NWH Points Out District 155 High School Board Candidates Endorsed by Teacher Union

In its article on the Crystal Lake High School District 155 Board election Friday, the Northwest Herald did something I have not seen done before.

It identified which candidates were endorsed by the teacher union.

In my precinct letter, I do the same, as I did on my article on the literature of those pledging to cut taxes (happy to post the literature of other candidates, if they will email it to me):

The side of the tax cutters’ palm card has a comparison of the candidates for the Crystal Lake School Board.

A slate of four (the FINAL FOUR on the ballot) headed by McHenry County Board member Donna Kurtz, John Pletz, Raphael Kamner and Scott Vetter are running against three candidates endorsed by the District 155 teacher union.

I don’t criticize the teachers for wanting friendly Board members.

After all, who wouldn’t want friends on both sides of the union contract bargaining table. That is clearly in D155 high school teachers’ self-interest.

Everyone acts to improve their financial condition.

The average D155 salary last year was $87,363, according to the D155 2016 Educational Report Card, by the way.

Another source (Open the Books) reported 214 teachers and administrators earned over $100,000 in 2015.

The teachers’ union is supporting Ron Ludwig, Jason Blake and Nichole Pavoris.

The choice is clearly yours.

This is the first time I have seen the NWH tell its readers whom the District 155 Education Association is endorsing.


NWH Points Out District 155 High School Board Candidates Endorsed by Teacher Union — 15 Comments

  1. The Crystal Lake High School District (D155) 2016 Educational Report Card average teacher salary of $87,363 does not include stipends, and likely includes teachers and any administrators working less than full time.

    The Open the Books average of over $100,000 includes stipends and only includes only teachers and administrators earning more than the minimum salary on the teacher salary schedule, which weeds out at least those teachers who work less than full time and fall below the minimum full time salary.

    So full time teachers and administrators as a group on average earn more than $100,000 in CHSD 155.

    It would be interesting to know the average years worked.

    That information would be available by submitting a FOIA request to the TRS pension fund, asking for instance for a spreadsheet listing the employee name, the pensionable income for each employee, percent employed for each employee, and number of years of creditable service for each employee, in CHSD 155 in year 2016 (as well has how TRS measures a “year” for reporting purposes – is it fiscal year – what’s the fiscal year start and end – or is it calendar year).

    The same could be asked for FY 2015 or any other FY.

    FY = Fiscal Year

  2. Northwest Herald

    Stakes High in Crystal Lake based District 155 School Board Race

    – Opposing Slates, Incumbents Running For 4 Open Spots

    March 24, 2017

    by Brett Rowland

    “The candidates on the union slate are Ron Ludwig, Jason Blake, and Nicole Pavoris.”



    The Chicago Tribune back in the 1980’s at least occasionally included such coverage.

    As newspaper budgets were slashed due to declining ad revenue, reporters and editors were cut, resulting in poorer coverage of local politics.

    The editors are an important piece because they provide a second set of eyes and and experience, often resulting the reporter further refining the story through additions, clarifications, fact checking, etc. before the story is published.


    Teacher unions interview and endorse candidates for most school board elections.

    Susan Handelsman in the Woodstock school board election had a unique response to the teacher union questions this election cycle.

    In addition to providing the answers to the union, she posted also posted the questions and answers on this blog.

    Another candidate in the same election, Bill Nattess, whom has largely opposing viewpoints with Susan, responded by doing the same.

    Nice transparency to the taxpayers whom will be voting.

  3. Given the financial challenges facing D-155 over the next few years, it is imperative that the Board be led by those that will meet those challenges in a fiscally responsible manner.

    D-155, as well as many other local districts, is facing the problem of how to effectively manage in a declining enrollment environment and an efficient cost structure.

    Further compounding the problem is the fact that the State is currently laying a legislative minefield in front of school districts.

    School districts will be dealing with: 1) A levy freeze of a yet to be determined duration, 2) A change in the school funding formula by the State, and 3) Increased costs related to the pension program.

    School districts will need to adjust to an environment where existing union contracts expand labor costs at 3%-4% or more while levy revenue will be frozen for an extended period of time.

    As to changing the school funding formula, all previous legislative attempts were scored showing significant cuts to suburban districts.

    I expect the latest effort will further exacerbate suburban districts’ revenue issues.

    Lastly, having spent some time this weekend deciphering Althoff’s SB2172 regarding pension modifications, the State is planning to add some significant cost components onto the school districts.

    One of the most significant changes relates to pension spiking, typically seen as 4 year increases at 6%/year (6-6-6-6).

    Most districts have some form of this in their union contract.

    One of SB2172 changes modifies the employer penalty incurred for any excess salary over 6%, down to CPI.

    This penalty is the net present value of the excess benefit based on where the retiree sits on the actuary table, with an 8.5% return.

    It can be fairly onerous.

    The problem of course is that districts are now contractually committed to 6-6-6-6 and will have to pay significant penalties for the amount over CPI.

    My rough estimate is that the typical retiree will cost a district an additional $50+K penalty.

    And that’s not the only negative impact related to retirement costs featured in that bill.

    So, we’re left with a district that is declining in enrollment, is operating inefficiently, has a cost structure that is growing faster than its revenue, has excess facility capacity, and will face frozen levies, reduced State funding, and increased retirement costa.

    It is imperative that the new D-155 board possess the financial acumen and will power to address its challenges head on in the coming months.

    Failure to do so will have long term negative consequences.

  4. Some districts across the state have phased out the 6% annual hikes over the last 4 years.

    That is not as common as it once was.

    It is outrageous to have guaranteed 6% pay hikes in an employees last 4 years in today’s economic, tax, property value, and pension environment and has been since the mortgage meltdown.

    The Better Government Association has a collective bargaining database so one can more quickly access collective bargaining agreements from various districts.


    Would teachers go on strike if the district removes the 6% pay hike each of their last 4 years?

    Let them.

    Then explain the situation to taxpayers.

    Post their annual salaries for their career on a website (including pensions for those retired) for every single teacher that is working and retired from the district.

    Then explain the impact the pay hikes have on pensions.

    Then explain the TRS pension system is less than 45% funded.

    Then explain the amount the employer (school district) and state (on behalf of employer) contributes to the pension fund every year.

    More money to pensions means less to salaries and other uses.

    Then explain the GASB 68 proportional share of the unfunded liability that is attributed to the school district, in dollars.

    Then add that GASB proportional share to any bond debt service, so taxpayers can see how much debt is attributable to the school district.


    6% annual pay hikes for each of the last four years of a teachers career when the pension fund is less than 45% founded.


    Local taxpayers and the board are very weak negotiators to allow that to continue.

    Just say no.

  5. By the way no one is a perfect negotiator.

    But 6% pay hikes at the end of a career, per year, for 4 years (over 24% pay hike over 4 years when compounded) in an era of low inflation, high property taxes, good salaries without the 6%, good benefits, property values that have declined, etc. is low hanging fruit.

    The history of the end of career pay hikes is that at one time teacher and administrator pay was more modest.

    Before the 6% over 4 years, there were administrators and it seems to a lesser extent teachers earning 20% annual pay hikes over the last 3 years, or various other schemes.

    But even then, spiking the salaries resulted in spiked pensions to a TRS pension system that has always been underfunded.

    It’s a taxpayer ripoff and the laws and policy surrounding this have been broken for a long time.

  6. You Can Bet they had to get permission to print this !

    and I see the ones who voted for the Bleachers are off the list so I think we can easily deduct who gave them the permission to put this to print.

    No surprise here….hahaha…

  7. Can you do an article similar to this of the April 2, 2019 D155 election?

  8. The school board election is Tuesday, April 2, 2019, which is in seven weeks.

    There are six candidates running for three seats.

    The three seats are the result of three of the seven incumbents have their four year term expiring in 2019.

    The three incumbents are:

    – Amy Blazier, running for re-election.

    She did not attend the League of Women’s CHSD 155 candidate forum for voters that was held Thursday February 7, 2019 at McHenry County College.

    She voted in favor of the new teacher collective bargaining agreement on Thursday January 21, 2019.

    The district initially released a summary of the agreement but refused to release the agreement to the public before the board voted on it Thursday January 21, 2019.

    Even though the union voted to ratify the tentative agreement on Friday January 15, 2019.

    So the union rank and file get to vote whether or not they want to approve the agreement, but the taxpayers don’t get to see the agreement, much less vote on it.

    – Adam Guss, Board President, running for re-election.

    – Rosemary Kurtz, not running for re-election.


    There are four other candidates running for election:

    – Scott Coffey

    Scott Coffey is currently on the Cary Elementary District 26 Board.

    Cary Elementary District 26 is one of the elementary feeder districts whose students matriculate to Crystal Lake High School District 155.

    Mr. Coffey has commented many times on the blog…entering his name into the search bar should pull up those comments.

    He’s knowledgeable about the workings of school district finances, and public school districts in general, which is no small feat.

    School Districts use governmental fund accounting and there are all sorts of nuances in the Illinois School code, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (IELRA), and TRS and IMRF pension code.

    – Jacob Justen

    – Meghan Tillson

    – Tom Vaclavek


    The four high schools in CHSD 155:

    – Cary Grove High School in Cary (most students from Cary and Fox River Grove).

    – Crystal Lake Central High School.

    – Crystal Lake South High School (includes the alternative program formerly located at the Haber Oaks campus in Cary).

    – Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake.


    School board members receive no financial compensation.

    Depending on the district, the district may pay for a conference fee, transportation, meals, and hotelfor some board members (and administrators…more on that soon) to attend the state or national Illinois Association of School Board (IASB) conference.

    At the state level it’s joint conference held in Chicago in November in conjunction with the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) and Association of School Business Officials (ASBO), which are collectively known as the management alliance.

    The management alliance is currently a weak representative for the taxpayers in collective bargaining negotiations for various reasons, much of which has to do with state law.

    Noteworthy, the administrators generally get a similar percentage raise to that negotiated for the teachers.

    So part of the alliance has an indirect financial inventive in the negotiations.

    The IASB is a very weak counter to the teacher unions.

    The teacher unions are much larger, better financed, and have a database to analyze and compare the collective bargaining agreements from all school districts.

    The head of the IASB is a former teacher union friendly legislator who is receiving a $33K state pension (GARS & SURS combined) while employed earning over $300K salary from IASB.

    He and IASB contribute to the TRS pension fund even though IASB is not a governmental entity…thanks to Illinois state law allowing that loophole which may have been closed for future employees…Illinois claims the state constitution prohibits them from ever stopping such a perk for anyone employed prior to reform legislation being passed.

    TRS is less than 40% funded which means taxpayers pay billions in pension interest annually to that fund and are obligated for tens of billions more down the road.

    Thus the underfunded TRS pension in Illinois is a promise to pay tens of billions in pension interest.

    Money for nothing thanks to fiscally irresponsible politicians and an opaque rigged legislative process.


    Communities in Crystal Lake High School District have such high property taxes, they almost made the cut for a new state bailout called the Property Tax Relief Pool Fund (Property Tax Relief Grant).

    That fund was enabled by the new school funding formula (Evidence Based Funding) in Public Act 100-0465 (PA 100-0465) which was the result of Bruce Rauner signing Senate Bill 1947 (SB 1947) on Thursday August 31, 2017, after being passed by the Michael Madigan controlled House and Senate led by John Cullerton.

    Isn’t that a great idea?

    State bailout money for school districts that pay high salaries, which contribute to high property taxes and high underfunded pensions.

    Not all of the school districts that made the cut pay out high salaries.

    But some do.

    There’s a spreadsheet on the ISBE website containing a list of districts that applied for the property tax relief grant.



    For transparency and understanding, it would be nice if every government entity that has a collective bargaining agreement, posts it, along with the redline agreement.

    The redline agreement has underlined text for additions, stricken text for deletions, with the changes in red ink for easy identification.

    Thus one can easily see the changes from the previous agreement to the current agreement.

    Without the redline agreement, if one wants to identify all the changes, one has to compare the current and previous agreement word for word, an onerous task as most such agreements are 50 – 75 pages.

    And a summary should be posted along with the agreement and the redline agreement.

    Most people just want to read the summary.

    Most districts don’t bother to post a summary along with the agreement.

    Another indication there are very few watchdogs and almost no one representing the taxpayers really understands what’s happening in the various units of government and school districts.

  9. I don’t believe Amy Blazier attended the contract approval meeting.

  10. Oops that’s correct.

    The Northwest Herald reported that Amy Blazier was absent from the January 24, 2019 board vote on the collective bargaining agreement.

    Speaking of which, that date was erroneously reported in the comment above also.

    The collective bargaining agreement vote by the board was on Thursday January 24, 2019.


    Thus, CHSD 155 board candidate for re-election Amy Blazier missed both the League of Women’s forum and the teacher collective bargaining agreement vote.


    Here is the videotaped Thursday January 24th CHSD 155 Board meeting:


    Some interesting comments by the public regarding the collective bargaining agreement vote, including conflict of interest by board members regarding that vote.

    start at 58:00.

    Scott Coffey and Meghan Tillson, who are candidates for CHSD 155 school board in the upcoming April 2, 2019 election, are two of the commenters.

    John Pletz, who was a candidate for CHSD 155 school board in 2017, also made a public comment.

  11. Jacob Justen and Tom Vaclavek also made public comments and are also running for CHSD 155 school board.

  12. From listening to and viewing the public comments in the YouTube video referenced in the previous comment, and knowledge of the incumbents from the election four years ago, it seems that Scott Coffey, Meghan Tillson, and Jacob Justen are the reformers.

    Amy Blazier, Adam Guss, and Tom Vaclavek represent the status quo.

    That’s regarding the upcoming April 2, 2019 CHSD 155 school board election.

  13. Another correction from the comment 02/12/2019 at 4:24 am.

    The correction is the union voted to ratify the tentative agreement on Friday January 18, 2019.


    Again looking at the YouTube video of the Thursday January 24, 2019 school board meeting.

    At 2:36:45, after closes session, the board resumes open session and begins discussions about the collective bargaining agreement.


    A few minutes later at 2:39:25, board member Dave Secrest speaks about the negotiating process.

    (His wife works in CHSD 155 Administration and his daughter is a teacher in the district).

    He makes a weird point regarding what was said in closed session.

    “We had a chance to review the process, and I think it might be helpful to kind of go through what the process was.

    That is, that a committee was picked on both sides, we had nothing to do with the union side, but we picked a committee and charged that committee to go and negotiate a contract, and we’re are kind of legally bound by that now.

    And that committee consisted of part of the management team, it had board representation, and it’s our understanding from our legal counsel, that to renig on that process could put the district in legal jeopardy.

    Consequently we’re moving ahead.

    We’re not about to renig on that process.”


    How bizarre.

    It seems Mr. Secrest is saying, according to his interpretation of what legal counsel said in closed session, if the board doesn’t approve the agreement negotiated between the board appointed committee and the union, the district would be in legal jeopardy?

    The board will therefore “move ahead” by rubber stamping the collective bargaining agreement so the board will not “renig on that process” thereby avoiding any chance of the board potentially putting itself in “legal jeopardy?”


    Maybe someone wants to submit a FOIA requeset of the audio recording and minutes of what was said during closed session as it pertains to that.

    The district might deny the FOIA request.

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