Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why do Peoria education bureaucrats want Paul Vallas to go away?

Some background: Paul Vallas, formerly of the Chicago and Phildelphia school districts and a noted education reformer, was recently brought to Peoria to discuss education issues. He's offered to take a look at the Peoria School District 150 -- for free. School officials are hesitant. Regular commenter PrairieCelt left this comment on a post at Peoria Pundit, and I liked it so much, I made it into a post -- Billy.

RE: Paul Vallas

Prospect Rd. Properties: In addition to the $877,500 to purchase the residential sites on Prospect, you have to factor in the cost of demolition, rehab, renovation, legal fees, and the cost to the district of removing the sites from the property tax rolls; and the furnishings, groceries, toiletries & amenities for two of the properties to house, feed and transport the teachers from China.

Administrative Salary Expense: Going back to 2004, the BOE placed Dr. Royster on paid administrative leave and hired (on the recommendation of Board President Schock) an unqualified and uncertified individual as Superintendent (note: he did not receive his Superintendent’s endorsement until the summer of 2006). To be in compliance with Illinois School Code, the BOE had to employ a co-superintendent. When this individual left, the BOE created two deputy superintendent positions and these individuals served until Hinton received his alternative superintendent’s endorsement the summer of 2006 (a period of almost 2 years). The two deputy superintendents received a stipend on top of their regular administrative salary. In other words, in ‘04-’05, they paid 3 superintendent salaries through December, and then paid 4 superintendent salaries through June 30th. Subsequent to that date, they were paying 3 superintendent salaries until the summer of 2006. A very conservative estimate of the additional expense involved is $310K excluding the superintendent stipends paid to Fischer & Hannah, and excluding benefits. The BOE paid for Hinton to obtain his alternative superintendent’s endorsement at WIU, which was at least $5K.

In ‘04-’05, the BOE employed the services of a search firm (Roger Gravelink) and entered into an $80K contract with said search firm for the express purpose of finding and contracting a new superintendent. While under contract to the search firm, the BOE decided to hire a retired former administrator (Hinton) causing the BOE to settle with the search firm for an amount of approximately one-half the original contract. That was an expenditure of approximately $40K to receive absolutely nothing.

Then there is Hinton’s “friends and family” hiring plan. Not only did the top-level administrators receive very generous raises, Hinton proceeded to hire many of his “friends and family members” (think his son Landrian Hinton, Otto Arcaute, Susan Grzanich, Charles Davis, Thom Simpson, Mary Ward, Sandra Burke and an administration building secretary, to name a few). In the fall of ‘04, Hinton reinstated approximately 40 positions that had been eliminated due to attrition. This after the district’s auditor (in late fall ‘04) told the BOE in open session, that if the current (Hinton’s) administration continued to spend at the same rate as the previous administration, the district’s reserves should last at least another 24 months.

Word on the street is that Hinton hopes to bring Fischer back to the district after her retirement June 30th. They stated publicly that Fischer’s position will be eliminated as a cost-savings measure ($120K+ per year), and allegedly they are offering to re-employ her at her per diem rate (around $450 daily) effective 07/01/08. There is no cost savings there. Once again, the public is hoodwinked.

We all remember that in the spring of ‘05, the district ran out of money to meet payroll and current expenses and started incurring substantial long-term debt (approximately $60+ million). What happened to all those millions of dollars in reserves that were projected by the auditor to last another 24 months or so? The reinstated positions and his “friends and family” hiring plan factor significantly into the need - so early into Hinton’s administration - to assume crippling long-term debt.

School Buildings: Hinton closed two middle schools, White & Blaine because he said they were unsafe for kids. He then proceeded to reopen Blaine to house the Medicaid/Special Services offices. The renovations included air-conditioning, a security system, asbestos removal, reconfiguring classrooms into offices, and hiring a full-time campus police officer. That cost was approximately $150K (the salary expense for the Campus Police officer is ongoing). Since the BOE & Administration missed the grant-filing deadline to renovate the donated SSA building, they are now looking to re-open and renovate White Middle School to house the programs originally slated for the SSA building. [There was an offer to purchase theWhite School property that was turned-down by the Administration.]

The BOE recently approved an expenditure of approximately $700K to purchase some of the former Harrison Homes land for the purpose of building a new state-of-the art school campus. Plus, they are in the process of approving two new school buildings for the WHS attendance area. Hinton & Co. do not seem to have any problem assuring the public that they have the millions of dollars available to build new construction, but they can’t find $600K to hire consultants with a proven track record of success in turning schools around?


1. The BOE frivolously spent $877,500 to purchase properties for which they have no need.

2. Approximately $310K was spent for multiple superintendents and to get Hinton legally qualified to hold the superintendency after he was contracted for the position.

3. $40K was squandered on a search firm to fill a position with a legally unqualified internal candidate.

4. $120K is the projected cost of bringing Fischer back from retirement on or about 07/01/08.

5. Approximately $150K was spent renovating Blaine Sumner.

6. The BOE approved spending $700K to purchase land on the Harrison Homes site.

7. The BOE assumed long-term debt in the amount of approximately $62M.

Approximately $64,197,500 is the amount Hinton and this BOE has cost the taxpayers since August 2004.

After this excessive, sometimes frivolous spending by Hinton and the BOE, what do the taxpayers have?

A. 83% of the students failing to make adequate yearly progress

B. For the ‘07-’08 school year, three middle schools and one high school in restructuring. Unless there is a major turnaround soon, more schools will move to restructuring status for the ‘08-’09 school year.

C. No completed and approved restructuring plan for Manual High School.

D. Creation of new gangs in the schools subsequent to the combination of middle schools due to school closings. For example, some of the new gangs are the dickie boys, face off, and the 401 boys.

E. Under-achieving, over-crowded buildings at Lincoln and Trewyn.

F. Seriously strained relationships with the City of Peoria and the Peoria Park District.

G. Low morale in the schools - disgruntled staff and principals who feel they have no support at the administrative level.

H. Threats to close additional schools that would further destabilize established neighborhoods.

I. A Board of Education and Administration that is not qualified to move the district forward.

J. Potential misuse of HLS and PBC funds.

K. Deferment, district-wide, of structural repairs and required maintenance.

It isn’t a question of if Vallas and his consultants come in but rather, when and how soon they can start. The City should come in and take over District #150, removing the BOE and top administration and replacing them with Vallas and other qualified administrators with a proven track record of successful school turnarounds.

Let us hope this is not too little too late.


SangamoRayFan,  8:32 AM  

This is why Little Aaron should not move on up to DC.

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