Let's make a deal

Opinion: Editorials

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Show of hands out there: Have you ever left a job because you found a better opportunity? Lots of people.

Did you ever leave that job close to the beginning of your former company's fiscal year? You probably don't remember, but, sure, still lots.

For those of you who left, not because you were fired but because you found yourself a new job, how many were paid for every vacation day you might have been entitled to during that whole fiscal year?

Well, we know the answer is at least one.

That was the deal a majority of the Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 Board of Education voted to grant former Superintendent Carol Baker, who filed a complaint with the Illinois Labor Relations Board in June, claiming she was owed every dime of her vacation benefit for the 2018-19 school year – 20 days totaling more than $10,000 -- even though she'd only worked a month of that year.

Baker argued that the language in her amended contract – pushed through in April 2017 by a school board majority that had just been booted by voters – guaranteed her that money.

Indeed, the contract states, regarding vacation that she was "entitled to a paid vacation of 20 work days in each contract year," without any qualifying language that it be accrued over time.

That's some fine legal work right there.

Thank heavens the contract amendment didn't include a salary figure for the 2018-19 school year, we guess, because the salary language in that contract regarding the 2017-18 school year, which Baker did work, was explicit and just as rudimentary. 

Unfortunately for taxpayers in District 103, voters last April somehow saw fit to return a majority to the school board that is backed by Lyons Village President Christopher Getty. 

And with that change, the law firm that drafted Baker's 2017 contract amendment is back in business. Baker, who was hired by a Getty-back board in 2016, promptly came looking for a friendly board to pay her another $10,000 as a parting gift.

We have a feeling students in District 103 could have used that $10,000, maybe even more than Baker – who made more than $150,000 in her last year as the district's superintendent and whose total compensation at Hinsdale High School District 86 last school year was $186,000 and included 25 vacation days.

That's a hell of a thing, being compensated for 45 vacation days from two jobs – one of which you no longer have, of your own accord -- in the same year.

Based on past contract language, we sure hope those in charge of District 103 will be taking a closer look at exactly what the district is contractually promising when administrators leave their positions part way into a new fiscal year.

Of course, so far, the board hasn't had occasion to hire someone hand-picked by the political power of the board majority. Although, as anyone witnessing the ongoing desperate attempt to prevent the hiring a pair of key central office administrators reveals, we wonder how long the superintendent can hold out against a school board president who appears determined to undermine his authority.

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Joanne Schaeffer  

Posted: August 21st, 2019 2:54 PM

This is a sad situation. When politics takes over a school board, anything can happen. Mrs. Bakker was paid for accrued vacation days a year ago and waited for her political people to take over the board and bring with them the political lawyers who wrote her contract. The children lost the $10,700 plus attorney fees to Carol Bakker for no reason. That's politics at its grandest.

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