Literature from Crystal Lake High School District 155 Tax Cutting Team Led by Donna Kurtz

Donna Kurtz has served on the McHenry County College Board and now is on the McHenry County Board.

At MCC, she and Scott Summers changed their mind on building a minor league baseball stadium on the watershed of Crystal Lake (the lake).

For that, they were censured by their fellow Board members.

On the McHenry County Board, Kurtz asks penetrating questions, as you can see from the three articles published this past weekend on the Human Resources Committee meeting about the irregular (to put it mildly) hiring of two Jack Franks’ patronage workers.  (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

But, Kurtz has figured out that the real possibility for cutting taxes lies in Crystal Lake High School District 155.

She is running with three other candidates for the four seats open this year.

The four people promising tax cuts in the Crystal Lake High School District are John Pletz, Raphael Kamner, Donna Kurtz and Scott Vetter.

The back of the literature, which seems to have been mailed to at least some people in Crystal Lake, those promising tax cuts, take on the conflict of interest issue caused by those who are members of the teacher union running for the school board where relatives have jobs or teach in other schools.

On this side of the tax cutters palm card, the tax cutters point out how taxes have risen 28% in the last decade, while students have decreased by 500.

The final four on the ballot are those pledging to cut District 155 taxes.

In the Crystal Lake High School District 155 election, those pledging to cut taxes are the final four on the ballot.

The District 155 Education Association (aka, High School Teacher Union) is holding a candidates’ night Monday night at Crystal Lake Brewing Tap Room at 150 N. Main Street at 7 on Monday night.

The candidates pledging to cut taxes have not been invited and the room is small.

= = = = =
If there is other campaign literature being circulated, I would be happy to publish it if someone would email it images or drop it off at my home at 275 Meridian Street (the northeast corner of Lake Avenue and Meridian Street–where the Gate 11 sign is.)


Literature from Crystal Lake High School District 155 Tax Cutting Team Led by Donna Kurtz — 24 Comments

  1. Will they put an end to programs like the sign language club?

    We can’t teach cursive or spelling in schools but we can have a sign language club???

  2. This is an unpaid position with zero pension.

    Educated voters but they’re fed up!

  3. Two transparency measures that are lacking in CHSD 155.



    CHSD 155 does not post board agenda packets for board meetings.

    A board agenda packet has all documents to be discussed at the meeting in one pdf.

    Board agenda packets benefit board members and the public.

    Since no board agenda packets exist, they cannot be searchable (allow use of find, and copy and paste from the agenda packet to another document).



    CHSD does not videotape board meetings and post the taped meetings on its website.


    School board members should campaign to bring these transparency measures to the school board.

    Taxpayer access to the documents being discussed during board meetings, and what was said during board meetings, and the body language, are key transparency measures.


    Lakewood has a much smaller budget than CHSD 155, but at least has searchable board agenda packets that allow the ability to find information, and copy and paste that information to another document for consolidation purposes.

    Even if the unit of government does not tape open board meetings, members of the public can tape open board meetings and post the tape on a website.


    These two transparency measures should be present in every single school district in the county.

    In which property taxing district are they present?

    How high are property taxes?

    Where is the Jack Franks bully pulpit to promote these transparency measures?

    Well, McHenry County (the county unit of government) doesn’t even bother videotaping board meetings.

    They just audiotape the board meetings.

  4. LTResident, Kurtz isn’t getting a pension from the county board, and there will certainly not be one for a volunteer job on a school board!!

  5. I wish her well, but I’d hate to see her leave the McHenry County Board.

    She is one of the few members who stands up to Jacko.

    If she wins, and Mr Rein wins his election, the HR Committee loses two good members.

    I’d sure hate to see Jacko get away with sticking a couple more spineless yes men on that committee.

    Hopefully, the Board can eliminate those patronage positions in the next month.

  6. Sign language helps people with disabilities to communicate. Wait a minute! I almost forgot. My compassionate conservative friends are not that crazy about helping people with special needs. Did you notice the line “improve our schools?” It is really a punchline as the only line that matters for these candidates to get elected is “cutting taxes.” Getting rid of teachers is their idea of improving schools. Tic tock, tic tock…

  7. Angel, the Teacher’s Union has created and protected too many teachers that have no business in the school system . . . tic tock, tic tock . . .

  8. Crystal Lake High School District 155

    Efficiency Study

    March 1, 2017

    “The independent report by MGT of America includes recommendations regarding:

    – Eliminating district and school administrator positions based on 7 – 10% enrollment decline.

    – Closing district office and Haber Oaks Campus based on 10 – 20% enrollment decline.

    – Closing Crystal Lake Central High School based on 15 – 30% enrollment decline.

  9. MGT of American Consulting, LLC

    Efficiency and Effectiveness Review for Crystal Lake High School District 155

    February 21, 2017


    20 pages


    Advisable to submit a FOIA request for an electronic copy of that document.

  10. From pdf page 40 of 94 (numbered page 40 in the document) in the above report:

    “In CHSD #155, full time teachers teach five periods out of nine periods each day.

    They are paid for an 8 hour day (480 minutes) that includes the following:

    – 5 periods of 45 minutes for instruction = 225 minutes

    – 2 periods of 45 minutes for preparation = 90 minutes

    – 1 period of 45 minutes for supervision = 45 minutes

    – 8 passing periods of 5 minutes = 40 minutes

    – 1 lunch period = 45 minutes

    – Before and after-school time = 35 minutes

    – Total = 480 minutes”

  11. typo

    From pdf page 41 of 94 (numbered page 40 in the document) in the above report:

  12. Re: Mark’s post at 03/20/2017 at 11:41 pm

    Mr first school was a ‘one roomer’.

    We had eight rows of desks – one for each grade – no kindergarten.

    One teacher who was also the principal.

    No STAFF.

    Seventh and eighth graders cleaned the floors and windows – sixth and fifth graders washed the blackboard and helped clean.

    Students maintained the grounds around the school.

    There was no ESL.

    Immigrant children became quickly fluent in English via total ‘immersion’.

    Discipline was maintained via a device called ‘the strap’ which was applied to the open hand – after administration, you got to write the reason for administration on the blackboard one hundred times.

    We RESPECTED our teacher!

  13. “There gonna close Central! They can’t do that, it is historical! Ludwig and company are for the children”

  14. Historic Country Schools of McHenry County, Illinois

    by Robert Frenz

    Purchase online for $41 or $35 at the McHenry County Historical Museum, 6422 Main Street, Union, Monday thru Friday.

    “The indexed 232 page hard cover book documents each of the 140 plus one and two room rural schools in the county.”


    There were still some one room school houses in rural areas of McHenry County in the 1950’s.

    Might be surprised to learn your parent, grandparent, or great grand parent attended one.

  15. In conclusion: Let’s go back to 1-room rural schools. Tic tock, tic tock…

  16. Says the English as a Second Language High School Teacher earning $130,356 in his 21st year teaching who if he never received another salary raise and retired with 35 years of service, would have a starting pension of $93,858, which due to the 3% COLA would double after after 24 years in retirement, in a pension which is currently less than 45% funded.

    And to top it off insults the President of the United States on a school day during school hours.

    And thanks to one sentence added to the state constitution on December 15, 1970, the pension benefits are contractual and cannot be diminished or impaired.

    That’s progress in Illinois.

  17. Cautious voter, thanks for the Flashback to simpler Times

  18. McHenry County Clerk

    Election Results (Election Canvass Report)

    Consolidation Election April 4, 2017

    Candidate – Votes – Percentage

    Ron Ludwig – 6,048 – 15.30%

    Nicole Pavoris – 5,925 – 14.99%

    Jason Blake – 5,420 – 13.71%

    David Secrest – 4,921 – 12.45%

    Donna Kurtz – 4,864 – 12.31%

    John Pletz – 3,447 – 8.72%

    Scott Vetter – 3,408 – 8.62%

    Raphael Kamner – 2,856 – 7.23%

    Ann Somers – 2,638 – 6.67%


    Winning candidates were Ron Ludwig, Nicole Pavoris, Jason Blake, and David Secrest.

    Each of the winning candidates is either:

    – married to an employee of the district (Mr. Blake, Mr. Secrest)

    – has a child that works for the district (Mr. Ludwig),

    – has a son-in-law that works for the district (Mr. Ludwig),

    – is a teacher in another high school district (Ms. Pavoris).


    The IEA teacher union endorsed 3 candidates, and all of the those 3 were elected (Ludwig, Pavoris, Blake).


    Following are winning candidates in the April 4, 2017 CHSD 155 school board election with relatives working in CHSD 155


    Sharon Blake is the wife of board member Jason Blake.

    Sharon Blake is a teacher at Cary Grove High School in CHSD 155.

    Per the Open the Books widget record for Sharon Blake:

    2016 – $112,631 – 22nd year teaching (7 years part-time each count as a full year for pension purposes)

    2015 – $113,887

    2014 – $111,608 > State > Salaries > Recipient Name > Illinois > Blake Sharon > Search


    Patti Secrest is the wife of board member David Secrest.

    Patti Secrest is a nurse at Prairie Ridge High School in CHSD 155.

    Nurses are included in the teacher union collective bargaining agreement.

    Per Open the Books widget record for Patti Secrest:

    2016 – $112,499 – 17th year as a nurse (she is in the TRS pension system as a certified nurse)

    2015 – $108,515

    2014 – $105,843


    Angela Secrest Welder is the daughter of board member David Secrest and Patti Secrest.

    Angela Welder is an English teacher at Crystal Lake Central High School in CHSD 155.

    Per Open the Books widget record for Angela Welder:

    2016 – $100,664 – 18th year teaching (3 years part-time each count as a full year for pension purposes)

    2015 – $97,422

    2014 – $94,117


    Ryan Ludwig is the son of board member Ron Ludwig.

    Ryan Ludwig is a Special Education Teacher at Cary Grove High School in CHSD 155.

    Per the Open the Books Widget for Ryan Ludwig:

    2016 – $80,485 – 7th year teaching

    2015 – $85,239

    2014 – $74,308


    Mike Mayers is the son-in-law of board member Ron Ludwig.

    Mike Mayers is a Special Education Teacher at Cary Grove High School in CHSD 155.

    Per the Open the Books Widget record for Mike Mayers:

    2016 – $63,279 – CHSD 155

    2015 – $58,324 – CHSD 155

    2015 – $120 – Crystal Lake Elementary District 47

    2014 – $48,460 – Crystal Lake Elementary District 47


    The following is a CHSD 155 board member who was not up for re-election that has a relative working in CHSD 155.


    Wendy Guss is the wife of Board President Adam Guss.

    Wendy Guss is an Art Teacher at Cary Grove HS in CHSD 155.

    Per the Open the Books record for Wendy Guss:

    2016 – $104,187 – 18th year teaching

    2015 – $103,089

    2014 – $98,903


    Following is a summary of the 4 of 7 CHSD Board members who collectively are closely related to 6 CHSD 155 employees.


    Board Member – Relative

    Jason Blake – wife Sharon Blake

    Dave Secrest – wife Patti Secrest and daughter Angela Secrest Welder

    Ron Ludwig – son Ryan Ludwig and son-in-law Mike Mayers

    Adam Guss – wife Wendy Guss


    Teachers in CHSD 155 receive 14 sick days per year.

    In the state of Illinois, teachers and administrators can accumulate up to two years (340 days) of sick days.

    340 sick days / 14 per year = 20 years.

    So a teacher can easily accumulate 340 sick days within 35 years of service.

    35 years of service is the minimum needed to retire with full benefits, which is 75% of the average annual pensionable income of the last 4 years worked (Tier 1 benefits).

    With the TRS accrual rate of 2.2, one reaches 75% in 34 years (.75 / .022 = 34).

    At retirement, unused sick days can be exchanged for for:

    – cash based on ending salary,

    – for years of service credit to retire earlier than would otherwise be possible

    – or a combination of the above.


    As an example of how to calculate a starting pension for a teacher or administrator, let’s say Sharon Blake does not receive another raise until she achieves 35 years of service.

    She would thus receive $112,631 in each of her last 4 years worked, which is an annual average of $112,631.

    $112,631 x .75 = $84,473.

    That is the starting pension and increases 3% annually.


    However, if she accumulated 340 sick days for 2 years of service credit, she could retire after 33 years worked, with the exact same pension as listed above.


    Since 2016 was her 22nd year teaching, she will probably retire at a much higher final average salary than $112,631, and thus her starting pension will probably be much higher than $84,473.


    Keep in mind there is no state income tax on pensions.

    The personal state income tax was hiked as of July 1, 2017 from 3.75% to 4.95%, in large part to fund state pensions which includes the TRS teacher and administrator pension fund.

    Here is the history of Individual Income Tax Rates in Illinois:

    July 1, 2017 – current: 4.95%

    2015 – June 30, 2017: 3.75%

    2011 – 2014: 5.00%

    1999 – 2010 – 3.00%

    1989: 2.75%

    1985 – 1988: 2.50%

    1984 – 2.75%

    1983 – 3.00%

    1969 – 1982: 2.50%

    Prior to 1969 there was no individual state income tax.


    In addition to 14 sick days per year, in the 2017 school year the following 20 administrative positions in CHSD 155 each received 25 vacation days.

    These administrators probably are all required to work more days than the teachers…the details are in the administrator contracts.

    – (1) District Superintendent

    – (3) Assistant / Associate District Superintendents

    – (4) Principals

    – (4) Assistant Principals

    – (3) General Administrator or General Supervisors

    – (1) Chief School Business Official

    – (4) Head of Gen Ed (Depart chair admin endorsement held)

    source of information: EIS Administrator and Teacher Salary and Benefits Report – School Year 2017

    That report is mandated by state law.


    Here are the totals from the above CHSD 155 SY 2017 EIS ATSB report:

    District Employee Count: 428

    District Positions Count: 462

    Total Positions County: 462

    Vacation Days: 500

    Sick Days: 5,970

    Base Salary: $39,147,837

    Bonuses: $233,600

    Annuities: $236,078.35

    Retirement Enhancements: $2,227,905

    Other Benefits: $6,002,146



    The CHSD 155 SY 2017 EIS ATSB report does not include stipends.

    Many teachers receive a stipend, which increases their take home pay.

    Stipends are for coaching, sponsoring a club, etc.

    Thus, pensionable income is greater than base salary for most teachers, as pensionable income includes stipends.

    Pensionable income also includes pension pickups.

    A taxpayer can submit a FOIA request to CHSD 155 for documents explaining specifically what is being categorized as “Retirement Enhancements” and “Other Benefits” for each employee.

    School districts do not do a good job of explaining these categories to taxpayers.


    At a school board meeting on Tuesday night November 21, 2017, the CHSD 155 board voted to increase property taxes by hiking the property tax levy.

    Following is a video of the meeting:

    The board minutes from the meeting will be approved at the next board meeting, and then posted in the board minutes section of the district website.

    Since the board does not post a board agenda packet prior to board meetings, the taxpayers cannot see the documents the board had regarding the tax levy hike.

    Not posting a board agenda packet prior to board meetings is a major transparency failure by a board.

  19. Nicole Pavoris is a Social Studies teacher (Political Science, Civics, Economics, World History) at Larkin High School in Elgin School District U-46.

    Per the Open the Books Record for Nicole Pavoris:

    2016 – $72,834 – 14th year teaching

    2015 – $69,606

    2014 – $66,065


    Ron Ludwig, his wife, daughter, and daughter in law are employed by Crystal Lake Elementary District 47:


    Ron Ludwig – STEM teacher (Science Technology Engineering Math) at South Elementary.

    Rita Ludwig, wife – 2nd Grade teacher at Indian Prairie Elementary.

    Jessica Ludwig, daughter in law – English teacher at Lundahl Middle School.

    Alexandria Mayers, daughter – Special Education teacher, Cheerleading coach, & Spirit Squad coach at Bernotas Middle School in Crystal Lake CCSD 47.


    Following is pay (pensionable income) for the above per Open the Books widget


    Ron Ludwig

    2016 – $79,866 – 25th year as an educator – STEM teacher at South Elementary

    2015 – $78,605 – STEM teacher

    2014 – $122,284 – Principal at Hannah Beardsley Middle School


    Rita Ludwig

    2016 – $55,935 – 13th year teaching

    2015 – $54,279

    2014 – $52,354


    Jessica Ludwig (spelled Jesscia in Open the Books)

    2016 – $34,796

    2015 – $47,308

    2014 – $33,381


    Alexandria Mayers (Alexandria Ludwig in Open the Books)

    2016 – $56,733

    2015 – $53,471

    2014 – $53,472

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