Thursday, November 10, 2005

School board dines on taxpayers' dime

The article below appeared in the November 10th addition of the Northwest Herald. There is no reason why this school board could not interview candidates on school premises. This is a good note to remember when they ask District residents to vote "yes" for a tax increase in March 2006.

Those interested in investigating your school districts should do FOIA requests for the school board's budget. School boards often go to conferences and sometimes spend thousands of taxpayer dollars on meals and alcohol at these conferences.

School board dines on taxpayers' dime

McHENRY – Using consultants' advice, District 12 likely will spend about $1,500 this week on meals at Dunnhills for seven school board members, Business Manager Pat Bingman, and three superintendent candidates.

The board scheduled interviews Tuesday, Wednesday and today at the restaurant, 1501 S. Route 31, McHenry, where most entrees cost between $10 and $25. The group ate dinner before each closed-session interview in the restaurant's meeting room. Tuesday's bill, which included some appetizers and desserts, but no alcohol, came to $490.72, Bingman said.

Consultants from the Illinois Association of School Boards suggested taking the candidates to dinner in an informal setting, board President Tom Liston said.

The association presented six candidates, which were interviewed in a six-hour special board meeting last month, he said.

"Beyond seeing these people in a very regimented setting, we get to see them in a social setting," Liston said. "He's going to be an individual who is going to be very public; his public persona is very important to our choice."

The meals at Dunnhills are paid out of the board of education expense budget in the district's education fund, Bingman said. The $307,400 expense fund covers $170,000 in worker's compensation premiums, as well as legal fees, copies, background checks for new employees, property appraisal, postage, and legal publications in the newspaper.

The expense fund also covers the Illinois Association of School Board's $7,500 fee.

Kathy Ignoffo, a parent and athletic booster club president, said she was glad the school board members were interviewing candidates in a laid-back atmosphere.

"Do I like that it's $500 a night?" she said. "No, but I don't know how else they can do that."

The board members will discuss its impressions and, they hope to reach a consensus at a closed-session meeting Tuesday, Liston said.

"Hopefully, we'll be contacting people after our next meeting," he said. "We would announce only after they accept after they've had time to talk with their own constituency."

Board members want to select a candidate to replace Superintendent Rob Gough this semester so Gough can train his replacement.

Gough plans to retire in summer 2006 after serving 28 years as a district administrator, the last 18 as superintendent.


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