Retired Administrator Makes $71k to Design T-Shirts

Patch investigation reveals pattern of administrators working as high-paid consultants shortly after retiring.

A Patch investigation has revealed that retired administrators have been landing lucrative contracts as consultants at the same time teachers are fighting to keep their jobs in the face of looming budget cuts in Niles Township School District 219.

Most notably, former principal and fine arts director Robert Freeman received more than $71,000 for designing T-shirts, creating PowerPoint presentations and drafting logos for the district’s new gymnasium during five months as a consultant, he said.

“My background is really in art,” Freeman told Skokie Patch in a recent interview. “I designed stuff for the school district.”

Around the same time Freeman was consulting, the District 219 school board said it would be  in an effort to save $1 million.

In discussing the belt tightening, board president Robert Silverman noted that the district, comprising of Niles North and Niles West high schools, decided to “align our resources to our core areas, which are math, science, English and reading.”

Yet, from Oct. 29 through March 16, Freeman’s Creative Ideas & Solutions was paid $71,350, according to District 219’s itemized list of vendor payments for 2010. 

Bruno Behrend, director for the nonprofit Center of School Reform at the Heartland Institute in Chicago, said he is not surprised by the practice. 

“[School boards] will always cut a program or teacher before they cut an administrator or their own salary,” Behrend said. “It’s standard practice everywhere; you can get away with it.”

Pool fund

The money, which came from a $12 million budget to build an Olympic-sized swimming pool at , was paid to Freeman's startup business, Creative Ideas & Solutions

Jim Szczepaniak, director of communications for District 219, said Freeman was also hired to oversee the pool's ongoing construction as part of the Niles North Aquatic Center.

“Bob is uniquely qualified to guide D219 on this critical project,” Szczepaniak said in an e-mail. “He has extensive experience working with school communities as a certified Aquatic Facility Operator.”

However, Freeman isn’t certified as an Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO), according to the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), the nonprofit in charge of AFO certification.

"Our written records go back seven years, but we do have an electronic database that goes back to the mid-nineties and beyond," a spokesperson for the NRPA said in an email.  "And we have no record of Mr. Freeman in our database or our written records."

Someone who receives the certification is expected to be “knowledgeable in the systematic approach to pool operations including pool chemistry, management, pool safety and risk reduction,” according to the organization.

The organization also added that only people–and not businesses such as Creative Ideas & Solutions–could be certified.

Patch sought information from District 219 on whether Freeman’s AFO certification had ever been verified, but Szczepaniak declined to comment.

Saving money

Gerry Yeggy, former business operations manager for the school system, told Patch that it is actually cheaper to hire a former administrator as a consultant than it is to hire a full-time employee.

“Benefits are about 28 percent of a [teacher's or administrator’s] salary,” he said. “In most instances it’s actually cheaper to hire a consultant.”

On June 30, 2008, Yeggy retired.

Yet, on Sept. 22 of that same year, Yeggy registered GYK Consulting in Illinois as a corporation. About two months later, the school district hired him as a consultant for $86,100 over a five-month period.

Yeggy told Skokie Patch that he was paid to advise his replacement, Paul O’Malley, who joined the district as the new business operations manager.

Like Freeman’s Creative Ideas & Solutions, GYK Consulting has no website nor does it list any indication of what it does.

In 1994, Yeggy was targeted in an investigation when he served as the assistant superintendent for business for Barrington’s Unit School District 220. Lake County State's Attorney's office found no evidence of criminal activity, but three administrators—including Yeggy—resigned in quick succession. Shortly afterward, Yeggy married Kay Geary, who was also school board president at District 220.

Kay Geary serves as the primary agent of the consulting firm that lists Yeggy as its secretary.

In District 219, the average salary for an administrator is $143,000. In Illinois, public sector pensions are paid out based on a four-year average of someone's salary with a 3 percent increase if he or she retires at the age of 55.

“Getting an administrative job in your final years of public service is like winning the lottery,” said Behrend of the Center of School Reform.

To read Part 2 of our investigative series, click here.

h m April 12, 2011 at 02:47 PM
It isn't only the admistrators in the "SYSTEM" that are getting despicable pensions. If D219 Teachers Union is anything like the CTU, the teachers that have there 33 years in are retiring with an 80% pension.
Earl Weiss April 12, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Does the 219 Board really wonder if we consider them fiscaly responsible when there are revelations like these?
Skokie Mike April 12, 2011 at 03:33 PM
The short answer, Earl, is no. But I'm sure they think they are responsible.
Matt R April 12, 2011 at 03:55 PM
With a building of creative students, do they really need to hire design consultants? Why not a design contest among the students. I bet the students could design better shirts and logos. Teachers/admins can't make their own powerpoints? All I have to say is wow.
Clark Kent April 12, 2011 at 04:53 PM
Strange that these tax-dollar scavangers didn't give such "needed" advice during their tenure. What were they doing then? School administrators are well known to influence THEIR compliant boards of education to shell out lotsa dollars so that the board can engage in an orgy of self-congratulations about what a fine job they're doing as elected "officials." NTHS takes the biggest chunk from my tax bill, up considerably AGAIN from last year. The administrators and unions seem to be the biggest predators on our checkbooks. They want salaries that are higher than manufacturing and commercial executives who have to show a product at the end of the day. What "educators" really show are declining test scores, poor attendance records and meaningless platitudes. Remember the recent comment of Principal Osburn about student "civil disobedience?" A disgrace.The journalist H.L. Mencken once properly commented: "Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under." Time to storm the Bastille! Taxpayers of the township, UNITE! You have nothing to lose but your high tax bills.
Earl Weiss April 12, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Design consultants are designing anything. Apparently they are only consutling with paid designers.
h m April 12, 2011 at 05:10 PM
I will agree with you that D219, as well as D69 take the largest % of our tax bills. I know the school Board is elected so in order to get them out, the people of D219 must vote them out. Do you know a good way to reduce the salaries of the administrators to be reasonably or terminate their employment?
h m April 12, 2011 at 05:43 PM
The Board thinks they need to be responsible with our money but they are not showing that they are responsible. One of the tings that the Board need to do is rein in the salaries of the top administrators in the district. They also need to renegotiate with the teachers union and have the teachers pay more of their health insurance. I do not think that the Distrcit (you and I) should have to pay between 6200 & 20288 per person for health insurance (http://sharepoint.niles-hs.k12.il.us/webdocs/Publications/District%20Financial%20Reports/FY%2011%20Compliance%20Report%20for%20Public%20Act%2096-434.pdf). I wish I could get Blue Cross Blue Shiled Slect Blue with zero deductable with the tax payers paying for it. It is time for the taxpayers to tell the D219 Board enough is enough and to get the teachers union contract under control.
chicago lampoon April 12, 2011 at 08:38 PM
I counted 6 vacant homes, presumably foreclosures, on one side of Howard St. during a recent walk. In light of the palpable economic crisis, where is the shared sacrifice on the part of the education establishment? Here is a complete list of HS Dist 219 salaries for 2010. You are paying for an education-based economic elite: http://chicagolampoon.blogspot.com/2011/02/niles-west-hs-and-niles-north-hs-fatcat.html
h m April 12, 2011 at 09:24 PM
You are not going to get the Teachers Union to give anything back. They will tell you they have a contract with the school system for x amount of years. When the school system renegotiates the contract the union will hold the taxpayers hostage as usual. I would say that the Board should look at becoming a contract school and get rid the teachers that are unionized.
Earl Weiss April 12, 2011 at 09:36 PM
No need to get rid of the Unions. Simply make a realistic offer. No more blank check for health care. The district will pay up to X% of an employees salary for health care premiums. If this doesn't cover the employees entire premium, any shortfall needs to be paid by the employeee or they get the less expensive plan with higher deductibles and Higher co pays. The board needs to have some cajones and realize the superintendant is not management but labor. No Contract by June 30? Hang out the Help wanted sign and hire replacements in time for the new year. President Reagan did it. I am sure there will be plenty of qualifie applicants lined up for the rates 219 Pays. Don't let the Union hold the kids hostage by not having a contract in plcae and allowing a strike to disrupt the school year.
Janice Cha April 12, 2011 at 11:21 PM
George, thanks for uncovering this story about overpaid consultants. Stories like this make Patch such an invaluable resource for the community. AND shines much-needed light on financial mismanagement.
kj April 13, 2011 at 11:37 AM
I agree that spending at 219 is out of line and severly misguided. It has left a horrible taste in the mouths of taxpayers when it comes to funding education. Maybe students would arrive at the high school better prepared if taxpayers were more willing to give some of that money to the feeder districts that are struggling and in need versus the big bully down the block that squanders and then cries wolf. However, Clark Kent says: They want salaries that are higher than manufacturing and commercial executives who have to show a product at the end of the day. They do have a product to show at the end of the day. Our most precious commodity. The next generation of young adults to face the woreld and tackle it's issues with creative, innovative ideas and technologies. Good quality, effective teachers are worth more than any executive out there. The million dollar salaries of one corporate CEO or star athlete could educate thousands of children and in my eyes be money, better spent. This school board needs to be more diligent and focused on the true needs of students and align there curriculum and spending to reflect their vision. Spending needs to be student centered and quit going into pet projects and the pockets of political allies.
Earl Weiss April 13, 2011 at 11:45 AM
>>Maybe students would arrive at the high school better prepared if taxpayers were more willing to give some of that money to the feeder districts that are struggling and in need << HAven't analyzed all districts but I don't think this is the problem. 73.5 gets plenty of money. They built an addittion tey didn't need. They scammed the taxpayers about 12 years ago by passing a tax increase to funf capital improvements. They then sat on the $ paying interest not doing expansion or improvemnts. I asked the Business manager and then superintendant why they didn't pay it back if they weren't ging to use it . They said "Oh, we might need it for something". All the while teachers compalined of lack of maintenance and need to upgrade the science labs. They then spent the money on operations. Slam dunk mismanagement/ misappropriation which i told them to their faces. They used money they told the public would be for capital maintenance and improvements for other things, and then cried poor and did another bond for capital improvements and expansion. Bonds should have been retired and taxes lowered which is what they represented. Since taxes stayed the same they figured that's OK. Talk teachers at 219. Talk to Kids. the issue is not with students from Niles Township feeder schools.
kj April 13, 2011 at 12:14 PM
I don't disagree and it sounds as if soemthing was not above board there, but I also know some districts are struggling and fighting for every penny. There is great inequity amongst the feeder districts. Some struggle for funding and referendums they can't pass becasue the high school has alreadyt aken such a huge piece of the pie. Now we hear the need for realignment to a core curriculum. 219 needs to tell the truth. Bottom line is, they need to pass AYP and getting kids to do better in reading and math is where that is measured. Doing more with what they have and utilizing their staff effectively could produce these results without eliminating programs, etc. Articulating a feeder curriculum and supporting an nevironment of teamwork with feeder schools will help students be better prepared for the rigors of high school. There is no unified team. they see it as us/them and they want it all. Perfect example is the charging of fees for feeder schools to hold graduation ceremonies at the high school. Same taxpayers/base, as all the students live w/in the 219 boundries. How can they justify charging taxpayers for use of a facility they own? 219 needs to seeing themselves as a servant, not a king
Clark Kent April 13, 2011 at 01:40 PM
Dear KJ: You're all over the map talking about "inequity amongst the feeder districts," ""supporting an environment of teamwork," and so forth. You amplify your remarks about the gratuitous use of high school facilities for graduation ceremonies. To this latter point, it costs MONEY for the free use, use of one taxing district facility and costs by another. Should NTHS then also allow "free" use of facilities to whatever group you identify as useful? It would be utter chaos; every denominational school could then claim its children who live in the NTHS district should have free use of the building and facilitites. Surprise! IT AIN"T FREE! The are parking concerns, on-site security staff, lights, heat, insurance costs, bonding, clean-up, management assignments, etc. I suspect that you are not familiar with such management and budget items, but rather function as an egalitarian philosopher. "They own." This is really a toughie. There are overlapping elementary districts in NIles Township so by your suggestion students from outside the township would have access to facilities and services from NTHS but the reverse could not take place. Oh, sure. NTHS and elementary schools are "servants." The problem is that these are very, very expensive servants. And they are servants who pretty much mouth the same "articulations" and "teamwork" and related things just like you...things which have been going on for years.
Clark Kent April 13, 2011 at 01:57 PM
Dear kj: I know if an executive is successful because I can measure how many widgets he has produced. I know when agribusiness is successful because I have food on the table. I know if automakers are successful because I can get a new car. These are from the PRIVATE SECTOR of an economy. They are not applicable to the PUBLIC SECTOR of the economy. Here's the old comparing apples and oranges. The economic and social value of a student is not something immediately evidenced; we may have to wait years before such "social investment" is demonstrated, if ever. What you refer to as a precious commodity is obviously the student...but here you go again thinking that it is the elementary schools' fault if children come to NTHS "unprepared" for the rigors of high school! You wrote: "Good quality, effective teachers are worth more than any executive out there." Then why are scores dropping requiring your proposed curriculum realignment. Your notions suggest that students are mere clones produced from an educational factory whose workers should get high salaries. There are average, above-average, and below-average kids. Not all are created equal and so not all will produce the same, however desirous you may thing that would be. As for business executives, I don't have control over their decisions or salaries...it's a private economic matter; I don't have to buy their product if I'm unhappy or dissatisfied. But I do have to buy the product of NTHS.
kj April 13, 2011 at 04:30 PM
I have tried twice to leave comment to no avail. If, fo r some reason they eventually show, I apologize for the duplication
Earl Weiss April 14, 2011 at 11:04 PM
>>Alicia 5:05pm on Thursday, April 14, 2011 Standardized testing should not be a measure of a student's intelligence, or even a school's success, because everyone functions differently and everyone takes a different path. <<< Uh, OK, then what should be the measure? Maybe we should just accept everone's self assesment. Then we could all have warm and fuzzy feelings.
Nobody You Know April 15, 2011 at 12:49 AM
Your sarcastic comment tells me that you perhaps think I'm the kind of loser who cares about self-esteem. I'm just being realistic. I'm merely pointing out - since so many people seem to overlook it - that it's dumb to assume that a school is "failing" because they have a large percentage of kids who are new to the English language, or have dyslexia, or any other reasonable thing. A poor score on the ACT does not mean that a student is stupid, or that the school is doing poorly. My DELUSIONAL generation already thinks too well of itself -- but those warm, fuzzy feelings that my peers think they're entitled to are purely the result of bad parenting. Parents, do society a favor: discipline your kids so they don't turn out like my peers.
Clark Kent April 15, 2011 at 04:24 AM
1. Standardized tests measure whatever they were designed to measure. Intelligence is only one of several hundred measurable "mental" traits. Comparable tests are normed for statistical distribution, and are correlated with other comparable tests for validity and reliability. 2. Transfer of classes, and I am not sure what you specifically mean, is set by regional accrediting agencies; go argue with them. And then go back to the school you came from and complain. 3. Need to learn English? Uh...guess what language is used in the high school? Accomodations? Really? How about students and their parents accomodating to procedures and to the basic rules for participating in society. What is a problem for you doesn't make it a requirement for me to rectify. 4. There has always been pressure on teachers to practice grade inflation...it reduces the number of puffed up parents berating a teacher for not giving their precious little one a higher grade. High grades, no complaints to the principal; no complaints to the principal, monthly love fests at school board meetings. Everybody's happy. Happy! Happy! Happy! And when everybody's happy, salaries for "experience" go up, uP, UP! 5. Yup...parental discipline is needed.
Clark Kent April 15, 2011 at 04:42 AM
Sit out the contracts/employment of current employees. Don't hire their replacements with initial high salaries or preposterous upgrades on longevity and "education." Teachers have tenure after specified years of service, and can be dismissed without offering "cause." DO THE SAME FOR ALL ADMINISTRATORS. Let them be hired at-will and be dismissed at-will. The superintendents and principals have all kinds of power over the evaluation of staff, but boards of education play loose with those definitions when it comes to the rosy relationship the administrators cultivate with board members. They have all kinds of skills to manipulate citizen policymakers and can sling hash as well as any short order cook, used car salesman, televangelist or door-to-door salesman. Since they hire the teachers, let the administrators' bear the brunt if they selected the wrong person. If they hired the "good" teachers, then we should see standardized scores rise, n'est-ce pas? The greatest defenders of high salaried "administrators" and staff are usually those specific individuals, their unions, their so-called professional associations and their families. They get the public's trust, hope and DOLLARS. When people finally wake up and realized they may have been scammed, it's too late.
LR April 16, 2011 at 05:43 AM
Although I am a teacher in the district, I am writing as a parent of 2 sons who attended school in the district from kindergarten through high school. My sons have both graduated and are attending the University of Illinois and Wisconsin. They are both doing very well in school and come home with a greater appreciation for their teachers at Niles West. They tell me that the teachers they had in high school are actually better than the ones they have now. I am grateful for the excellent preparation and guidance my kids were given. It allowed them to attend and be successful at major universities. If a child is willing to do the work, gets support from home and takes advantage of the help available at school, there is no limit to what they can achieve. This is the 3 legged stool of education that people too often ignore in their discussions. Since coming to this district I have been very impressed by the dedication, hard work, imagination as well as positive attitude of the teachers, administrators and support staff. Could things be better? Of course, because things could always be better. But know that we are constantly trying to improve and are willing to invest the time and energy to come up with new and better ways to help students learn and find their way in the world.
Quane April 16, 2011 at 07:41 PM
Unfortunately, you should check out the labor history with District 219 and unions-including the disaster with the Evergreen Park District attempt to union bust this spring.
Skokie Mike April 17, 2011 at 06:17 AM
The problem is, these administrators think they are entitled to something a little extra for having a standout school. I looked up Freeman's salary for 2010 and he was paid $200k for the year. But that wasn't enough! He had to come back and make another $71,350 for making t-shirts? And then the school says he is AFO certified, but, as the article shows, he ISN'T. This shows some serious sloppines on the districts part. Are they making handshake deals there or what? What really concerns me, is that there is probably more corruption like this. $86,100 to consult the man that replaced you? COME ON.
Rea April 18, 2011 at 01:11 AM
We should really ask the question, Why did the Niles North Principal resign this summer with no warning. The Board/Superintendent wanted him gone and "bought him out with a consultant deal". That is the easy way, right? Too bad, Mr. Freeman was a great principal and a honest human being.
Skokie Mike April 18, 2011 at 02:43 AM
Rea: I like how you say "Too bad, Mr. Freeman *was* a great principal and a honest human being." The reason I say that is, if what you suggest is true, then Freeman was wrong in accepting that offer. No back door deals like that should be happening at the taxpayers expense. Never. If that were the case, any image of being a great principal is now tarnished. The district isn't playing with its own money, but the taxpayers. And those in charge and involved have an ethical responsibility to the taxpayers, and not their own, personal interests.
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