By Lee R. Talley, Proud Retired Educator. Lee R. Talley is retired educator who has transitioned into independent filmmaking. He is currently working on, “Just Another Kid,” a film about those left behind who must deal with the effects of gun violence.
It’s been over five years since all the troubles came to the forefront and secrets were revealed in Lincoln Way High School District 210.
It’s been four years since the school board shuttered Lincoln Way North High School.
There’s been two school board elections since all this went down.
Yet, very little, if anything has changed. Worst of all, nobody has been held accountable for the financial disaster inflicted upon the students, employees, and taxpayers. It’s been listed as one of the worst financial scandals in State of Illinois history.
Former Supt. Lawrence Wyllie is still free to collect his over $30,000+ a month pension, having yet to face a trial for all his misdeeds. His lawyers assert claims of poor health in asking for continuances of his court dates. The only way to terminate his pension is with a felony conviction, otherwise it keeps rolling in until his death. If that happens his wife will continue to collect 50% of his pension until she passes. And now the courts have shut down and put all cases on pause due to the coronavirus.
Former Asst. Supt. Ron Sawin, who oversaw the district’s finances and spending, received a six-figure buyout to leave the district, even though all the financial mismanagement went through his office. He’s moved onto to Perspectives/IIT Math and Science Academy in Chicago, while collecting a $115,000+ and his pension at the same time.
Current Supt. Scott Tingley received a new five-year contract even though he mislead the public about the district’s finances, hid emails and facts from the pubic, and submitted false budgets and reports to the State Board of Education. No school superintendent is given a five-year contract, the standard being three.
The former board members, responsible for all these terrible decisions and who showed little oversight and concern for doing their jobs, are all gone. But that’s the beauty of being a board member. You can make all the bad decisions, especially those that cost taxpayers millions, and just walk away. Not my problem any more. In the meantime, our property taxes continue to rise every year to pay for these mistakes.
The current board, awarded the teaching staff a new three year contact last year with little fanfare or publicity. Even though they made nominal cuts in the finances, they continue to tout borrowing Tax Anticipation Warrants with less interest as savings. They also continue to operate under one district budget rather than the more standard building budgets, recommended by the state. They refuse to make the hard decisions that come due because of their past fiscal irresponsibility.
In essence, the current board still operates with very little improvement in transparency that was promised after the 2017 election. Even worse, they seem to have no interest in pursuing all the wrong-doings unearth by citizens prior to the 2017 election, including a locked land trust was used as collateral by a private citizen, sweetheart contracts (the friends and family plan), or conduct a forensic audit of past spending to see where all the tax money was spent. And last year another scandal was uncovered involving the athletic booster funds at Lincoln Way Central. The athletic secretary was arrested and the athletic director left, taking a job at another school in the conference.
A few of the current board members stated that “they don’t want to dredge up old wounds and that the district is better off not ruining their reputation.” By allowing this failure to investigate they are both complicit and negligent. So sad.
In 2017 I ran for the 210 school board and lost…came in last among 13 candidates vying for five open positions. I touted fiscal responsibility, especially with the district being nearly a half-billion dollars in debt. Speaking the truth was not what the power structure wanted to hear so they campaigned vigorously against myself and four others who ran as one slate. It was a very nasty smear campaign (a story for another time).
So with district taxpayers on the hook for all the bad financial decisions (and now considering a restructuring of the bond debt past it’s current 2033 pay-off date, costing taxpayers even more in interest), as I predicted after the 2017 election. Nothing much has or will change. The parade marches on and on and on and on.
Yes, the song remains the same: No accountability whatsoever.