STOP THE WASTE & BE ACCOUNTABLE: Part 6 of 13

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Graphic Courtesy of Hikingartist.com

I had to call the Lyons School District 103 Admin Building the other day.  A very nice woman picked up and greeted me with “Village of Lyons.  Oops, sorry (giggle).  School District 103.”

It got me wondering how many people have left District 103 since Mayor Getty’s school board began just over a year ago (see HERE, HERE or HERE for more).  The list:

  1. Assistant to the superintendent
  2. Payroll Coordinator
  3. Benefits Coordinator/Receptionist (see above)
  4. Director of Technology
  5. Network Administrator
  6. Infrastructure Support
  7. Director of Curriculum
  8. Title I/ELL Coordinator
  9. Director of Special Education
  10. Director of Buildings and Grounds
  11. Principal of George Washington Middle School
  12. Assistant Principal, George Washington Middle School
  13. Principal of Costello School

Those 13 who left collectively had about 200 years of experience in education.  Most of the replacements for the above staff are friends of Getty, former (and current) Village of Lyons employees, or recommended to Getty by his friends.  They collectively have about 50 years of school experience.

It’s not clear if they understand if they are working for School District 103 or the Village of Lyons.  Or perhaps it is clear.

Stop the Waste & Be Accountable – Part 5 of $461, 494

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Under “Action Items” on the February 25, 2016 Lyons Elementary School District 103 board agenda was listed, ” XIII E. Motion to Approve Contract Extension for Kyle Hastings as Assistant Superintendent.”

Let’s look at this in a little more detail:

  1. This was not a “contract extension” as Hastings will no longer be the superintendent.  The board ended his current contract and created a completely new position of Assistant Superintendent (which the district never had before) and hired Hastings.
  2. No board members had an opportunity to review the many-paged extension contract before the board meeting.
  3. Hastings receives an 11.1% increase in pay, going from $900 per day to $1000 per day.
  4. Hastings’s contract is four years long – unheard of for school administrators.
  5. Hastings will receive an automatic 3.25% increase in each of the next three years of his contract.  That means in year-four of the contract his salary will be almost $121,000.
  6. Assuming Hastings also receives board-paid health insurance at about $10,000 per year, his first year income will be $110,000 for 100 days of work.  This is about $2.30 per MINUTE of work.
  7. Over the course of the four-year contract Hastings will receive $461,494 in compensation for 400 days of work.
  8. He says he is going to take over the work of Jason Gold.  Mr. Gold’s title was “Coordinator of ELA and Math Initiatives, and Teacher/Principal Retention and Development.”  Hastings isn’t certified to be the ELA coordinator or to evaluate teachers and principals.  He has little or no knowledge of K-8 mathematics.
  9. Hastings said he will also help out in “human resources.”    The board has already hired two people to do the job of the one person (Judy Pohanka) who was doing human resources for many years.  What this probably means is that Hastings’ job will be to check with Mr. Getty before each new staff member is hired.
  10. Getting back to the numbers, Hastings making $110,000 for 100 days of work is equivalent to $253,000 per year for a superintendent working 230 days.

So why the huge contract?  Four years?  A total of $461,484?  Does Hastings have dirty pictures of Getty?  Does Getty owe Hastings for some big favor worth about a half-million dollars?  Or is Getty “paying forward” for some big future favor?  Does it have anything to do with Kyle Hasting’s son Michael Hastings, senator of the 19th Illinois Legislative District? Looking for more turf to control, Chris?

 

 

On the horizon: At the March 24, 2016 board meeting they set up a committee to review the district’s insurance contracts.  Hey, doesn’t Chris Getty own an insurance company?

Stop the Waste & Be Accountable: Back to School Edition

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Graphic courtesy of http://www.hikingartist.com

It’s been awhile since we’ve checked in on the Lyons Elementary School District 103.  As you recall, Lyons’ Mayor Getty successfully funded a campaign to take over the school board.  Some items for reflection and further investigation:

Open Meetings Act Flaunted? – Is it true that interim superintendent Kyle Hastings meets with the four new board members in his office immediately before each board meeting.  The  new district attorney is in there too (at $175/ hour), so he should know if they are violating the Open Meeting Act, shouldn’t he?  Of course the “old” board members aren’t invited – probably because they know how to read an agenda and make up their own minds on important issues.  It appears that some of the “new” board members don’t even bother to look at the board meeting agenda.

Replacement Already Picked? (Part 1) – Some have noted the action item on the board agenda for a “temporary part-time superintendent secretary.”  I thought Marge was doing just fine.  The logic is to train someone (for a year?) to take Marge’s place when she retires.  Some long-time district employees have inquired about the position but were told that they would have to resign their current full-time position before they could apply for the part-time position – unreasonable at best.  So current employees are effectively shut out of the process.  Presumably, someone unfamiliar with the district has already been selected to replace Marge.  They will be paying two people to do one job – seems like the “new” board members got upset when the “old” board did the same thing last spring.

New District Office Position Needed? – The “new” board members voted in a new position – Staff Accountant.  The district didn’t seem to need one of these for the past 50 years or so.  How does this help keep a lid on spending?

Marge Is Packed Up. Ready to Go? – Marge has packed up all her personal belonging from her office.  Does this have anything to do with the previous items?  Will she be there to train the new person?

Replacement Already Picked? (Part 2) – Nobody is more important to a superintendent than her/his secretary.  So it seems odd that Marge’s replacement has already been selected.  Any superintendent worth their salt would insist on selecting their own secretary.  Could it be that the next superintendent has already been selected and approved the new secretary?  Or will Kyle continue on for a few more years as “interim” superintendent?

Expert at PlayStation and Wii? – The “new” board’s selection to replace Bryan Drozd as Tech Director has a high school degree.  Will he be able to master the sophisticated systems currently operating and successfully supervise 6 staff members?  The district has posted Jakub’s position as well, seeking an individual with a bachelors degree.

Taxation Without Representation

The natives are getting restless.   They’re putting on war-paint and gathering at the harbor. Soon they’ll sneak out to the ships and dump the tea overboard. Why? Taxation Without Representation!

The good people of Lyons, McCook, Stickney, Brookfield and Forest View elected Michael Bennett, Jorge Torres, Katie Broderick and Coleen Shipbaugh to the Lyons Elementary School District 103 board of education to represent their interests. They looked at their latest Cook County tax bill and saw that the school district takes the biggest bite of their taxes, so they wanted people on the school board to make good decisions on their behalf (STOP THE WASTE! BE ACCOUNTABLE!). That didn’t happen.

They didn’t make the most important decision they were elected for – to select the superintendent.   It’s clear to me that they never even met Kyle Hastings before they tried to vote him in as superintendent (prior to when they were legally seated as board members).   I’ll bet they hadn’t even read his resume before the board meeting they did vote him in.

Mayor Getty had met Kyle Hastings.  He made the decision – for all the taxpayers in Lyons, McCook, Stickney, Brookfield and Forest View. He wasn’t elected as a school board member. Taxation Without Representation!

PS – Mr. Hastings will be interim superintendent for 130 odd days.  Who will select the superintendent who will be in charge of the district for years?

Can’t Take a Joke?

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Courtesy of http://www.hikingartist.com

I hear some people in Getty’s camp were quite upset about the fake To Do list I posted yesterday.  I used to read Mad Magazine and they had stuff like that all the time.  Or how about that funny IRS Form 1040 they run in the Tribune every April 15th?

I’m not sure if they were upset because they thought I actually went into the dumpsters and found the document (in which case they thought it was real) or if they were upset because to was too close to reality (alright I doubt anyone would let them rename the middle school).  Either way they are incensed that Mayor Getty would be depicted in a negative way.  Which brings me back to the flyer I was handed as I went into Monday’s board meeting.

First of all, let’s be clear on where the flyer came from.  Mayor Getty’s assistant Kyle Hastings handed me the flyer.  The flyer was created to make the outgoing board look bad.  Why?  Four of them were leaving the board: one after 10 years of service, one (who was nominated by Mayor Getty) after 6 years of service.  Did the “old school board” do anything to Mayor Getty?  The “old school board” was going to be seated for 15 minutes after the flyer was handed to me.  What was the point of telling all the attendees that the “old school board” was terrible?

Let’s look at the flyer itself:

DID YOU KNOW?

Since the April 7th Election:

• THE OLD SCHOOL BOARD HIRED 3 SUPERINTENDENTS.

-AT A COST OF OVER $400,000 ANNUALLY!

The old school board hired Dr. Vladika as superintendent on January 23, 2012.  On March 30, 2015 the board accepted Dr. Vladika’s retirement.  Her last day was April 20th. The old board moved quickly to fill the gap, hiring two people who had previously acted as interim superintendents in District 103 to do it again.  Cost:  Dr. Vladika $35,500 (estimated salary and benefits of $500/day for 71 days).  Two interims worked 5 1/2 days @ $800 per day for $4,400.  Total – $39,900 or less than one-tenth of what was on the flyer.

• THE OLD SCHOOL BOARD RUSHED THROUGH THE HIRING OF A PRINCIPAL WITHOUT LOOKING INTERNALLY.

-AT A COST OF OVER $100,000 ANNUALLY!

Obviously they don’t know how schools work.  Administrators are given their contracts for the next school year in the spring so you have to hire them from their old district before they sign a contract with a new district.  Wait too long and you don’t get the best candidates to apply.  Yes they looked internally but found a better candidate externally (didn’t they want the best candidate?)  Yes, they paid the best candidate $100,000 – do you think the person was going to work for free?  Look at the salaries of other principals in the area and you’ll find $100,000 is a bargain.

THE OLD SCHOOL BOARD CREATED MORE THAN 12 NEW POSITIONS

You got them there – yes the board approved the addition of UP TO 12 local kids to work mowing the grounds and painting the classrooms over the summer.  The board has approved similar hirings most summers.

THE OLD SCHOOL BOARD IS ONLY INTERESTED IN WASTING YOUR MONEY!!!

THE NEW SCHOOL BOARDS INTENT:

STOP THE WASTE AND BE ACCOUNTABLE!

Show us the “waste” they’re talking about (they better not create any waste along the way).  And let’s see how accountable and transparent the new board members will be.

√ Takeover Board of Education

Outside Flyers

I went to last night’s school board reorganization meeting in Lyons.  As I approached the entrance to the building there were six people, several of them Village of Lyons employees, passing out copies of the agenda with a flyer attached.  The flyer was designed to make the current board of education look bad, with gross inaccuracies, lies and statements like “STOP THE WASTE & BE ACCOUNTABLE!”  Why did they felt the need to rub salt in the wound?  Give a parting shot to those who were leaving the board?  Getty’s henchmen were now the majority of the board and they don’t need to intimidate anyone to do whatever Getty wants them to do.  Kyle Leonard, Getty’s flunky assistant, was passing out the flyers and I pointed out one of the inaccuracies on it and he told me, “Don’t take that too literally.”  When I pointed out another inaccuracy he pointed to the door and said, “Go inside and take a seat!”  When I persisted, he started to get angry at me and again told me to go inside.

Once inside I was amazed at the number of people there – probably 300 (we may never know the exact number as Mayor Getty took the sign-in sheets so he could check off who was there).  Some were Village of Lyons employees, others had yellow t-shirts with “Mom” on them, staff members formed clusters toward the back.  The Village of Lyons’ photographer was there snapping pictures.  I sat down beside two guys with union logos on their shirts.  I asked them why they were there and one replied, “I was told to be here. I’m like a lemming and I go where I’m told.”  He wasn’t from the Lyons area.

Shortly before the start of the meeting four people in front of me got up from their chairs and the newly elected board members were escorted in and were seated in the front row.  The Village of Lyons attorney (soon to be the school district’s attorney) Bert Odelson sat next to the new board members.

First order of business – public participation.  Twenty-three people got up and addressed the old board and new board members.  Comments were split with more than half thanking the outgoing board for their service.  Several got up and recited some of the inaccuracies enumerated in the flyer distributed at the door.  Many gave advice to the incoming board members.  They asked the new board to keep children foremost in their minds.  They implored the new board to keep politics out of the district.

Right before the new board members were sworn in flunky Kyle came up and gave them Mayor Getty’s last-minute instructions.

The rest of the meeting was rather anticlimactic.   The new board members promptly voted each other in as president, vice president and secretary although this was only the second board meeting they’ve ever attended.  They put forth their board meeting schedule without consulting with the other three board members to see if they could make the meetings.

In a violation of Roberts Rules of Order they added an Action Item to the agenda to set a special meeting for Thursday.  The purpose of the meeting is to fire the interim superintendents (who’ve already quit in disgust), hire Kyle Hastings as interim superintendent, fire the district’s law firm, and hire Burt Odelson’s law firm.

I wandered around the room after the meeting ended.  There was Mayor Getty making the rounds and congratulating his four henchmen.  As I talked to parents and staff members I sensed their fear of the future. I was told some staff members were putting their houses up for sale so they could move away from the district.  Parents vowed to keep an eye on the new board  but they realized they were powerless to stop Getty from making whatever change he wanted.

I am saddened by the events in District 103.  I don’t think the new board members are bad people, nor do I think they will speak for the parents and children within the district.  They will speak for person – Mayor Chris Getty.

Getty and Odelson

Odelson and Getty congratulate each other after the board meeting.

Politics in Public Education Creates Fear

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I was playing golf last week with a neighborhood friend.  As we walked up to the third teebox he said half-jokingly, “You know they can play pretty rough there in Lyons.  Take me off of your list of blog recipients. I don’t want them coming after me.”  Don’t think I hadn’t already thought about the possible ramifications of criticizing Mayor Getty and his followers.

I’d heard the reports of incidents in Lyons in the past, even before Getty became mayor – have the wrong candidate’s sign on your lawn and get your inflatable Christmas decoration slashed; speak up at a public meeting and have your car vandalized; hateful anonymous comments posted on the local forum Topix; candidates’ signs stolen/defaced.

I’ve had several people email me and offer supportive comments but were afraid to do so publicly because of possible retribution.  What kind of retribution?  Their job in the district could be at stake.  One person shared a story about her family’s restaurant in a nearby community.  The restaurant was to host a fundraiser for the political opponent of that town’s mayor  – the day of the event the city inspector came and closed them down for violations that had somehow been overlooked in the previous 30 years of inspections.  The former board president shared her story of when she was mayor of Lyons (a long time ago) and she was fighting to close the strip clubs that once lined Ogden Avenue through town.  She found a dead fish wrapped in newspaper on her front porch (á la “She sleeps with the fish.”)

Do I really think someone will come out and vandalize my house (or my golfing partner’s house)?  Not really.  But when I go to the board meeting tonight I will park my car in a remote place.  I will walk out of the meeting with somebody else along side.  And I will continue to write about Mayor Getty and his four henchmen board members.

Graphic courtesy of www.hikingartist.com

How To Buy A School District – With Other People’s Money

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As previously reported Mayor Chris Getty was able to “buy” the $30 million Lyons Elementary School District 103 for $11,512.  He did this by getting five of his henchmen to run for the school board and then created the Parents for Student Excellence Political Action Committee (PAC).  He funneled money through his own two PACs to the Parents for Student Excellence, which then used the money on PR to ensure everyone in the community knew how bad the school district was and how good his henchmen would be at fixing it.  So where did the $11,512 come from?  Let’s follow the money:

The Parents for Student Excellence brought in funds from five sources:

  • Citizens for Christopher Getty – $11,317
  • United Citizens Party – $975
  • Friends of Jeffrey Tobolski – $975
  • Reliable Materials Lyons – $500
  • Stars & Stripes – $500

Citizens for Christopher Getty and United Citizens Party are both controlled by Mayor Chris Getty.  His campaign war chests were the primary source of funds for his henchmen’s election campaign.  Reliable Materials is filling the limestone quarry at the corner of First Avenue and Ogden.  They give a lot of money to Mayor Getty’s PACs on a regular basis.  Jeffrey Tobolski is the mayor of McCook, one of the communities the district serves, and is a Cook County Commissioner.  Stars & Stripes is the printer Getty uses for flyers.  Note no money came out of the pockets of Mayor Getty or any of his five henchmen.

Where did the Citizens for Christopher Getty‘s money come from?  During the first quarter they brought in $59,876 from 84 various contributors including the same Reliable Materials ($5,000), Jeffrey Tobolski ($1,000, which is double of what he usually gives Getty) and Stars and Stripes ($500).  Odelson and Sterk, the Village of Lyons’ law firm and the firm Getty’s henchmen will force the school district to use gave $1,600 in “in-kind” legal advice.  Speaking of those who work for the Village of Lyons, they give generously to Getty’s PAC, too – Frank Novotny & Assoc. gave $2,500 (the village awarded this Civil Engineering firm $805,000 in contracts in March) and Mackie Consultants (Consulting Engineering Firm for the Village gave $2,500).  Lots of other local businesses in the area also gave to Getty’s PAC.

The United Citizens Party only brought in $2,824 during this period.  Reliable Materials gave $500.  Frank Novotny & Associates paid a printing bill from Stars and Stripes of $1,624.  “Mooncotch” gave $200 and state Rep. Michael Zalewski’s PAC kicked in $500.

So that’s a lot of numbers.  Here are some takeaways:

  • Mayor/Commissioner Tobolski fully supported Mayor Getty’s takeover of the school district.
  • Odleson and Sterk’s law firm consulted with Mayor Getty (presumably on how to take over the school district) and charged off $1,600 to do it.  Once hired they will be receiving an estimated $100,000 per year in legal fees billed to the school district.
  •  Stars and Stripes donated $1,000 to two of the PACS.  They were paid $7,754 to print flyers for Getty’s candidates.
  • It’s likely many of the school district’s vendors will be donating to one or both of Getty’s PACS in the future.
  • Parents for Student Excellence had $2,569 in their PAC at the end of March – that’s a good start on a war chest for the next school board election.

Some final thoughts: Nothing documented above is illegal.  It’s the way of doing business not only in Lyons but in a lot of communities.  But it is new to the Lyons School District 103 and it’s unlikely now it will ever go away.  We read about hedge-fund managers and other gazillionaires trying to get their clutches on some of the $1.1 trillion spent on public education each year.  You don’t have to be a gazillionaire to control a school district – $11,512 was all it took to convince a majority of voters that Mayor Getty should be running the schools.  I think other mayors will take note – soon “public education” will be a little less “public” and a lot more “political.”

All figures were taken from the Illinois Board of Elections website and were rounded to the nearest dollar.

How to Buy a School District

Sold-sign

The Lyons Elementary School District 103 was recently purchased for $11,512.  The district, serving 2,600 students in west Cook County, has an annual budget over $30 million.  What a great deal!

How the school district was bought:

The mayor of one of the five communities the district serves, Chris Getty, decided he should be running the district.

Mayor Getty got five of his henchmen to run for the school board.

Mayor Getty helped the henchmen form the Political Action Committee (PAC) Parents for Student Excellence on 2/24/15.  It’s unusual to form a PAC for school board candidates – even in the Chicago area!

Three days later Getty’s own two PACs United Citizens Party and Citizens for Getty each gave Parents for Student Excellence $975 as seed money.  Why such an odd number?  Because the Illinois Board of Elections must be notified within two days of any donations over $1,000.  $975 keeps it under the radar.

Citizens for Getty hid more expenditures as “in-kind contributions” until after the election.  A few days before the election they spent $10,341.95 on “in-kind” printing and mailings on behalf of Parents for Student Excellence.

Not one of the five board candidates gave a penny to Parents for Student Excellence.  Nor did they bother to show up for the League of Women Voters’ candidate forum.

In addition to the $10,341.95 of “in-kind” contributions Parents for Student Excellence spent $1,169.82 on pictures of themselves (for a flyer) and a mailing service.  The PAC spent at total of $11,512.

So what did they spend it on?  They sent out flyers and emails telling the residents that the district was “in disarray,” students got “bad test scores” and that the current board engaged in “wasteful spending.”  (Riverside-Brookfield Landmark)

The PR blitz worked – four of the five henchmen were elected to the board of education.  And Mayor Getty has given them their first marching orders: fire the interim superintendents and hire his political-buddy as superintendent, fire the district’s law firm and hire the mayor’s law firm.  More firings and political hirings will come.

So that’s how you buy a school district for $11,512 – enter your own board candidates (but keep them out of the spotlight), fund their campaign with money from your PAC, use smear tactics against the other candidates, and count the votes on election night.

All figures were obtained from the Illinois Board of Election’s website.

Thanks again to the great reporting by Bob Uphues at the Landmark and his story about campaign funding.

Next time: Follow the Money – where did the money for the three PAC’s come from?