In a few months, Riverside Elementary School District 96 will have a full-time business manager. 

At its March 1 meeting, the District 96 Board of Education voted unanimously to hire Robert Holmes as its new director of finance and operations.

Holmes, who is business manager of Cicero School District 99, received a one-year contract and will be paid a base salary of $111,000. The district will also, as is typical for school administrators, pay Holmes’s entire contribution to Teacher Retirement System which typically amounts to 10.4 percent of his salary. Holmes will also receive an automobile stipend of $1,800 to cover the use of his personal car for district purposes. 

He will also receive an annual allowance of $300 a year to compensate him for the business use of his cellphone. Holmes will take over from Interim Director of Finance and Operations David Sellers on July 1.

Holmes was chosen from field of 35 applicants. Nine candidates were interviewed by a committee of district staff, and three finalists were interviewed by Sellers, Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye, school board President Jeff Miller and the school board’s finance committee chairman, Rich Regan.

“He is highly experienced. He’s got 10 or more years in school finance, so he’s got a very strong background in the area that we want,” Miller said of Holmes.

Ryan-Toye said that Holmes stood out from the field of candidates.

“We did look at another directors of finance/certified school business officials, but he really struck us as the best match for our district given his experience, given his collaborative style, given his knowledge base, given his background with finance and audits and negotiations and construction,” Ryan-Toye said.

Holmes is a certified public accountant. He graduated from University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and received a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University. Holmes, who grew up in Arlington Heights, began his career as a budget accountant in private industry for a tool company. 

He has worked for Cicero District 99 for almost nine years. Prior to that he worked as a business manager for Harlem District 12, located near Rockford, and for Huntley District 158. 

Cicero District 99 was in the news last year for some lavish spending by some school board members at conferences, but Ryan-Toye said that she was not concerned about that.

“We did a thorough reference check and references all described him as being very trustworthy and having a lot of integrity and honesty, so I feel like that was a feature we picked up with Robert and was also verified by his references,” Ryan-Toye said.

Holmes did not comment on the record about the lavish spending by school board members in Cicero.

Holmes has experience with construction projects, having overseen the tearing down and replacement of one school in Cicero and the gut rehab of another. He says he will be a good fit in District 96.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for me to grow and contribute,” said Holmes who is being paid $93,663 in his current job.

Sellers has been working part time for District 96 since August 2014, after retiring from his position of director of business services at Lyons Township High School District 204. 

As a retiree receiving a pension from the Teacher Retirement System, Sellers was limited to working no more than 100 days a year. He is being paid $675 a day this year.

Sellers is a highly-respected business manager with vast and detailed knowledge of school finance and business practices. He is known for delivering voluminous and detailed reports to administrators and school board members. 

In his three years at District 96 Sellers has worked for three superintendents.

“I am glad the district was able to find a highly experienced, quality hire for the full-time position,” Sellers said in an email. “I am grateful for the time I was able to serve as a part-timer and look forward to enjoying my retirement years ahead.”

Ryan-Toye and Miller lavished praise on Sellers, but Miller noted that Sellers’ part-time status sometimes created difficulties. Because Sellers worked most of his allowed 100 days during the school year, he was not often around in the summer to supervise construction projects. 

“The board has been very, very happy with Mr. Sellers over the last three years,” Miller said. “He’s done a fantastic job as a business manager.”

Ryan-Toye said the plan when she was hired last year was always to hire a full-time business manager.

“We’re looking forward to working with Robert and certainly wish David the best and want to thank him for his wonderful service to District 96,” Ryan-Toye said.