Crystal Lake Republican Precinct Committeeman attended last night’s meeting of the Crystal Lake High School District 155 Board of Education.
Here’s what he took away:
Johnnie Thomas Gets Contract Extended Two Years
Last night the D155 School Board addressed the evaluation and subsequent contract extension of Superintendent Dr. Johnnie Thomas. Before the board members retired, to a closed executive session, mid-meeting, to discuss this assessment and contract xtension,
President Ted Wagner asked if there was any discussion or comments to be made on the subject.
The only member to speak up was Rosemary Kurtz.
Mrs. Kurtz expressed a difficulty with adjourning to an executive session on the contract extension because the aspects and details of this extension had not been made public to the taxpayers.
She believed that the particulars of this coming executive session should have been released in the night’s agenda or included in the minutes of the past meeting.
She further stated that “with the present condition of the economy and the burden these decisions can have on the taxpayer, that it is only right to let them know what is being proposed as it will be an almost $500,000 decision in the end.”
Because of the lack of transparency, Mrs. Kurtz suggested that the executive session be tabled until the public could be better informed and be allowed to comment more on the issue.
Following Mrs. Kurtz’ comments, there were no other comments.
President Wagner motioned to adjourn for executive session.
All members voted yes, except Mrs. Rosemary Kurtz, and the board disappeared behind closed doors.
After a lengthy, more than 45 minute, closed-door meeting, this board returned to present their proposed contract extension. President Wagner was the first to speak and congratulated Dr. Thomas on a job well done in meeting his contractual goals and thanked him for a job well done.
President Wagner also stated that “our community and children are much better off because you are here.”
The board then proceeded to vote on whether Dr. Thomas met his contractual goals this past year and if his contract through 2018 should still be honored.
All members voted yes, except board member Adam Guss.
Rosemary Kurtz commented before the vote, that Dr. Thomas completed “most of his goals” and that she would be voting yes for this reason.
Before handing down the decree, on the contract extension, President Wagner discussed the contract changes which included the following:
- A two-year extension (instead of 3) through 2020.
- A 2% annual raise to extend through 2020.
- A reimbursement to Dr. Thomas’ 12 ½ days of unused vacation at his per Diem rate.
- Deletion from Dr. Thomas’ contract of his annual performance bonus of $16,000, starting with this year’s bonus, to equal a loss to Dr. Thomas of over $54,000 over the term of his contract.
It was further noted that this loss of bonus to Dr. Thomas was proposed by Dr. Thomas himself.
The floor was then opened for discussion.
President Wagner explained that the performance bonus program, for Dr. Thomas, was hard to assess and maintain as viable so he agreed that Dr. Thomas’ bonus should be suspended.
Question President Wagner?
If Dr. Thomas’ CONTRACT is based on goals and his PERFORMANCE how is that contract then being assessed and maintained?
That was a very open ended comment, Mr. President.
Board member Adam Guss proclaimed that with almost two more years on Dr. Thomas’ existing contract, that there is still time to discuss any extension and that a vote at this stage was not pertinent.
He also went on to say that he does not agree with the other board members’ “rationale” behind this quick vote (something weknow nothing of because it was behind closed doors).
Although her disagreement with the proposal was more related to the fact that she didn’t believe Dr. Thomas should be losing any money, board member Amy Blazier also disagreed with the hasty vote.
Board member Rosemary Kurtz was the next to speak.
She stated that one of the discussions by the board, in executive session, was that Dr. Thomas was being pursued by other school districts and that D155 was “then compelled” to extend his contract to “secure his employment with D155” as it would be a great loss to the community that could not be filled.
Mrs. Kurtz went on to point out six individuals in the audience, hired by Dr. Thomas, who because of the boards’ faith in Dr. Thomas himself, “could walk right into his job if he indeed decided to take another position.”
The last comments were a showering of compliments from President Wagner to Dr. Thomas.
The motion was then carried, and the contract extension approved, with a vote of 4-3.
The three NO votes were made by Adam Guss, Amy Blazier, and Rosemary Kurtz. [All three were elected last year.]
I believe, and as I stated in my comments[to be shown this weekend] before the vote, that this contract extension was a blatant hastened move to obstruct the impending future discussion of Dr. Thomas’ contract that might have ended with a “no renewal” vote because of his multi-million dollar gaffe.
Elections are coming soon for this board and because of Dr. Thomas’ multi-million dollar goof, there might be a change in the makeup of this board.
That being said, President Wagner wanted to make sure that Dr. Thomas was safe at least until 2020 (he wanted 2021).
I do see a few legal problems with this extension, beyond the fact that it was made under hurried and irrational circumstances. Illinois Statute, 105 ILCS 5/10-23.8, contains this limitation on contracted superintendents:
“no performance-based contract shall be extended or rolled over prior to its scheduled expiration unless all the performance and improvement goals contained in the contract have been met.”
Mrs. Kurtz specifically commented that Dr. Thomas completed “most of his goals.”
This will definitely be a subject that will be brought to the boards’ attention in the near future.
Another problem comes with this “rushed” contract extension.
The Illinois Supreme Court decision, in 1877, explicitly states that “multi-year contracts must be for a reasonable length (as determined by the factual context), they must be entered into in good faith, and they may not be used for wholly thwarting the will of the voters.”
If anyone out there can convince me that this had nothing to do with “thwarting the will of the voters”, I have a bridge to nowhere in Alaska to sell you!
It is time for YOU the voters, the taxpayers, to start attending these school board meetings.
With 38% and 25% of our property taxes going to D47 & D155, respectively, we are obligated to keep an eye on what this board decides to do with OUR millions and millions of dollars.
We must hold them accountable.
I for one believe that Dr. Thomas should have been released, but instead, we give him a 2% annual raise and a yearly salary in excess of $175,000, all guaranteed for the next four years.
Good for Dr. Thomas.
Good for you, sir.