Lake Forest superintendent Dr. Harry Griffith’s Retirement Package-Over-the-Top

March 17, 2011

To complement Superintendent Harry Griffith’s lavish salary and compensation package, the Boards of Education for Lake Forest School District 67 and High School District 115 agreed to a lucrative retirement package to carry Mr. Griffith into his sunset years.

Just to recap from the prior two installments, Harry Griffith is the second highest paid Superintendent in the State of Illinois, although he doesn’t seem to have the level of challenge or responsibility other Illinois Superintendents have. Furthermore, the benefit package Mr. Griffith receives from the School Boards exceeds that of many executives in the private sector who live in our community. Mr. Griffith is a civil servant and paid by taxpayer dollars. This distinction seems to be lost on the 14 members on both Lake Forest School Boards who agreed to Mr. Griffith’s retirement package. In the public sector where taxpayer dollars are being used, there is no place for such lavish compensation packages.

Retirement Contract
Mr. Griffith announced his retirement in the summer of 2010 to become effective June 2012. He will collect over $300,000 every year from the Teacher Retirement System in Illinois with guaranteed increases of 3% per year every year thereafter. In addition, he has a lavish annuity of hundreds of thousands of dollars that the school district has purchased for him over the years to augment his retirement income.

Health/Dental Insurance—According to his retirement contract, the Boards of Education of Lake Forest School District 67 and District 115 will continue to pay the full cost of hospital, surgical, major medical, and dental insurance to Mr. Griffith and his family until October 31, 2015. It is most unusual that there are no stipulations as to the maximum cost, the number of plans or any coverage limits in the contract.

Last year alone, Mr. Griffith’s insurance cost the Lake Forest schools and taxpayers $20,000. It is common practice for employees to bear some burden for the rising costs of health care, but Mr. Griffith pays zero dollars to care for himself and his own family-despite his extraordinary compensation. Considering he will be collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars per year (retirement + annuity) of taxpayer money, why did the school board give taxpayer money away so excessively?

In addition, beginning November 1, 2015, the Board shall annually reimburse Mr. Griffith up to $300 per month for any retirement medical insurance or supplemental plan of his choice for up to ten years. Lake Forest schools employed Mr. Griffith as Superintendent. Once he retires, shouldn’t he be responsible for his own coverage like most other Americans when they reach retirement? This commitment seems to be an excessive, undue and an unnecessary burden on our taxpayers.

Life Insurance– The Board provides Mr. Griffith a term life insurance with a benefit of $1 million on his death. This policy continues into his retirement until his 65th birthday, five years from now. Once Mr. Griffith retires, do taxpayers owe him anything beyond his retirement package?

Automobile—As they would say on Let’s Make a Deal, what’s behind door number 3? Mr. Harry Griffith gets a car on the day he retires– a car that the district currently leases for him. Are the two Lake Forest School Boards forgetting that the car Mr. Griffith drives belongs to the Lake Forest Schools and our community of taxpayers? My dear readers, is it right to give a parting “gift” such as an automobile to a civic employee on retirement? Whatever happened to a gold watch? The similarity to the Highland Park Recreation Center scandal of last summer must have had little impact on our Board members.

Home Loan–$75,000 home loan completely forgiven.
This home loan was offered by the District 67 Board of Education to enable Mr. Griffith to purchase a home in Lake Forest, the community where he works.. When unfortunate personal matters required him to sell his Lake Forest house, year after year, the Board continued to forgive the loan even though he relocated to another community–Fort Sheridan. Taxpayers, why have the School Boards continued to forgive the loan even though Mr. Griffith failed to comply with the loan’s original intent?

A matter of trust.
During winter 2010, Mr. Griffith stated publicly in the local press and in a statement signed February 2010 that the School Boards had held administrative salaries flat for both District 67 and District 115 during 2008-09 and would continue to do so again for 2009-10. The Truth: Mr. Griffith received a 6 percent increase to his compensation package across the board for both years.

Source: GAZEBONEWS 2/10: “I know that in my case, I am paid above average for my peers, but each school board is paying far less in actual costs because my compensation is divided in half,” Griffith said. “They are paying less today for one superintendent than they did 10 years ago for two.”
Griffith said District 67 reduced its total staff last year by eight positions, two of which were full-time administrative positions. The board also agreed to freeze administrative salaries with the exception of retiring administrators. And he said that in 2010-11, the administration will lose one full-time position.”

The Facts: Mr. Griffith is not retiring until 2012 and had not announced retirement when he made this statement. Is this more double speak and clever answers from our Superintendent? Furthermore, ten years ago, the two superintendents were compensated as follows: John Lamberson made $178,600 and Harry Griffith made $159,500. Total Compensation was $338,100 ten years ago for 2 Superintendents. Compensation last year at the time of that quote was $348,500. So in fact, Lake Forest was paying more last year for Griffith alone than we were paying for 2 superintendents ten years ago. This year we are paying $364,861–in excess of what we paid for two.

Readers, when Mr. Griffith is asking for patience and sacrifice from his own workforce, shouldn’t he himself exhibit those same qualities? Our teachers are asked to make sacrifices so is it wise for Mr. Griffith to continue to prosper? However, the ultimate responsibility for the contract lies with the School Boards and their Presidents, who negotiated and signed these contracts and those before them. As part of my transparency initiative, I urge my fellow community members to ask questions about how taxpayer money is being spent by contacting those who sit on the board. You can attend the next monthly School Board meeting for:
District 67 on March 22nd or
District 115 on April 12th, at 7:00 p.m.
at the West Campus, 300 S. Waukegan Rd, Lake Forest,
to stay informed on these and other important issues.




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