District 59 superintendent to next work at Bartlett special ed center to lock in pension
Outgoing Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 Superintendent Art Fessler is set to get a new job at the Mount Prospect-based Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization.
It's an arrangement that would allow him to work the 170 remaining days he needs to get a full pension, district officials say.
Fessler, set to step down from the helm of District 59 on June 30, will be working a staff position at Sunrise Lake Outdoor Education Center, the Bartlett day camp-like facility run by the special education cooperative.
"Art had been casting around for how to finish out the last year that he needs for full retirement, and he really didn't want to get involved in another superintendent job, which would be a minimum of five years when he only needs one, and he wants to finish out his retirement and then figure out what he wants to do next," said Janice Krinsky, the board president of both District 59 and NSSEO until this week.
"Art is a huge outdoor enthusiast. They hit upon this idea it would really help NSSEO at Sunrise Lake to have more staff available to help with programming."
"It's an opportunity for him to do what he loves, still teaching students, and still earning the 170 days he still needs to retire with full benefits," Krinsky said.
Fessler, who has headed the K-12 district since 2013, didn't respond to a request for comment about his next career move.
He and the school board agreed last summer that they would part ways at the end of his $292,908-a-year contract in 2021. His upcoming departure will conclude a tenure marked by wholesale changes to the curriculum that were opposed by a vocal group of parents, residents and teachers.
The fallout from past controversies led to Krinsky's defeat by a mere 13 votes in the recent April election. Her last meeting as District 59 board president was Monday, and as president of the NSSEO governing board Wednesday.
As part of Fessler's upcoming job transition, the District 59 board unanimously approved an agreement that could pay NSSEO nearly $40,000 for his remaining vacation days. The cooperative will in turn pay Fessler after drawing up a new contract, officials say.
Krinsky said the arrangement is a way for District 59 to avoid paying a penalty of at least $10,000 to the Teachers' Retirement System. The penalty was created by a 2005 state law designed to limit school districts from boosting the pensions of teachers and administrators close to retirement.
The penalty would be triggered if District 59 gave Fessler a raise greater than 6%, which would have been the case if Fessler was paid directly for unused vacation.
Fessler has 35 remaining vacation days, after he was able to use a minimal amount of vacation "due to the complexity and time-consuming demands of COVID-19," according to his vacation payment agreement with the school board.
District 59's payment to NSSEO would be $1,122.25 for every unused vacation day, less deductions for federal and state taxes.
The special education cooperative, which provides services to students with special needs in districts 59, 21, 25, 23, 26, 57, 211 and 214, runs three schools, deaf and hard-of-hearing programs at four schools, and the outdoor education center in Bartlett.
As District 59 is the largest user of the cooperative's services, Fessler and NSSEO Superintendent Judy Hackett have worked closely in a superintendents' association and lobbied together for legislation in Springfield, Krinsky said.
Fessler's replacement in District 59, Terri Bresnahan, begins her new role July 1.