Grayslake school leaders out of touch

Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 12/14/2010 6:46 PM

Grayslake Elementary District 46 needs a reality check. The administration's and school board's failure to grasp current economic conditions is so skewed it defies comprehension.

The latest case in point: At last week's meeting, school board members heard an earful from residents mad about a tax levy plan that isn't based on what kind of income the district needs, but rather on how it can eke out every single cent of property tax money allowed by law.


That done, at the very same meeting, the board heard from Superintendent Ellen Correll about how she's handing out $435,000 in federal stimulus money money intended to prevent teacher layoffs to pay bonuses to teachers and administrators.

Teachers aren't the bad guys here, nor is it wrong to want to reward dedicated employees. But how do these bonuses protect teacher jobs?

Each of the 435 teachers in Grayslake schools gets $1,100 (unless he or she already is getting a 6 percent pre-retirement pay raise designed to boost pensions). Each of 10 administrators gets $5,500. While not prohibited, paying bonuses with the federal tax dollars, goes against the intent of a program meant to "keep thousands of teachers in the classroom working with our students," as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in August in announcing the stimulus funding for Illinois. And it's wrong for District 46 to use the money in this manner while simultaneously plotting a balloon levy designed to make sure local taxpayers don't get a break.

Correll's actions once again show a fundamental misunderstanding of the economic challenges many people face. While apologizing to teachers that they got only 2.75 percent raises this year, Correll is blind to the fact that personal income in the United States dropped 1.7 percent in 2009. She is failing to acknowledge that nearly one in 10 Illinois workers including many of her students' parents do not have jobs.

Plus, she is taking that average 2.75 percent teacher raise and, with the $1,100 bonus, boosting it to 4.7 percent for this year, calculated on the district's average $55,847 teacher salary. That's higher than the 4 percent average raise the Grayslake teachers would have gotten this year had they not agreed to renegotiate their contract.

Unfortunately, this is not a one-time lapse. Last December, the Grayslake school board spent more than $9,000 plus the cost of substitute teachers to send four administrators and six teachers to a conference at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. That was after the district cut 29 jobs to try to fill a $2.8 million budget gap.

District 46 leaders, like school and government leaders everywhere, must operate with a consistent, lean approach to spending. If you'd like to help, you have until next Monday to file nominating petitions to run for board positions in April. It's your chance to help make a change.