In 1930, the first full year of the Great Depression, baseball great Babe Ruth wanted $80,000 to play for the New York Yankees. That’s equal to slightly more than $1.46 million today. Sports writers were aghast and told Ruth that it was more money than beleaguered President Herbert Hoover was being paid.
"What has Hoover got to do with this," Ruth allegedly replied. "Anyway, I had a better year."
I bring this up because of the recent publicity concerning the salary of Joyce Carmine, the almost former and not-quite retired superintendent for School District 163 in Park Forest. Within the last week, it has been noted in a Channel 32 television news report that Carmine, who earned $398,229.81 in 2017 before leaving her post, will receive an annual pension from the State of Illinois of $299,235 or about 75 percent of her annual salary.
But there is a down side to all this fiscal generosity. A state law bans retired public employees who draw a pension, from returning to work at the same job for more than 100 days a year. No problem. The 163 school board rehired her as an "interim superintendent" for two years. She now works 100 days. She earns $1,200 each day she works. That adds up to another $120,000 for one year or until Superintendent designate Caletha White takes over on July 1, 2019. White’s salary is $182,462 a year.
What the District 163 school board did is perfectly legal. Numbers were never my strength, but even I can see that Carmine’s part-time salary of $120,000 and that of White is nearly $100,000 less than what Carmine made as a full-time superintendent.
In a television interview District 163 Board president Lance Jefferson said the part-time job for Carmine was a win-win.
"We brought her back because we knew she knew the district and that’s what the board wanted to do as it relates to bring back someone who knows the district," Jefferson said.
The trouble with all of this is that School District 163 is one of the most heavily taxed in Cook County. We pay for schools through our property taxes. Businesses pay more than homeowners, but when there is little commercial activity, the tax levy is made up by the rest of us.
So, if residents are upset about what they hear and read about school finances, the only real option is the ballot box. And when was the last time you voted in a school board election?
That’s what I thought.
Some superintendents in neighboring school districts make far less than Carmine. Blondean Davis, superintendent of School District 162 in Matteson earns $293,000. Kara Coglianese, the interim superintendent of Crete-Monee District 201-U earns slightly more than $191,000.
The U.S president gets a base salary of $400,000. In one sense, Carmine had a "better year" than Donald Trump.
Then there is the case of 56-year-old Troy Paraday, once the head of Calumet City School District 155. There are more than 130,000 educators in more than 900 school districts in Illinois. District 155 serves 1,100 students in three schools. Open the Books, a watchdog group out of Burr Ridge listed Paraday’s salary of $407,154, making him the highest paid superintendent in the state.
This was a story reported in depth in this newspaper by fellow scribe Ted Slowik. I cannot do better but will try to summarize the tale.
When he announced plans to leave before the end of the year, the same television station reported the school district owed him another $762,000 from more than 500 days of unused vacation and sick time accumulated in his reign. Well, not quite.
Paraday apparently claimed payment for 532 unused sick days and 350 vacation days, which amounted to $1,757,229.45. Thank you very much. I’ll take a check, please.
But one week before Paraday could walk away from his job, he was tossed out. On Oct. 25, the school board unanimously voted to fire him, saying he was not entitled to all that money. Among the board’s reasons were that Paraday destroyed records, gave himself a 6 percent raise he did not deserve, fiddled with the 2019 budget, and claimed nearly 2,500 hours of comp time for which he was not eligible.
The board also filed a complaint with the Calumet City police department. Paraday’s lawyer insisted his client did not do anything wrong and the board was merely trying to weasel its way out of "a very good contract."
In addition to his base salary of $400,000, the U.S. president gets an expense allowance of $50,000, a $100,000 non-taxable travel allowance and $19,000 for entertainment. But according to news reports, Trump donates his salary back to the government.