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:
Click to open Personnel Agenda listing 2014-2015 salaries for 1 and 3 and 4 year contracts and 2015-2016, 2016-2017, 2017-2018 salaries for multi-year 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.)