Minority Report on Keeping District 200’s Clay Academy Open

Susan Handlesmann has written a Minority Report on Clay Academy for the Woodstock School District’s Facilities Review Committee.  It appears below:


Clay Academy building is being kept open in order to, as Superintendent Moan and CFO Hansen told us on the facility review sub-committee, continue to attract tuition students to Clay.

Here is what is odd: when you include cost numbers NOT presented (although promised) to our facility review subcommittee, for every Clay tuition student, Woodstock D200 taxpayers are on the hook for a lot more money than tuition revenues in order to subsidize a large staff and expensive building kept open primarily for those other out-of-district-students’ benefits.

Documents given to review committee of the whole imply that D200 Clay students (11 total enrolled out of 70 stated total enrollment) are only costing $3,800 per year, due to tuition revenue.

This is a blatantly false implication.

Revenues were overstated to final voting committee (we on sub committee were told that enrolllment went up mid-year; and the Illinois reimbursement was attributed 100% to tuition students when it should have been prorated amongst D200 and tuition students).

Clay Academy

(The costs of external maintenance, OPEB liability, Clay building life&safety upgrade requirements, shared expense of district-wide Admin, Special Ed Admin, IT, software license, fiber-optic network, civil liability (tort) premiums, fees for consultants and inspection such as Wold Architects for example, and unfunded pension liability accruing for decades of staff inflated by numbers justified by enrollment of out-of-district students were deliberately left off even after several requests for specific costs were met with mollifying promises that these specifics would be provided in future.)

This worksheet was presented to our subcommittee, and I pointed out the flaws in their presentation then, and I pointed out the same flaws repeated in later documents which were presented to committee of the whole 22 hours before the final vote.

The committee was voting on the false premise that keeping Clay Building open was somehow generating revenue (rather than costing taxpayer subsidies.)

D200 could send its own 11 students to Allendale.

This would cost us the Allendale tuition we were told was $43,000, and Illinois reimburses $15,000, so net $28,000 cost plus transportation – Illinois also reimburses much of that transportation cost.

Instead, we have built a low-cost alternative for many other Districts’ advantage, in competition with Allendale, and D200 taxpayers are being required to pay the ongoing expense of that school building and accrue future OPEB and pension and civil liability.

I had to estimate because Superintendent and CFO flat out refused to divulge specific cost figures, but it looks to me like our current cost of running Clay Academy at that building is about $2.7 million.

There are 59 tuition students paying $29,000. (Last year they only paid $26,600; we have been subsidizing out-of-district Clay tuition students for years).

There are 11 D200 in-district students for whom we are obligated to provide.

If D200 somehow got the same deal we are giving those 59 out-of-district students, we would be paying $29,000(minus) – $15,000 Illinois reimbursement, or $14,000 per student (plus transportation costs which are largely reimbursed by the State).

Illinois pays a little ($9,000/$3,500 I believe) for certain special ed staff according to a formula.

The formula is a function of STAFFING, not ENROLLMENT.

The total reimbursement was $220,000 for staff to service 70 students (11 from D200, 59 not).

1. $29000x 59=$1.7 million
2. $220,000 from Illinois which we would get per employee, not as a function of enrollment.
roughly $2 million revenue


1.$2 million operating costs stated by admin.

2. All the unstated costs NOT disclosed by Admin but borne by D200 taxpayers, including but not limited to:

Life & Safety improvements ($2 million) demanded by Wold Architects consultancy over the next 10 years, still paying off millions for 2010 Life & Safety improvements from 2010 $10.5 million L&S bond), exterior maintenance (while it SHOULD be a smallish figure, costs of exterior facility budget of $2 million (plus outsourced snow removal?) distributed over 13 facilities imply a cost range of $50,000-$90,000),

Civil liability costs (Tort Fund spends $830,000 per year), Costs of some portion of usage of FTEs of Admin personnel, Special Ed Admin, IT department, software licensing, fiber-optic network costs…OPEB accruing liability (not to mention the huge unfunded pension liability for all staff). OPEB includes payment by D200 of health insurance (and other premium premiums) from retirement (53?) to age 65. D200 is paying $460,000 OPEB per year at present.

This a liability which accrues, grow with inflation, and is a first-priority liability of Woodstock taxpayers guaranteed by the Illinois Constitution …

So the more Clay Academy expands its out-of-district enrollment, and commensurate staffing, the greater the enormous liability D200 taxpayers have for OPEB and pensions, for benefit of other districts’ students and taxpayers.

I estimated that these total undisclosed costs add an additional $600,000 per year .

$2.6 million costs divided by 70 students= $37,000 cost per student.

Other wealthy districts send their students here to Clay, and only pay $29,000 (and they get $15,000 of that back from Illinois).

Another way to look at it is this: D200 could send our 11 students to Alllendale at net $28,000 rather than charging D200 taxpayers $37,000+.

Look at it another way: last year D200 subsidized fewer out-of-district students but at a higher locally-paid cost per student. The staff levels were similar.

When/if tuition revenues go down, Clay Academy seems obligated to maintain annual high staffing and overhead expense, all paid for or owed by D200 taxpayers–what if next year there are NO out-district tuition students? Should Clay keep the same building, and staff costs, for only 11 D200 students?

Look at it another way:

Are D200 taxpayers required to keep Clay Academy open and growing, at great taxpayer expense, for any and all tuition students if our own D200 Clay enrollment drops to zero?

Look at it another way:

What if there are NO tuition students, and ALL Clay students are D200 students, and the cost per year per 70 students is $2.6 million, which equals $37,000 per student. Are D200 taxpayers asked(demanded) to keep Clay Academy open without discussion when such a lower cost ($28,000 tuition) alternative is available?

This isn’t just a waste of public funds, I believe it cuts into the State maximum tax cap which any school district may charge for special ed Fund (0.80%).

D200 has been taxing at that max Special Ed Fund rate for years.

If Clay Academy budget is eating a significant portion of D200 maximum special ed funding primarily for the benefit of out-of district students (only 11 D200 students out of 70 total enrollment means 84% of Clay enrollment is from other wealthier districts getting a big bargain courtesy of D200 taxpayers), what happens when our own students need more special ed taxpayer money than Fund rate caps allow D200 to levy?

Why is this happening?

I can only take what incumbent candidate Nattress said in public at a candidate forum as evidence of the inclination of the school board on which he was a voting member: they are proud of being the largest employer in the taxing district and will protect those good-paying jobs as a priority.

Please consider asking Allendale to take over Clay and give them the building.

If they will not, please consider asking the interested community of parents to take over Clay as a charter school.

If they will not, please consider sending our own 11 students to Allendale or another appropriate tuition school.

Perhaps if the 59 tuition students were not given the bargain-rate alternative of Clay and had to find other accommodations, other accommodations might become apparent, and more affordable, for our own 11 students.

If that is not possible, please consider making accommodations for D200’s 11 Clay students within the 2700 (30%) of unused enrollment capacity D200 maintains at great taxpayer expense, utilizing the many highly paid Administrators and Therapists on the District-wide payroll in non-redundant fashion.


Minority Report on Keeping District 200’s Clay Academy Open — 8 Comments

  1. Allendale is a private (non public) school district with several programs in various municipalities in Illinois.

    Another option is for Woodstock CUSD 200 to return to SEDOM (Special Education District of McHenry County).

    That may or may not be a more expensive option depending on various factors.

    Current SEDOM member districts (per the SEDOM website):

    Nippersink Elementary District 2 (Richmond & Spring Grove)

    Fox River Grove Elementary District 3

    Johnsburg Unit District 12

    McHenry Elementary District 15

    Riley Elementary District 18 (Marengo)

    Alden – Hebron Unit District 19

    Cary Elementary District 26

    Harrison Elementary District 36 (Wonder Lake)

    Prairie Grove Elementary District 46

    Crystal Lake Elementary District 47

    Harvard Unit District 50

    Marengo High School District 154

    Crystal Lake High School District 155

    McHenry High School District 156

    Ricmond – Burton High School District 157

    Huntley Unit District 158

    Marengo Union Elementary District 165



    Unit Districts are combined elementary & high school districts.

    Elementary districts include elementary schools and middle schools.


    The following districts are planning to withdraw from SEDOM effective July 1, 2018:

    – Fox River Grove Elementary District 3

    – Cary Elementary District 26

    – Crystal Lake Elementary District 47

    – Crystal Lake High School District 155

    – Huntley Unit District 158

    – Johnsburg CUSD 12 (resolution passed at November 22, 2016 board meeting but didn’t mention the July 1, 2018 date)

    – there may be others

  2. Give it a rest, please, Susan.

    Until you understand the total workings of a school district, your way of thinking is not comprensihensible.

    I understand and appreciate your repeated arguments against Dist 200, it has brought many to the front to examine their thoughts of their tax money.

    Through the process of a review that entailed public input to a committee, the public have spoken.

  3. From the article above:

    “I had to estimate because Superintendent and CFO flat out refused to divulge specific cost figures, …”


    Has a FOIA request been submitted for the desired documents?

    Has the district posted specific cost figures for each location on its Facilities Review Committee website?


    Here is the Facilities Review Committee section of the Woodstock District 200 website:


    Some notes about that section of the website:

    – Meeting Agenda packets are not posted (containing all the documents to be discussed at the meeting).

    – Meeting Minutes are not posted.

    – Meeting Videos are not posted on the district’s YouTube channel (the Ustream videos will be deleted at some future point?)

    – Did the District receive any cost analysis / reports / presentations / etc. from their financial advisor, another outside consultant, or anyone else regarding facility closures?

    – If so those documents should be posted on the Facilities Review Committee website.

    – Any feedback the district received from Facilities Review Committee members should be posted on the Facilities Review Committee website (districts typically have feedback forms and / or consolidate feedback into reports when such committees are formed).

    – There is scant financial data on the costs to operate each facility on the Facilities Review Committee website.


    – District 200 provides a lower cost choice to school districts to educate certain special educate students than SEDOM?

    Or does District 200 provide better a better educational product/service to educate certain special education students (that being students sent from other McHenry County school districts)?

  4. District 200 provides whatever quality is agreed it provides by any of many diverse opinion holders.

    Whatever quality of service it is providing, it is providing it at a discount to other districts’ students, and charging d200 taxpayers to pay for it.

  5. Those documents SHOULD be posted on the facility review section of documents on d200 website, but they are not posted

  6. SEDOM is apparently no longer an option.

    It is not clear whether the reason SEDOM is no longer an option because students from many districts have opted out of SEDOM in order to pay lower net $14,000 per student per year by sending their students to Clay.

    If Alldendale is the other reasonable option, Allendale’s alleged $43,000 (minus $15,000 Illinois rebate) tuition might drop if it inherited the Clay enrollment.

    As things stand, D200 has (for years) forced D200 taxpayers to subsidize other districts’ students and pay higher per-student costs than if D200 students were sent to either SEDOM or Allendale.

    Equitable solutions exist, but D200 seems unwilling to explore any options involving the reduction of (arguably redundant) administrative, teaching, physical therapy, or support staff.

  7. Troubled, Susan has solutions.

    Why does this bother YOU so much?

    Afraid her tax savings will dip into your income from the taxpayers?

    Never quit, Susan, until THEY give wasteful spending a rest!!!

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