18/13, the BOE approved 1 year contracts for all administrators with effective dates of July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014.  (Click to open 3/18/13 Personnel agenda.) NO multi-year contracts were given. This time, the following administrators received multi-year contracts: Director of Learning Dawn Benaitis, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Gary Frisch, Oak Principal Sean Walsh, Elm Principal Jeana Considine, Prospect Principal Ann Kryger and Madison Principal Mindy McMahon. 

Interestingly, the beginning date of the multi-year contracts is May 30, 2014, just one day after they were approved last week, and overlaps with their 2013-2014 contracts approved on 3/18/13. Benaitis, Frisch and Walsh executed contracts with a term of 3 years and 1 month, and an end date of 6/30/17.  Considine and Kryger (who it appears announced their retirements) executed contracts with terms of  4 years and 1 month contracts, and an end date of 6/30/18. McMahon, who announced her retirement several years ago, was given what is being called a multi-year contract, but is in effect only a 1 year 1 month contract with an end date of 6/30/15.  There is nothing "multi-year" about it. (Click to open 3/12/12 personnel agenda approving McMahon's notice to retire in 2015.)

We find the approval of these multi-year contracts extremely troubling for the following reasons which show that the BOE does not seem to understand how to procedurally "amend" existing contracts, shows a complete disrespect and disregard of D181 taxpayers and shows the board's refusal to hold under performing administrators accountable.

The BOE May Not Have Followed Proper Procedure in Approving the Multi-Year Contracts.
During the Board meeting, as referenced by President Turek, the contracts were approved "as presented."Typically that means the board has seen and understands what it is voting on, as outlined on a Personnel Consent agenda or in written contracts that lay out all the terms. Procedurally, if the start date of the new multi-year contracts was going  to overlap with term of the current 2013-2014 contracts, technically the motion to approve them should have been preceded with a motion to amend the 2013-2014 contracts' end date from 6/30/14 to 5/29/14. Nothing posted on board docs, however, suggests that this procedural step was taken.  Neither the Personnel agenda or the individual contracts reference any amendments to  the 2013-2014 contracts. Why does this matter?

It shows sloppy work by the D181 lawyers who are paid hundreds of dollars per hour with 

taxpayer money to properly document the employment agreements between the BOE and D181 administrators, and not miss steps that could lead to confusion in the terms of 2 overlapping contracts.  It also shows sloppy work by the BOE, especially by Ms. Vorobiev, an employment lawyer, who it appears didn't realize the proper contract amendment to make before the multi-year contracts were approved. 
Careful consideration of this skipped step exposed what we believe was the true motive in giving these administrators multi-year contracts that begin on 5/30 and not July 1, 2014, and will have the effect of costing D181 and Illinois taxpayers more money.

The BOE May Have Intentionally Circumvented the Intent of the Illinois Pension Reform Act, Negatively Impacting D181 Taxpayers.

Under the new Illinois pension reform act*, pensionable salary is capped at $110,000 OR the highest salary specified at the END of an administrator's contract in effect on May 31, 2014. (Click to open Pension Reform Fact Sheet.) This is the reason why, for example, Superintendent White started on May 27. He has a 3 year contract that began before May 31 in order that he benefit from the highest salary in the contract --which will be paid during the 2016-2017 school year. The salary for that year will be his pensionable salary. Obviously, by starting in D181 prior to 5/31 he benefited from the salary the BOE was willing to pay him, which was significantly higher than what he made in his former district during the 2013-2014 school year.  In the case of a new hire, as in Dr. White's case, this makes sense, since the board obviously wanted to guarantee his acceptance of their employment offer, especially after Dr. Schuster announced her early resignation before the end date of her contract. 

The 6 administrators who executed multi-year contracts will have the same benefit. Their pensionable salary will be based on the highest salary specified in the last year of each of their contracts. By entering into multi-year contracts with a start date of 5/30/14, rather than 7/1/14, the administrators were able to avoid having their pensionable salaries be their lower 2013-2014 salaries, as would otherwise now be required under the pension reform law.  Instead, their pension will be based upon their highest salary contracted during the term of the contract.  By approving these contracts, the board has circumvented the intent of the pension reform act for existing staff.  This will directly impact D181 and all Illinois taxpayers whose taxpayer dollars fund the pensions.  This will cost everyone more money to fund the existing administrators' pensions in direct contravention of the intent of Illinois legislators whose intent was to "stop the bleeding" by capping pensionable salaries.

The BOE's rationale for this unprecedented  and, in our opinion, unwarranted generosity and commitment of future taxpayer dollars to a growing pension obligation, without public discussion or post-approval explanation to our community, is nothing short of a travesty. It is yet another example of the total lack of transparency by the D181 Board and administration!
Approval of Multi-year Contracts for Benaitis and Frisch Sends Wrong Message to D181 Community. 
In addition to the negative impact the multi-year contracts with a 5/30/14 start date will have on tax payer pocket books, it boggles our minds that the BOE had the audacity to approve multi-year contracts for two central administrators -- Benaitis and Frisch. Is there no such thing as accountability in D181?  

As the Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations, Frisch was, we would assume, responsible for overseeing D181 facilities, including Hinsdale Middle School.  We won't rehash "Moldgate" other than to express our dismay at how Frisch managed to dodge the accountability bullet, despite taxpayers having to foot the $2 million bill (which caused the budget to go into deficit for the first time in several years) to remediate 20 years worth of mold in one building. It was one thing that he managed to emerge unscathed from this financial, environmental and health safety fiasco and keep his job, but it is quite another thing to now REWARD him with a multi-year contract that enables him to retire with a much higher pension than he would otherwise received.   It is outrageous that the BOE approved Frisch's multi-year contract.

Similarly, we won't rehash the discontent that community members have expressed regarding Benaitis' past performance as the Monroe principal, or her questionable performance -- or lack thereof -- as the Director of Learning. Benaitis was promoted into this position -- or so the community was led to believe--to assume Dr. Russell's  student performance and assessment responsibilities as Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction when HE was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Learning. Not only is it shocking that despite serious concerns raised time and again by the community, she was rewarded with a multi-year contract that will hike up her pensionable salary, it is also shocking to realize that her job description attached as part of her contract was muddled and barely includes assessment responsibilities. Click to open Benaitis' new contract and job description.

Worst yet is the fact that apparently Benaitis' job description NEVER was focused as that of a REAL director of assessment. Look closely at the last page of the job description and you will realize it is the job description dated April 2013, so it was the same one for the 2013-2014 school year as will be in force for Benaitis for the next 3 years. The BOE owes everyone an explanation for why two years ago it added an administrator job after the administration argued it needed to create a Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction that had as a primary focus, student performance and assessment responsibilities, promoted Dr. Russell into this role, one year later promoted Benaitis into this role and  then changed the job description without any public discussion! But don't take our word for it.  Read the job descriptions yourself and compare the detailed assessment tasks Dr. Russell was required to perform versus the watered down version of assessment tasks Benaitis was given -- all without full disclosure to the community of these changes.  Click to open Dr. Russell's job description when promoted to the Director of Assessment, Curriculum and Instruction.   Then compare it to Benaitis' job description.  Click to open Benaitis' new contract and job description.

It is past time that the BOE and now Dr. White  explain and justify the need for this administrative position, especially now that it has given Benaitis a multi-year contract.  The D181 taxpayers deserve an explanation of why it is necessary -- although we doubt it is -- to maintain this Director position, when it no longer fulfills the role it was created for.

Without immediate transparency and public explanation, we are left to conclude that the BOE has lost its sanity by approving the multi-year contracts for Benaitis and Frisch.

B. Administrators' Unfair and Unjustified Salary Increases:

In our opinion, the majority of the salary increases approved in the new contracts are unfairly inflated.  We are basing this conclusion in part on the scant information the BOE released regarding the financial terms of the new 2 year teachers' contract. 

While we do object to the 5/30/14 start date of all of the multi-year contracts because of the long term negative impact it will have on D181 taxpayers as a result of the higher pensionable salary, we want to begin this section by first addressing the base salary increases we do NOT object to on fairness grounds -- those for the 3 principals who announced their retirement dates -- McMahon, Considine and Kryger. 

We have calculated that in each year of their multi-year contracts, they will get a 6% increase to their base salary. These  6%  annual salary bumps have historically and contractually been given to announced future retirees, both TEACHERS (as specified in the HCHTA contracts) and to ADMINISTRATORS over the last four years of their contracts. Prior to the pension reform act, pensionable salary was based on the retiree's salary in their last year of employment, but under the reform act, it is capped at $110,000 or the highest salary in a contract in effect on 5/31/14. We do not know if the start date of the new HCHTA contract has also been "manipulated" to begin on May 30, 2014, thus overlapping with the current contract that will expire on 6/30/14, in order to enable future retirees to claim the 2015-2016 salary as their pensionable salary.  While we do not believe the BOE should have done so, because such a modification to the start date of the new contract would also negatively impact taxpayer pocketbooks, if it did not, there would not be equity for the teachers who are retiring after this year, when compared to the three announced retiring principals.  

The BOE should immediately release all the terms of the new HCHTA contract, so the community can all see it there has been inequity to the future retiring teachers.  

All of the "non-announced retiring administrators" received a base salary increase of 4.2%, far higher than the CPI increase the teachers were given.  In our opinion, this is completely unfair and inequitable and requires an immediate explanation.  This is particularly true when one considers that the administrators received on average smaller percentage increases LAST year -- between 3.4 and 3.6% --  with the exception of the ridiculously high percentage increases Benaitis, Schneider (the only 2 Dept. of Learning central administrators who will return next fall) were given.  The BOE should explain how in a year of turmoil and now deficit spending, higher percentage increases are justified, especially in light of the incredibly high raises these two administrators received in the past.

We have calculated that in less than three years (from 2012-2013 to the 2014-2015 school year), Benaitis' base salary has increased 18.8% from $109,660 to $130,250.  In that same period, Schneider's base salary has increased 12.7% from $130,000 to $146,484.00.  (And this doesn't include all of the other benefits they receive.) The community deserves an explanation on how the BOE can justify these ridiculous raises in light of the curriculum mess the district now finds itself in as a result of the Learning for All Plan.


We doubt very much that explanations for any of the questions and concerns we have raised in this post will be forthcoming  from Mr. Turek or the other board members.  Our main purpose in writing this post is to point out to Dr. White the board's continuing lack of transparency, accountability, financial responsibility and fiduciary obligations to the taxpayers.  We hope by doing so that Dr. White will begin to understand the basis for our (and many D181 parents, teachers, staff and community members')  continuing frustration with the BOE.  None of this is Dr. White's fault, nor are we suggesting that he can really do anything to correct it for next year.  The onus falls on Board President Turek to immediately explain to the entire D181 community the basis for these contracts, from the multi-year terms starting on May 30, 2014, to the higher raises given to administrators than to the teachers and, in our opinion, the continued rewards and excessively high salaries approved for a few undeserving administrators.  

*Note: On May 14, 2014, a state judge temporarily suspended the pension reform act in a lawsuit brought by teachers' unions, so it is unclear what impact this suspension may have on the D181 retiring administrators' pensionable salaries. (Click to open May 14, 2014 Chicago Tribune article.)


Anonymous said...

I am so unbelievably angry about this. I really have no words. And they will get away with it, just like the tuition reimbursements. And most people will be none the wiser. But who really is the BOE representing? I do not get why their loyalties are with the central office administration? The BOE are taxpayers and some have kids in D181. It makes no sense. These central office administrators have added nothing and have caused huge harm over the last several years. Did they think they "needed to stop the bleed"? News flash, all of these central office administrators (minus Doug) needed to go, and we would be better off if Benaitis and Schneider left too. What have they done to justify 1) a contract renewal, and 2) a big raise? Also, Illinois is in a huge pension crises because of actions like this - shame on them for misusing the new law to the detriment of the taxpayers who elected them.

I challenge the press to publish this story with no false fluff from the administration and BOE - just the bare facts. I wont hold my breath though. Instead everyone who reads this post should forward it to everyone they know. And write a letter to the BOE expressing your outrage.

Taxpayer lawsuit against the BOE anyone?

Anonymous said...

And this is why teachers shouldn't be negotiators. They accepted a horrible contract and sold it to their members as a "Great deal". I'm disgusted that our teachers are so disrespected and undervalued. This community should come together and fight for an overturn of the teacher and administration salaries. Raises should be reversed. Administrators with CPI and teachers with 4.2. Who's with me???

Anonymous said...

Central administrators with no raises! They don't deserve any raises after their huge raise last year and their dismal performance.

Anonymous said...

The only ray of hope found in the Benaitis and Frisch's multi-year contract is that they can be essentially terminated at will by the BOE before April 1 of each contract year and tell her not to come back for years 2 and/or 3. As long as they cut either of them loose by notifying them before April 1 they won't have to "buy them out." If they miss that deadline, or cut them loose earlier in any of the 3 contract years, they have to pay them a buy out equivalent to salary due for the remainder of the current year, or if they miss the April 1 deadline, they would have to pay their salary for the next full year. How stupid of the BOE to include buy out provisions with an April deadline. That is the mistake they made the year Tenbusch quit. The BOE had to pay him for the next full year of his contract. Didn't they learn anything from that experience? Let's hope White recommends cutting Benaitis loose so our district only has to suffer with her for one more year. As for Frisch, he has a lot to prove in order for tax payers to feel comfortable with his continuing as Asst. Sup. of Business and Operations for another 3 years.

jay_wick said...

The truly sickening thing about these unjustifiable increases is that several of the BOE members ran on a position of being "fiscally prudent". Clearly that talk has not matched their actions.

The real worry for me, as someone that has seen literally decades of such election cycle "tough talk" followed by BOE member inaction to address pension fund abuses and imprudent spending, is that this does invite the really unhinged reactionaries to run for office.

When such "tough talking dolts" win office by appealing to the lowest instincts in voters, as they have in D86, the predictable result is their own crazed which hunt for bogey men of all kinds AND NO REAL PROGRESS in either moving the needle on runaway spending OR improvements to the classroom!

The time to begin organizing to combat these cycles of stupidity is NOW. With the information presented on this blog and the even D181's own web site we have the information need to mobilize folks that will not simply nominate nice looking neighbors that seem to be well meaning but instead press for hard answers about the proper way to provide for a sustainably funded educational system that does not promise pensions that will require massive tax increases.

I can only hope that there are sufficient numbers of parents / community members that now fully understand the magnitude of incompetence exhibited by BOE members that say one thing and do another. How ironic that this is also the week when the buzz around town is "how large my property tax bill has become". When the fools that continue to subvert pension reform efforts engage in this kind of chicanery it is no wonder that power-brokers in Springfield laugh at efforts to prevent massive increases in taxes.

In all seriousness, each and every person that frets "I'll probably have to move to some low tax state the day my last kid graduates Central" can lay the blame SQUARELY on the dunderheaded antics of your neighbors on the BOE that approve these nonsensical contracts.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you, Mr Wick. Next us taxpayers will be asked to support a new HMS with a tax increase. The BOE is probably working behind the scenes trying to get the referendum ready for November. No way will I support one penny more for anything related to HMS or other schools after seeing how this BOE wastes our tax dollars on incompetent administrators and other financial issues. Many of my Hinsdale neighbors feel the same way. The teachers should be screaming mad about these contracts and raises. Staying quiet for three years didn't help them at all.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous 4:07 poster...So, you will take out your frustration and anger with the BOE by voting NO on a possible referendum. That'll really drive home your message. While the administrators (some with their multi-year, Illinois pension-ruining salaries) sit comfortably in the administrative wing of Elm School...850+ students and 75+ teachers/staff will endure year after year in a grossly inadequate building. That'll show those BOE members!

Anonymous said...

To the 6:59 poster - yes! A no vote on a referendum will show the dolts on the BOE that we do not support their actions or intentions. They are not fiscally responsible and they are not to be trusted with our tax dollars. If we had trust in these elected officials, it would be a different story. But until this board shows they have the best interests of our children and community as a priority, then this taxpayer and many others will not support the recklessness of this board.

Anonymous said...

My child will go to HMS for 3 years, but my Hinsdale taxes - almost 50% last I heard - will go to d181 forever. I agree with the previous poster in that I have absolutely NO faith that the current board members would ever be able to prudently manage such an ambitious endeavor like a new middle school. Their blind trust in whatever the administration asks makes them look more like residents of Stepford than Hinsdale.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the poster at 9:06 p.m. I will not vote yes on any referendum that will increase my taxes to fund anything the current board proposes. This board has shown complete disregard of the hard working taxpayers. Money does not grow on trees. These elected officials are supposed to spend our money wisely. Instead, they leave money on the table -- not recouping tuition reimbursement payments from departing administrators as required by contract, massaging interpretation of language in Schuster's conrtract in order to avoid collecting $20,000 from Schuster to fund the new superintendent search as required by her contract. They find a way to get around the pension reform law resulting in more tax obligations funded by D181 taxpayers. They grow the administration while not hiring more teachers and lowering class sizes. No, this is not a board I trust with my money. So this certainly isn't a board I'm going to willingly give more money to. I will vote NO on all future referendums supported by this irresponsible pack of dolts!

Anonymous said...

Check this out:

It confirms that the BOE is not collecting the $20,000 from Schuster. Her contract is on this blog so everyone can read it and then go ask your nearest employment lawyer if the drivel Turek spewed out during his interview makes any sense. It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that the board chose to look the other way and let Schuster leave without enforcing the contract. This wasn't a "mutual" agreement where both sides wanted Schuster to leave. She wanted to leave and the board decided not to stop her. That may be "mutual" but is not justification for allowing her to forego payment of $20,000 to the BOE for HER early termination of the contract Who does the board think they are kidding? Is this community made up of fools? The board certainly is playing us as if we were fools. Time to elect new board members and get rid of any of them who run for reelection next spring.

Anonymous said...

Where are these angry tax paying residents? Typing out how mad you are is completely meaningless. And I get it, I feel your frustration, but sitting behind your computer does nothing to help the community. If you want real change, then you have rally your neighbors and physically go to the board meetings and tell Marty Turek and his fellow members what you think. And you have to demand change. And you have to do it over and over and over again. There's a meeting on June 9th. There's an opportunity!

Anonymous said...

At last! As an Elm school area dog walker and parent, I am amused at how the administration's parking lot is filled, yes filled, with cars by 7:30 to 8 a.m. now that Dr. White has started. Guess the administrators have figured out their gig is up and they can no longer arrive at their leisure.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment about taxpayers needing to show up at board meetings. Unfortunately, the majority of the taxpayers have no idea that administrator contracts and raises were just approved, and it took the bloggers to explain the terms of the contracts to us since there has been no transparency shown by the BOE on this issue, so its doubtful that anyone other than die hard board attendees will even show up to summer board meetings. It will take Dr. White TURNING THE LIGHT of transparency on at D181 before EVERYONE in the D181 community realize the BOE abuses that have been successfully covered up with the dirt Schuster's administration has shoveled for the last 4 years.

One last thing -- is it true that Schuster is STILL AROUND holding Dr. White's hand like a mommy taking her five year old to his first week of kindergarten? Come on! How unnecessary is that? Time to hit the road Dr. Schuster, and please don't look back.

Anonymous said...

I am very willing to give Dr. White a chance (in my opinion, he's got to be better than Dr. Schuster) but he needs to tell her that he is a big boy and can handle things on his own.

Maybe if Dr. Schuster had stopped meddling, we wouldn't be saddled with Dawn Benaitis for 3 more years. Something's clearly not right about that contract renewals and pay increase because there has been so much negative feedback provided to the BOE and Dr. Schuster about Benaitis' dismal performance in her role at Monroe and this past year in Admin.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Clarin - I read your quote in the Hinsdalean. I am teaching my children to be honorable and not to lie. I am also teaching them to stand up against injustice.

The Parents said...

What quote are you talking about? Can you share it?

Anonymous said...

There is an article about the contract negotiations where Clarin is quoted as saying "I think it sets a good example for the children. When adults fight, it doesn't look good for the kids. We all got along. I think it's going to show in the new school year. "

Anonymous said...

Is Clarin so dense that he doesn't know that compromising and negotiating is not "fighting"? I'd love to see Clarin negotiate for a car. He probably pays sticker price because he doesn't want to "fight" with salesperson.

The administration and Board's constant ignoring of parents' and teachers' real concerns is a much, much worse example for our children. I want my children to seek the truth, stand up for what is right and stand by their word. Not lie to themselves and pretend that they are perfect.

Gary Tietelbaum said...

Whoa!!! A California judge ruled Tuesday that teacher tenure laws deprive students of their right to an education under the state Constitution.

The decision hands teachers’ unions a major defeat in a landmark case, one that could radically alter how California teachers are hired and fired and prompt challenges to tenure laws in other states.

Anonymous said...

Gary: that has me happy and very scared at the same time. Happy that bad teachers can get fired easier. I'm no expert in this law, so please correct me if I'm wrong. If teachers lose tenure here in Illinois, do you trust the board to act fairly? Honestly, I'm scared that the district would lose great teachers because the board would kowtow to vocal parents whose kids didn't do well on a test.