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Ill. School Board Member Creates New, Tax Funded Job Then Takes It Himself

In these tough financial times it is no surprise that school districts all across the country are crying poor and some of them probably even are. Corners are being cut, positions go unfilled by new applicants, budgets are cut; it is an everyday occurrence these days. Justified or not, the same is no less true in Big Hollow School District 38 in Lake County, Illinois (North of Chicago).

Lennie Jarratt of the Education Matters blog has an interesting story of probable influence peddling by the Big Hollow School Board. Like school districts everywhere, for months the school board has turned down hiring a school nurse and has resisted filling other empty positions citing budget concerns. But that didn’t stop the School Board from inventing a whole new position, essentially in secret, and then picking one of its own members to take that position at an undisclosed salary.

So, a school nurse isn’t necessary but a new position for one of their pals on the school board is indispensable? This seems a bit hard to swallow.

There is more to the story, naturally. It seems that the new position of Director of Technology did not exist prior to a secret report supporting the creation of the position was circulated among board members on December 15 by one of the members of the board itself. A source close to the situation says that the member that passed the confidential report around, the one not made public, has a background in Internet Technology and is currently out of work.

This same member is supposedly to suddenly announce his resignation from the school board so that he can himself take the very job he created out of thin air.

I will not here dispute that there is need for another IT person in the school system. According to the Lake County News-Sun the district has been overworking a single contracted IT guy for some time.

The district’s ratio of one information technology support person to nearly 1,800 uses far surpasses industry recommendations and typical support ratios for an education setting.

But as Jarratt posts on his site, this is all too sudden and convenient. It also seems that the posting of the position and the search for a qualified applicant have not been properly handled.

The job position was posted the following day on the school website (December 16th) without a job description, experience/educational requirements, or any list of tasks and responsibilities. Nonetheless, the Board appears prepared to take action and approve a candidate for hiring at the January 19th meeting. Clearly, the job ideation, job posting, interviewing and possible fulfillment of a director level position in less than 30 days (including holiday break) is a breathtaking achievement for the Big Hollow School Board. While the public had no idea that a Director of Technology was so screamingly urgent, the board seems prepared to hire one of their own. In fact, a board member is set to resign at Monday night meeting.

Jarratt also points out that the secrecy and off-handed treatment of this whole thing has violated the Open Meetings Laws in the state.

It is nearly impossible to believe that this has all been handled in a legitimate way and more likely that a method of influence peddling has been indulged in whereby the board members created a new position and gave it to one of their own before anyone outside the board was even aware the position existed.

Illinois is well known for far exceeding other states where it concerns lucrative salaries for administrators and top teachers, too. As Bill Zettler of Champion News reports, there is no recession in Illinois public schools with salaries from $100,000 a year and up have increased 17% over last fiscal year.

While the rest of us struggle to make ends meet and put off our retirement plans, Illinois school employees continue their unabated raid on public funds. In 2008 fiscal year 11,254 public school employees had salaries greater than $100,000/yr compared to “only” 9,591 in 2007. And as we know, the salaries are just the starting point.

If we include all the other goodies taxpayers pay for, including pensions, retirement health insurance and employee insurance, public school employees total compensation is actually about 30% more than their salary. This means that over 40,000 public school employees, or about 25%, have a total compensation of over $100,000/yr.

With salaries like these that are way over priced compared to the private sector, schools crying poor in Illinois rings a bit hollow… or maybe a Big Hollow, as the case may be.

And, needless to say, all this is happening with the tax dollars brought into the Big Hollow School District by the property taxes paid by Lake County citizens. Must be nice to invent out of thin air a taxpayer-supported job and then take it yourself?

Ah, Illinois. Do you smell that smell? It’s public corruption. I love the smell of public corruption in the morning. It smells like… Illinois. Well, I don’t love it but, sadly, I am getting woefully used to it.

If you’d like to find out what Illinois teachers and administrators are paid, the Champion News has a great resource to search that information. http://www.championnews.net/salaries.php

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