Thorner: Nothing personal, but do we really need that Dist. 115 consulting job?

July 26, 2013

 

With little discussion and just one dissent, the District 115 School Board approved on Tuesday, July 11, for the 8th year in a row a consulting contract for the retired Lake Bluff Middle School principal (District 65), Ms. Kathy O’Hara. Ms. O’Hara’s contract is for the position of Student Service and Community Coordinator at Lake Forest High School, a position that did not exist prior to her retirement and that was seemingly created just for her by prior superintendent Dr. Harry Griffith.

 

The lone dissenter, Board member Ted Moorman, is new to the Board and ran on a platform of greater accountability for spending of taxpayer funds. Mr. Moorman raised the issue as to the need for O’Hara’s position, as she replaced no one when she was hired as a consultant in 2005. In the future, other Board members should follow Mr. Moorman’s lead and vote against consulting contracts such as Ms. O’Hara’s that are of marginal need and add to the already bloated administrative staff of Districts 65 and 115.

 

There is no question about Ms. O’Hara’s fine reputation and service to the community of Lake Bluff.  A Gazebo post dated July 21 of this year noted an event at which Lake Bluff Village President Kathy O’Hara (as of May, 2013) would be one of the featured speakers — along with the Lake Forest Mayor Donald Schoenheider– on July 23rd at the annual Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce Municipal Undate: Lunch with the Mayors at the Deer Path Inn.

 

In the Gazebo article Miss O’Hara was described accordingly:

Nonetheless, the question remains whether the perpetuation of Ms. O’Hara’s consulting position is a prudent use of taxpayer funds, particularly in these hard economic times.  Although compensation for O’Hara’s ten-month a year consulting contract at $53,000 is far less than that of other lofty administrative salaries in our school districts, it is still a very significant amount of money (top 50% of all wage earners) for a job that appears to be of marginal need and one that is duplicative of existing LFHS positions.

 

Ms. O’Hara and her paid part-time assistant perform a variety of service-related duties.  They provide students with a list of school and community volunteer opportunities and log students’ service hours. However, these duties are duplicative of, and certainly could be absorbed by, the five LFHS student service clubs, each of which has one or more teacher advisors who are paid extra for that role.

 

Moreover, if we are trying to teach our children that volunteerism is laudable, then why not set an example by having the adults who are organizing/supervising volunteer activities be volunteer themselves?  There is no shortage in this town of parents who are willing to volunteer their time for school-related activities.

Ms. O’Hara and her assistant also organize a once a year Service Award Banquet and a once a year career day (10% of the student population participated this past year, up 30% from the prior year).  The planning of these events could be absorbed by one of the many student clubs or by parent volunteers.

 

Ms. O’Hara is also the advisor of the peer tutoring club and the co-advisor of three other clubs.  A teacher could assume the role of advising the tutoring club and the other three clubs could function adequately with just one paid advisor.  All over the country teachers and other core school employees are being laid off (e.g., as close to home as Chicago). We simply do not have the luxury of sustaining a marginal job, even if it is for a person such as Ms. O’Hara who has served the community very well for many years.

 

Of interest is that Ms. O’Hara is drawing a yearly pension of $123,328 from her 36-year tenure at Lake Bluff Middle School, while at the same time she is receiving compensation for her consulting position at LFHS.  Ms. O’Hara is not the only consultant drawing both a salary and a pension.  When our school system is looking to eliminate costs, as it should be, marginal positions held by retirees collecting a pension should be primary candidates for elimination.

 

Again, this author means no slight to Ms. O’Hara’s esteemed status and service to the community.  The author merely advocates prudent spending of taxpayer funds.

 

Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 03:00 PM | Permalink

 

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