Endorsements: Hengels, Harper, Prusnick for Schaumburg Township Dist. 54
Schaumburg Township Elementary School District 54 is the largest elementary school district in Illinois. That it delivers a very good education is not in dispute -- it embodies the kind of forward thinking that enabled dual-language classes before just about anybody else was doing them, and other innovations.
A school board is meant to be the gentle guiding hand behind the success, and this board has done that. So endorsing the incumbent board members for re-election should be a slam dunk.
It isn't, for one reason. Some members of this board had a hand in the pension folly of several years ago, when District 54 gave pay bumps of almost dizzying proportions to some retiring administrators. The district got socked with half a million dollars in penalties.
Back in 2011, the board's defense was that "everyone was doing it" -- which has some truth to it, although not everyone was doing it to the extent District 54 was.
It still qualifies as bad judgment, but this board is no longer defined by it.
District 54 has all but disappeared from the list of Illinois school districts paying penalties for retirement pay bumps. All five of the candidates running this year pledge on their Daily Herald questionnaires they would not do that.
Mary Kay Prusnick was elected in 2011, and didn't have a hand in the extended contracts. Bill Harper and Barbara Hengels have been members since 2001 and 1997 respectively, and over that time there has been nothing predictable about their points of view, and neither trustee is afraid to have a dissenting thought.
Moreover, during some of the board's darkest days -- the pension penalties; the superintendent's DUI arrest and subsequent guilty plea to reckless driving -- Harper became the face of District 54, and he never ducked a call or a request for an interview. That the board candidly discussed its options and eventually chose to retain the talented Andy DuRoss as superintendent -- taking some heat for it -- illustrates to us this board acts independently and makes up its own mind.
Johannes Laun and Joe Wein are running because they want to bring new voices and fresh ideas to the board. Both appear to be smart, dedicated residents who have had children in District 54 and appreciate the quality educations they were given.
The proven records of Hengels, Harper and Prusnick, however, indicate they each deserve another term.