Tag: Rosemary Hendricks

Bellwood D88 Hires New Superintendent

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 9:07 p.m.

Featured image: Mark Holder, who was recently appointed as the permanent superintendent at Bellwood District 88. | sd88.org 

During a regular meeting on Nov. 6, the Bellwood School District 88 Board of Education voted unanimously to appoint Mark Holder as permanent superintendent.

Holder, 61, had been serving as interim superintendent since May, when he replaced former superintendent Rosemary Hendricks. The board approved a 4-year, $182,000 contract for Holder, according to district officials.

Continue reading “Bellwood D88 Hires New Superintendent”

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Bellwood District 88 Does a 180

Thursday, August 24, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Nowadays, the climate at Bellwood School District 88 board meetings is a lot more placid than just a year ago — when they were policed by armed, bulletproof vest-wearing security guards hired by former D88 Supt. Rosemary Hendricks.

Continue reading “Bellwood District 88 Does a 180”

D88 Board Fires HR Director Who Worked Two Jobs, Approves Contract for Interim Supt.

BSD88_logo2015Wednesday, June 7, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Last month, the newly configured Bellwood District 88 school board voted 6 to 1 to place Supt. Rosemary Hendricks on paid administrative leave “pending investigation.” Former board president Marilyn Thurmond was the only dissenting vote.

This month, the district’s human resources director, Dr. Kisha McCaskill, got the axe. In addition to her HR job McCaskill had also held down a full-time job as executive director of the Harvey Park District. Her husband, Anthony McCaskill, was the park district board president.

McCaskill is also a member of the Harvey School District 152 school board. As with the Hendricks vote, Thurmond was the only member to vote against McCaskill’s termination. Board member Annie Copeland wasn’t present for the vote.

McCaskill is just the latest casualty of April’s election, when reform candidates Maria Perez, Deborah Giles and Dorothy Clark-Smith won seats to the 7-person school board and upset a board majority that was largely responsible for keeping Hendricks, and the many apparent patronage hires and contracts she and Thurmond oversaw, in place.

Perez, Giles and Clark-Smith have joined with new board president Sondra McClendon — a vocal opponent of Thurmond and Hendricks — in slowly reinstating defunct board policies, terminating employees with apparent conflicts of interest or whose jobs seem to be due to relationships with top administrators — all issues that the three new board members ran on. The district didn’t cite any specific reason for McCaskill’s termination, since it’s a personnel matter.

According to a D88 official, the district has found a temporary replacement for McCaskill but that person hasn’t been formally introduced. The official also said that the Hendricks investigation is ongoing.

In addition to terminating McCaskill, the school board also voted unanimously to authorize a contract for Interim Superintendent Mark Holder, who was instated last month after Hendricks was placed on leave.

This is the third time that Hendricks has exited the district. According to a Cook County Chronicle report, Hendricks has “revolved in and out of the district three times in 10 years, as nine superintendents came and went in 15 years.

“She was first hired in 2007, then resigned with a $75,000 settlement. Hendricks was rehired by the board in 2010, but then fired for misconduct two years later and sued the district, which later settled for $45,000.  Hendricks was brought back as an interim, but then the board bypassed a search and awarded a two-year, $170,000 contract to Hendricks, as parents complained.”

Along with personnel changes, the D88 board, at McClendon’s urging, also reinstated monthly committee meetings that had been discontinued under Thurmond.

“Those meetings were important because a lot of questions we had about bills and other matters could get answered during those meetings,” McClendon said.

The board president added that the committee meetings, which would include all board members, would be dedicated to detailed discussion on action items that would be up for votes at the regular meetings. McClendon said that this would cut short the length of those regular meetings.

The meeting change will start in July, when the board is expected to begin discussion of possibly approving a travel expense control resolution. VFP

Breaking: Bellwood D88 Supt. Put on Paid Administrative Leave

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Bellwood D88 Supt. Rosemary Hendricks, who was placed on paid administrative leave on May 8. | Screenshot of the district’s website, SD88.org 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

During a brief May 8 special meeting, the Bellwood District 88 school board voted 6 to 1 to place D88 Supt. Rosemary Hendricks on paid administrative leave “pending investigation.” Former board president Marilyn Thurmond was the sole dissenting vote.

The board had discussed the pending investigation in executive session before reconvening the meeting.

In addition, the board voted 5 to 2 to appoint Mark Holder, the principal at Roosevelt Middle School, as interim superintendent. Board members Thurmond and Annie Copeland were the two dissenting votes.

The board adjourned the meeting shortly after the votes.

This development had been anticipated by many in the district after new board members Deborah Giles, Maria Perez and Dorothy Clark-Smith, all members of the Bellwood Education Dream Team slate, won seats on the school board.

The new members were all vocal opponents of the policies and practices put in place under Thurmond and Hendricks, whose leave comes two years after she was hired for a third time in 2014-15 school year. VFP

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A Brief Conversation with New D88 Board President Sondra McClendon

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Thursday, May 4, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The April 4 elections spelled significant change to Bellwood District 88, which has several new executive officers and a new board majority after members of the Bellwood Education Dream Team slate — Deborah Giles, Maria Perez and Dorothy C. Smith — won three of the four open seats on that board.

The successful challengers have allied with incumbent board member Sondra McClendon, a vocal critic of Superintendent Rosemary Hendricks.

Many parents, district employees and community members had singled out Hendricks and former board president Marilyn Thurman, who was reelected to the board in April, “for adding their children and friends to the payroll and awarding contracts to vendors and consultants with whom they have personal connections. They have also spent on travel and perks as administrative costs have grown,” according to an April 2 Chicago Tribune article.

Recently, I spoke with McClendon, now the new D88 board president, about her plans for the new position. Maria Perez was elected vice president and Dorothy C. Smith was elected board secretary.

What’s your vision for the district?

I’m a product of District 88. I grew up here and have been in the community for the past 40 years. When I was coming up, the schools were always prominent. They were good and I just want to bring that back. I want to establish a foundation and give our children a head start to make sure they are successful. In the past, they’ve been robbed of that opportunity and we just want to bring order back to the district for their sake.

What are some specific changes the new board majority will make under your direction?

One of the biggest things I saw happening in the past was a lack of accountability. We really want to make people accountable in the district. There are a lot of policies in the district that are antiquated and need to be revised and revisited.

One of them is our nepotism policy, which was removed years ago. We want to bring that back and get that re-established. We also want to change our spending policies.

There was a lot of controversy about the superintendent’s hiring of security guards to watch the administrative offices. Will that change?

It is a fact that, at the middle school, we do need security, but at the administration building, security is not needed. We’re going to review this and evaluate the need. But it’s definitely not needed at the administration building.

Anything else the community needs to know now that the election is over?

The race has been won but now the real work begins. In that work, we’re still going to need the community to come out and be actively engaged and support us in the mission of what we’re going to do. It really does take a village. We can’t do it on our own. We need the support of the district going forward. VFP

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MFA AD_April 2017

Residents Question Bellwood School Dist. About Hiring — Tribune

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Bellwood District 88 Supt. Rosmary Hendricks | Chicago Tribune

Thursday, July 21, 2016 || Originally Published: Chicago Tribune || 7/19/16 || By Erin Gallagher 

About 30 residents attended a Bellwood District 88 school board meeting Monday for a heated discussion about the district’s spending and leadership.

Board members and Superintendent Rosemary Hendricks listened for nearly an hour as about a dozen people spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. The room was deeply divided with about half of the speakers supporting Hendricks while the others demanded answers about hiring her two daughters and district spending.

Many cited last week’s Chicago Tribune report that detailed perks for the superintendent, thousands of dollars in spending on trips to education conferences, and hiring practices. The district is deep in debt, and basic school supplies in some classrooms remain scarce.

Resident Della Hayes blamed the board for not knowing its role, accusing members of “combative behavior.”

She said the public is being “hoodwinked and bamboozled” by the Tribune report and “nobody’s talking about education.”

There were several jeers from the audience, including one attendee who shouted “clown show” while the board bickered during the meeting.

Drena LaNier, a former board member, said Hendricks “has done a fantastic job.”

She dismissed the district hiring Hendricks’ daughters.

“Everyone else does it,” LaNier said. “They’re qualified.”

Hendricks’ daughter Brittnay Atkinson was hired last year to fill a new student service coordinator job. At $70,000 a year, her salary was higher than those of 87 percent of teachers in the district. Atkinson has a bachelor’s degree in communications disorders from St. Xavier University and one year of experience as a teacher’s aide and special education assistant, her job application said.

Hendricks’ other daughter, Jocelyn Hendricks, who has an associate degree and is a licensed practical nurse according to her job application, was hired to fill a $78,500-a-year job as a district nurse.

The Tribune previously reported that the district in September paid about $105,000 to replenish a pension account for Hendricks’ that she had drained years ago.

To read more of the report, including Hendricks’s statement to the Tribune that she has “paid over $30,000,” click here.

On July 12, the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board chimed in on the Bellwood D88 situation. Click here to read it. VFP

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Bellwood School District Spends on Travel, Perks While Deep in Debt — Tribune

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Bellwood District 88 Superintendent Rosemary Hendricks | Chicago Tribune

Monday, July 11, 2016 || Originally Published: Chicago Tribune || By Angela Caputo

Money in Bellwood School District 88 is tight. The district is steeped in debt, and many of the students come from low-income homes. The classroom basics — such as paper and calculators — are often paid for by teachers or through fundraisers, said PTA leader Maria Perez. Tablets or new textbooks are just a dream.

But that hasn’t stopped leaders in the west suburban district from giving perks to the superintendent or traveling to conferences in five cities in less than a year. Nor has it curbed family hiring on the taxpayers’ dime.

Compensation, travel bills and other expenses found by the Tribune in a series of open records requests raise new questions about spending in the troubled school district. Previous Tribune investigations found the district cycled through more superintendents than any other in the region in recent years, and it was mired in legal bills that, on a per-student basis, were among the highest in Chicago’s suburbs.

Questions about the spending were referred to the school board president and District 88 attorney, neither of whom responded.

Meanwhile, student achievement continues to slide in the elementary school district. Teacher turnover grew over the past two years at a rate higher than 95 percent of districts in the Chicago area, state education records show. The personnel changes, from the superintendent post on down, have led to lawsuits, payouts and tension between administrators and the community.

“Your personnel matters are touching my tax dollars and affecting my property values,” Bellwood resident Arnetta Watkins told the school board during a meeting last week.

Hiring

Children of both Superintendent Rosemary Hendricks and school board President Marilyn Thurman were added to the district’s payroll during the last school year.

Hendricks’ daughter Brittnay Atkinson was tapped last summer to fill a new student service coordinator job. At $70,000 a year, her salary was higher than those of 87 percent of teachers in the district.

According to Atkinson’s job application with the district, she has a bachelor’s degree in communications disorders from Saint Xavier University and one year of experience as a teacher’s aide and special education assistant.

Hendricks’ other daughter, Jocelyn Hendricks, who has an associate degree and is a licensed practical nurse according to her job application, was hired to fill a $78,500-a-year job as a district nurse. Last month, the school board agreed to keep her on over the summer as well — at a cost of $48 an hour.

Thurman’s son Ferrell Wells was hired as a bus assistant. Thurman’s daughter Carmen Jefferson-Thurman was hired as a lunch supervisor and building assistant.

“There is no nepotism policy — not that I know of,” Hendricks told the Tribune in June. “Is my daughter not qualified?” She declined to comment on whether anyone else applied for the positions.

Hendricks’ and Thurman’s children could not be reached.

During last week’s meeting, resident Deborah Giles chided the School Board for the district’s hiring practices. “You make bad decisions for this village,” she said. “Everything I’ve seen so far is hiring and firing. You’re trying to take over jobs. Everyone is trying to get a piece of the pie.”

Bonuses

Giles was among the taxpayers who gave district officials an earful at a Tuesday board meeting after the Tribune wrote about a $105,503 payment the School Board approved to replenish a retirement account that Hendricks personally cashed out years ago.

District 88’s attorney said previously that Hendricks is required to repay the money to the district. But documents obtained by the Tribune last week show Hendricks is six months behind on the repayment agreement, which was adopted in September 2015 when District 88 paid the Illinois Teachers Retirement System on her behalf. As of May, Hendricks had repaid $7,300.

While Hendricks has 36 months to repay the district for the $105,000, there are only 12 months left in her $175,000-a-year contract. If she leaves the district, or is not rehired next year, there is no recourse for recouping the money, which, according to the agreement, “shall be considered compensation for services and part of the superintendent’s severance.”

The added contribution would increase annual pension benefits to $77,000 from an estimated $14,000 under TRS’ benefits formula. Hendricks, 66, is now eligible to retire with the pension benefits of someone who has paid into the system for 25 years, though, as of last year, she had paid into it for only 41/2 years. Taxpayers across the state will pick up the tab, potentially for years to come.

Board members declined to comment on whether they read the terms of the agreement before approving it in September.

“When we were coming in as new board members, there were a lot of things presented to us,” said board member Patricia Crawford, who ran on a reform ticket and was sworn in on the Bellwood school board in the spring of 2015. “I’m just going to say I’ve learned you have to do your research.”

The Tribune found the pension perk isn’t the only sweetener the school board added to Hendricks’ compensation.

Last July, the School Board approved paying Hendricks for 18 days of her 24-day vacation time. In June, before the same school year ended, the board approved paying her an additional 15 days of unused vacation time.

Hendricks said the initial payment was compensation for her first nine months on the job when she worked for $750 a day as interim superintendent. However, there was no vacation time provided in that initial contract, district records show.

In all, the board approved paying Hendricks for 33 vacation days. The extra nine days on top of her 24 days per year amounts to an estimated $5,800 bonus.

Last year, auditors dinged the district because “Vacation and sick days are not tracked on a consistent basis” and noted other problems with record-keeping.

Travel

While Hendricks was paid as if she didn’t take off a single day last year, she did travel extensively on the district’s dime.

Over the months from March to November 2015, the superintendent and a handful of board members spent more than $20,000 on trips to Las Vegas; Nashville, Tenn.; Savannah, Ga.; Phoenix; and Washington, D.C. That didn’t include the $8,300 in per diem reimbursements for related dining and travel expenses. Or the thousands more spent that year on stays in downtown Chicago hotels and per diems while attending local conferences.

The travel expenses were gleaned from district credit card statements and financial reports that, in some cases, did not show reasons for travel or length of stay. District officials forwarded all questions to attorney Michael Castaldo Jr., who did not respond to questions last week.

Crawford, the only board member to respond, said all new board members are required to complete three training sessions. She opted to attend only local conferences in Chicago.

The first trip on last year’s travel itinerary was in March, when Hendricks, board President Thurman, Secretary Dorothy Clark-Smith and then-board members Daisy Allen and Janice Starks attended a three-day National School Boards Association conference in Nashville. Taxpayers picked up the $2,499 tab for airfare, district credit card records show. Accommodations at the Embassy Suites cost $3,554. When the group returned, the district cut them $2,700 worth of checks to cover per diem reimbursements for food and travel expenses.

Under district policy, employees are required to submit “an itemized list of actual expenses with receipts attached” for reimbursements. Yet board members and Hendricks were routinely reimbursed in round numbers that averaged out to between $150 to $300 a day, financial records show.

Just 3 1/2 weeks later, Hendricks was reimbursed $750 more for per diem expenses for attending a three-day conference. That week, district employees flew to Phoenix. In addition to airfare, accommodations and per diems, the district paid for a $348 bill at a steakhouse.

To read more, click here. VFP

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