Additional curiosity in SD 81
SouthtownStar editorial June 7, 2012 9:06PM
Updated: July 9, 2012 6:17AM
We’ve strongly advocated for consolidating government in Illinois, which has far more units of government than any other state, to save money and streamline services. And we’ve targeted one-school districts, a throwback to a simpler era, as among the best candidates.
We mention this because of the surprising hiring of New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann as superintendent in Union District 81, which runs a small school (110 students) outside Joliet and has seen much controversy in recent months.
District 81 is the poster child for school consolidation. It’s tightly controlled by John LaRocca, the longtime school board president who gives new meaning to nepotism by having employed his wife, three daughters and two sons at the district. And his fingerprints are all over the Baldermann hiring.
In looking to replace the retiring superintendent, the school board directed LaRocca to negotiate with the top two finalists, who turned down the post for other jobs. That’s when the board’s role got murky.
Board members said Balderman was ranked fifth among the final five candidates, but LaRocca skipped two others to focus on him. Three members weren’t aware that LaRocca was negotiating with Baldermann, and one described Balderman as being “rammed down their throats.”
Nonetheless, LaRocca got his way, with the board giving Baldermann a three-year contract at $127,000 per year, an excessive salary for running such a tiny district but actually a little less than his predecessor made. See why school administrators don’t want to merge districts and risk losing their jobs?
And Baldermann got the job despite never having held a full-time job in education. He said he does have a superintendent’s certificate that qualifies him for it. A curious choice, but in District 81 logic is not part of the curriculum.
Thursday’s editorial on efforts to pass a pension reform bill erred in saying that state pensioners get free health care coverage. Retirees pay for their health care coverage from the state.