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District 74 Grilled by Residents about Personal Expenditures

More than 150 residents packed Lincolnwood Village Hall during a School District 74 board meeting on Thursday. Many residents were frustrated with the spending of taxpayer dollars by administrator and board members.

Update 1/28 -

Almost six inches of snow and the frigid weather weren't enough to stop the 150-plus residents who packed Lincolnwood Village Hall during a District 74 school board meeting on Thursday.  

The standing-room-only crowd was the result of an open letter that questioned the spending of taxpayer dollars by superintendent Mark Klaisner, school board president David Koder, as well as other school board officials and administrators.

Some of the items included gas money, travel expenditures and a 2011 Cadillac CTS.  

For one dinner, school board President David Koder charged $616 to his district-issued credit card after ordering six bottles of wine and dinner for three other guests during a conference trip in San Francisco, according to district records.

When asked about the charges, Koder told Skokie Patch that he "doesn't recall" the specifics of the dinner in question.

Koder also charged two "Grandview Breakfasts" to his hotel room during his stay in San Francisco, totaling about $100. He also took a $139 limousine ride from his home to O'Hare Airport, according to district records.  

"This is my third year serving as school board President," Koder told Skokie Patch. "I returned because my seat was uncontested - there was nobody else to fill my seat ... I won't be seeking reelection next year because I know I'm not going to win."

In 2013, five school board seats will be up for election.

Residents speak out  

Lincolnwood resident Kathy O'Brien was one of many who shared disappointment in the school's elected officials and administrators.

"I feel some members of this school board knowingly violated taxpayers," O'Brien said. "You do not have respect [for] the taxpayers' pocket."

Another resident told school officials, "I'm appalled of what I've heard. Do you think we're stupid? Don't forget, we elected you. The sense of entitlement by our school administrators is sickening."

Lincolnwood resident Joel Perzov, who requested numerous Freedom of Information Acts from the school district and compiled much of the data supplied in the open letter, requested that school board officials not renew Superintendent Klaisner's contract, which is due June 30 of this year.

"There's the issue why he's charged the district [$4,400 over 22 months] for every bit of gas for his car. The express language of his contract does not provide for that," Perzov said. "How long has that been going on?"

After hearing the residents speak out, board members took action by passing a motion to temporarily suspend all travel by school administrators, teachers and board members until specific guidelines are set in place.

The root of the problem

A lawsuit over a new junior high school has incited criticism of District 74 and Superintendent Klaisner. 

A $25 million expenditure that would have torn down the current Lincoln Hall Junior High and replaced it with a new building has led several residents to take legal action against Lincolnwood School District 74.

"They were doing all sorts of legal gymnastics to build [the new school]," said Lincolnwood resident Mark Collens. "You can't build a $25 million building without asking the community."

The lawsuit contends that the district tried building the new school without a referendum passed by votes of residents in the district.

Technically speaking, District 74 could have built the new school by building a hallway that would have connected Lincoln Hall to nearby Rutledge Hall. By doing this, the district would have only been building an extension. A referendum isn't needed when a school district is building an extension, according to superintendent Klaisner.

The residents, however, didn't see it that way.

Collens would soon gather with about 20 other residents that shared his perspective. The group pitched in and hired a lawyer to take legal action against the school district.

Meanwhile, Klaisner said the school did its due diligence by informing the community about the school's expansion.

"We've been talking about this for about three or four years now," Klaisner said. "We mailed out 4,000 postcards to every Lincolnwood resident informing them of important meeting [regarding the expansion.]"

Now, a motion to build a new school has gone to a March 20 referendum.

"What [the school district] is considering doing here is violation of the law," Collens, an attorney, said. "You have to have a referendum with the community, but they thought they could get around that."

Collens said the group won't drop the lawsuit until after the March 20 referendum.

An Open Letter

The group of Lincolnwood residents began asking more questions, and it wasn't long before they began submitting Freedom of Information Acts. The group started looking into the spending habits of both district officials and school administrators. (To read the letter in full, click on the PDF image to the right of this article.)

Some of the group's claims include:

·         A 2011 Cadillac CTS for the superintendent (Part of the superintendent's package includes a vehicle paid for by the district.)

·         An insurance claim for $1,968 to repair rear-end damage done to the Cadillac

·         A yearly average of about $2,000 in gas charges made by the superintendent

·         A $14,000, 16 person trip to Orlando, that included a visit to the John F. Kennedy Space Station

·         A $13,500 trip to San Francisco that included a $600 dinner tab for four people

Yet, many of those charges were taken out of context, Klaisner said. He added that his vehicle was actually cheaper than his predecessor's. And while the school district pays for Klaisner's insurance, the policy also covers several of the district's larger vehicles, including trucks used to remove snow.

Thus, the insurance deductable would have been $2,500 to repair his rear end damage, which cost more than the damage done to his vehicle, Klaisner said.

As for the group's gas claims, Klaisner said, "I'm actually going to plead ignorance there."

"This all ends up coming down to perspective," Klaisner said. "You could have easily just taken out the gas privileges and just upped my salary — then it becomes a shell game. Other superintendents do that and I can see why.

"But we handled things the way we did because we felt it was honest and transparent. I didn't do anything knowingly inappropriate," Klaisner added.

Klaisner said he's "sad and frustrated that things are being misinterpreted or misunderstood without [the residents] asking for any clarifications."  

"It's insightful and inflammatory," Klaisner said regarding the open letter. "I never once questioned what we did."

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Deadcatbounce January 15, 2012 at 12:07 AM
From the school website. Yes, you fool it's on the website!
Deadcatbounce January 15, 2012 at 04:18 AM
It's also "their" not there
LWResident January 15, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Here are a few links to a Great Website - this is interactive and allows you to slice and dice the date.. I urge you all to give it a whirl.. First Link is for Lincoln Hall http://iirc.niu.edu/School.aspx?schoolid=050160740021001 Rutledge Hall http://iirc.niu.edu/School.aspx?schoolid=050160740022003 Todd Hall http://iirc.niu.edu/School.aspx?schoolid=050160740022004
rhoda January 15, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Wow. Good site for these 3 schools. Hopefully parents who have students attending these schools will take time to look at this information and realize the good schools their children attend. This administration, staff and school board seem to be doing a good job. Also, i-pads not i-pods were bought for incoming 6th graders.
Deadcatbounce January 15, 2012 at 07:14 PM
This is a much better site and you can compare with other schools and by ethnic background ... http://webprod.isbe.net/ereportcard/publicsite/
Bobby January 15, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Hey Mr. Phuck, OFF and YOU
Bobby January 15, 2012 at 11:24 PM
This Phuck has to be one of the board members, or an idiot, no I think both.
LWResident January 16, 2012 at 03:53 AM
you can also check ethnic background and income level with the above website i provided. Also you can compare schools to see how others stack up. Even has information for HighSchools. Thanks for your website I will take a look
Dr Morton Kreitzman January 16, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Dear Mr Phuck; How about finding out why the board won't answer my question on why we have 20 million dolars in unresticted funds & 10 million in restricted funds & still need an increase in the tax levy for 2012? And change your name to Mr Putz it suits better. MK
Deadcatbounce January 16, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Why an increase in the tax levy, that's easy, increases aren't based on reality, but based on spending as much as they can. The schools will get every last penny out the taxpayers and when that is not enough, they ask for even more through a referendum, threatening to increase class sizes, cut music, languages, art, gifted programs, etc until the taxpayers give in.
Deadcatbounce January 16, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Nice comment, Mr Phuck is Mr. Putz. and probably a board member
j January 17, 2012 at 12:46 AM
This district used to be a premier district under the leadership of John Cahill. That school board was fiscally responsible and took the school district to a higher level. Their reputation and integrity was the highest of many of the sister districts. The board did not micro-manage the district....decisions were made by staff members and supported and approved by the superintendent and Board. The respect for SD74 was so high!!! AH..the good ol' days! If you are unhappy, make changes. GET RID OF THAT BOARD AND SUPER!!!!! But that means you need people to step up and run for the board. YOU NEED TO START all over and get some of the old ideas back. The Board used to take suggestions from the Super....They did not tell the teachers how to teach, the principals how to lead and continue to ask principals to resign. Let's get all new people on our board....ask THEM to resign. We can move forward and become healthy once again. But we need the community to run for the Board and hire a new Superintendent. Let's think ahead BEFORE the election.
sirphuck January 17, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Deadcatbounce why don't you allow a reply? Can't handle the debate? Trying to have the last word? This board has not needed an increase in the tax rate for education like past boards have who spoke at January meeting. Prior board members were responsible for TANKING the districts ED FUND. Seems to me by comments that this board has done just the opposite. They have plenty of money unlike boards before them! Sounds to me like they are doing a great job on the finances. Unless you don't use the school then obviously your motives are selfish! And no I'm not a board member but I will be running in 2013 to make sure cheap people like you don't ruin the school district. Unlike you I care about about kids education! yea and one more thing change your name to dead goldbrick bounce you shlep.
sirphuck January 17, 2012 at 02:07 AM
First of all, the state average class size is 20 students per class room, the schools that you're referring to which make up that '50 best performing' probably only have 16-18 students per class, of which are most likely more than 60% caucasian. Lincolnwood's class rooms are currently 24 students in size on average. We have one of the most diverse student bodies in the North Suburbs. As for the "no arts for the student"... you're an idiot. Go take a drive past Niles West High School, maybe you'll notice the large billboard that reads "#1 School for Performing Arts in the UNITED STATES" then again, considering you're childred have probably all already graduated, i guess that drive may be a bit out of your way.
sirphuck January 17, 2012 at 02:11 AM
As far as the district's inability to afford to send the students downstate, that's an assumption you shouldn't be making. The actual reason our district stopped providing transportation downstate is because our school districts insurance which cover's field trips and incidentals will no longer cover those trips. Maybe istead of making these assumptions and making such an ass out of yourself, you could spare the minute or two it takes to look up the actual reasons behind's the school boards decisions.
sirphuck January 17, 2012 at 02:13 AM
"resident tax money is for education not pleasure trips and padded expense accounts. "..... could you please cite where you're getting your information? I can't seem to find ANY "pleasure trips" taken by the BOARD MEMBERS in the budget.
sirphuck January 17, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Instead of making sly commentary regarding the $100 bottles of wine that you took the time to dig up on the budget report, why don't you spend an equal amount of time looking into whom the wine was purchased for? perhaps the trip to SanFran was a meeting with Apple? I'm not sure..... but seeing as you're a resident or parent or whatever you refer to yourself as who didn't have enough time to VOLUNTEER on the school board themselves but has found more than enough time to analyze a budget only by the dollar numbers, it would seema should have the time to figure out WHY those dollars were spent.
sirphuck January 17, 2012 at 02:19 AM
For your information, the 12K in taxes you spent past tense was wasted away by the board members PRIOR to those we're currently discussing. Our music and fine arts curriculum "Piano, violin, guitar lessons, etc" was cut back due to the PRIOR BOARD MEMBERS INNABILITY to budget. I believe Member Janice Harris was the one running the finance show back then, whithout any contest from the '12k TAXPAYERS"
Deadcatbounce January 17, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Mr. Putz again. You can't reply you doofus because my comment is a reply. Go look at all the comments, and the ones that are replies have no comment button.
Louie January 17, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Under Dr. Garlich Dist. 74 had an excellent reputation. Under Gene Moody working with Dr. Garlich. The district was fiscally responsible.
W F February 15, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Really!!! come on- he makes all this money and he can't afford to pay for his own GAS, Lunch, oh and let's not forget Dinner!!. Lets just Charge it on the p cards and have us pay for it.. The Illinois States Attorney needs to investigate what's going on. Questions have not been answered.
Kimmy May 02, 2012 at 12:26 AM
true story. all expenses had to be approved...so someone else besides them approved them. they paid back all the expenses charged anyways. GET OVER IT PEOPLE!
Kimmy May 02, 2012 at 12:30 AM
"The business manager reviewed and then approved only proper expenses." looks like you just found out who is to blame. a business manager approved all expenses in this case the same as when you were a board member.
Kimmy May 02, 2012 at 12:31 AM
are you serious? many there were many applicants but NONE deserving.
Kimmy May 02, 2012 at 12:33 AM
yeah let's see some proof. don't have any? DIDN'T THINK SO.
Kimmy May 02, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Bobby you must be an idiot. Just because on tv and stuff you only hear from the few residents who think the board members did something wrong doesn't mean the majority of Lincolnwood's residents feel the same way. You must be one of those idiots who continuously attend the meetings looking like a fool.
Kimmy May 02, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Bobby....I love how you have resorted to correcting mr phuck's grammar since you clearly have no argument. HAH
Kimmy May 02, 2012 at 12:41 AM
You might just be an even bigger idiot than Bobby
Kimmy May 02, 2012 at 12:41 AM
No I take it back. Deadcatbounce is the biggest idiot on here.
W F May 02, 2012 at 03:58 PM
How can you say that? It is a big deal. They ran ,they got elected.They are charged with doing the "RIGHT" thing. First and formost the children. And spending our tax dollars. Not on them selves.

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