Public Watchdog.org

Time For Heinz To Go

02.25.19

We won’t lie: We were not unhappy to hear back in December that Park Ridge-Niles School District 64’s Superintendent Laurie Heinz had accepted the same position at Palatine School District 15.

When she arrived as an untested rookie superintendent from her position as an assistant superintendent with Skokie School District 68, we “sincerely wish[ed] her well” in our 02.07.2014 post: “Here’s Hoping New Supt.’s Performance Matches Big Contract.” The “big contract” referred to the guaranteed 3-year deal with a starting compensation package valued at $243,000 – approximately the same as the senior/“seasoned” superintendent she was replacing.

The 3-year deal was supposed to give Heinz a sufficient warm-and-fuzzy for the jump from assistant at Skokie to the big chair in Park Ridge. And Board president Tony Borrelli – at that point not yet having been disabused by Heinz of the notion that he was the D-64 “boss” – was already hailing Heinz as “someone who will provide direction, find answers” and help D-64 develop into “one of the highest performing districts in the state of Illinois.”

We doubted she could do that, but we acknowledged in that 02.07.2014 post that, if she did, “she will be worth every penny” the D-64 taxpayers would be paying her. But we did add one caveat that now appears to be prescient, but really wasn’t:

“But make no mistake about it: Ms. Heinz is a mercenary. She does not hail from Park Ridge, nor does she live and pay taxes here. The superintendent’s position is simply a career move for her, not a long-term commitment to this community.”

Not surprisingly, that warning was totally lost on a clueless Borrelli and his six fellow board dwarfs who, a year later – after discussing Heinz’s first year’s performance in a series of closed sessions where the board could hide its questions, comments, opinions and reasoning from the taxpayers – voted unanimously on a one-year contract extension (thereby keeping Heinz’s contract at a guaranteed 3-years) worth more than $250,000, including a $4,000+ raise and additional benefits. We wrote about that in our 06.22.2015 post and our 07.06.2015 post.

By that time Borrelli was smitten like a schoolboy, willing to give Heinz whatever she wanted on the theory that she was such a superstar that no expense should be spared to keep her at the helm, notwithstanding her lapses in judgment, her manipulation and concealment of information (with the assistance of propaganda minister Bernadette Tramm), and the lack of any objectively measurable gains in student academic achievement vis-à-vis comparable districts.

About a year later he and Heinz earned their respective “Who’s The Boss?” and “I’m The Boss!” sobriquets, reflecting the total domination Heinz had achieved over Borrelli who, in turn, exercised similar domination over all of his fellow Board dwarfs until May 2017.

All that is background to the main point of today’s post: Heinz should be relieved of her duties NOW!

Actually, she should have been relieved of her duties the moment the Board discovered that Washington School principal Stephanie Daly and Franklin School Principal Claire Kowalczyk were leaving D-64 and joining Heinz at Palatine D-15.

In the real world (a/k/a, the world of private-sector employment, as contrasted with the fantasyland of public employment), management personnel like Heinz, Daly and Kowalczyk would have employment contracts that contain restrictive covenants that customarily: (a) limit what employment could be accepted if the employee terminates his/her employment; and (b) prohibits the employee from recruiting fellow employees to his/her new employer.

But since D-64 is a public-sector fantasyland instead of the real world, neither Heinz nor the two principals have such restrictions in their contracts. And while Borrelli and his board dwarfs rubber-stamped Heinz’s guaranteed 3-year deal and its annual one-year extensions at the end of the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, they never demanded a reciprocal guarantee from Heinz that she’d remain at the District for the duration of her contract.

Without such restrictive covenants in her contract we can’t begrudge Heinz for proving the truth of our February 2014 warning that she’s nothing but a “mercenary.”

Irrespective of contractual restrictions, however, real-world employees – especially upper-level management employees like Heinz – have common law “fiduciary duties” and “duties of loyalty” to their employer throughout the duration of their employment with that employer. Those duties include acting honestly and with the utmost good faith and loyalty in performing the employee’s job. In the real world of private-sector employment, that means not recruiting away your current employer’s personnel for the benefit of your future employer.

If that’s what Heinz did with Daly and/or Kowalczyk, she should be fired immediately “for cause”; i.e., breach of her fiduciary duty and/or her duty of loyalty to the District.

But even if she didn’t recruit those principals to D-15, there’s no reason to let a mercenary with one foot out the door pointed toward Palatine continue to run the District. As best as we can tell, after five years of top-shelf compensation she has come nowhere close to Borrelli’s fantasy of making D-64 “one of the highest performing districts in the state of Illinois.” So why keep her?

We now know that Heinz is expendable because she has told us so with her resignation. There is no need to treat her otherwise, or to let her hang around as an under-achieving lame duck.

Admittedly mixing our metaphors: The sooner the stable is cleaned, the more welcoming it will be for the fresh horses.

To read or post comments, click on title.

10 comments so far

This is the “take no prisoners” PubDog post that we need more of. 100% spot on and the kind of thing neither the local reporters nor the elected officials have the chimichangas to say or do. Rock on, PW!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks.

The frustrating thing is that the deck is so stacked against the taxpayers that we need H.I.T.A.-committed elected and appointed officials with iron wills and steel spines. Unfortunately, what we get for the most part are pleasers who: (a) want their heads patted and their tummies rubbed, (b) couldn’t spell H.I.T.A. if you spotted them the consonants and let them buy two vowels; and (c) have wills and/or spines of Silly Putty.

So they fire Heinz, great, who does the supt’s job for the rest of the semester? Did you think of that, genius?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Whoever is supposed to be the second in command. D-64 does have a second in command, doesn’t it?

I’m an HR person with the Chicago regional office of a Fortune 500 corporation and I’ve always wondered how the contracts for school superintendents, city managers, park district directors, etc. can be so one-sided in favor of the employee when it’s just the opposite in the private sector.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since you choose to be anonymous, we have no ability to confirm what you claim. But your question is one that any HR or management person who lives within the boundaries of D-64 should be asking loudly and often, so Borrelli and his fellow dwarfs at least realize their nonsense is being watched.

We don’t have any kids attending Washington school anymore; however, when we did have kids attending Washington I can say that Principal Daly was not very good. In fact she played favorites, was inconsistent with how she treated kids, was inconsistent with how she dealt with parents. If she left the school district to go somewhere else, it is an addition by subtraction; at least in my opinion.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There will be several additions by subtraction at D-64 this year, starting with that dynamic duo of Borrelli and Heinz. Too bad for the students, the parents and the taxpayers that it took this long for them to say goodbye.

Who’s in line to become the next school board president once Borrelli is gone after the April election? Biagi?

https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20190214/district-15-fills-two-key-administrative-posts

https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/park-ridge/news/ct-prh-principals-leaving-tl-0221-story.html

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we understand it, there is no legal “line” of succession: When the new Board is seated in May, the 7 members will elect new officers.

But since it won’t/can’t be Borrelli, the possibility of improvement is substantial.

Palatine never would have hired an ass’t superintendent without first clearing it with Heinz. Even if Heinz did not technically “recruit” Kowalczyk, by your description of fiduciary duty and the duty of loyalty Heinz is in breach.

I think Lori Lopez is the back-up if Heinz can’t answer the bell, so the Board should launch Heinz and let Lopez finish out the year. But that will never happen with Borrelli controlling Sotos, Eggemann, Johnson and/or Ryles.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We agree with turning the reins over to Lopez for the next 3+ months, even if it means paying Heinz to sit home and eat bon bons – or start getting acclimated in Palatine.

Makes no sense whatsoever that Heinz is permitted to stay. And to add to the nonsensicalness of the whole situation, she apparently has a say so in the hiring of the four new principals. Really? Yep. The BOE does not hire principals, they only hire the Superintendent. The Superintendent hires principals and staff or so I’ve been told. Now perhaps she can be shoved to the side if the BOE hires a new Supt in March, but that person won’t be officially on board until July 1, so probably doubtful. I’d far rather send Heinz “home to eat bon bons” and let the Assistant Supt or Deputy Supt take over the principal search.

And Heinz’s behavior at the BOE meeting last night was interesting – she’s taking every photo op she can, made sure she was in every photo with the kids who were recognized for Spelling Bee, Science Olympiad and Wrestling so she’ll be on the district website for all the good folks in Palatine to see how wonderful she is. She is a master of Spin and Self Promotion. I hope Palatine appreciates her wonderfulness!

I can’t speak for three of the four principals leaving, but by all reports, Washington parents are doing the “happy dance” with Daly leaving. Word is she will not be missed.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Heinz was made for a place like Palatine D-15, whose clown car school board back in 2016 signed an unprecedented and irresponsible 10-year teachers’ contract that will increase base salaries of some of that district’s highest-paid teachers by 26.2% over the first 4 years, with those teachers receiving a $137,233 salary (for less than 9 months of work) before they retire at the end of the 2020 school year and provide them a pension of $94,511 in their very first retirement year, increasing by 3% each year thereafter:

https://www.dailyherald.com/article/20160526/news/160529092/

You kill me! Heinz resigns effective June and you want to get rid of her now while the district needs to hire a new supt. and new principals. That’s stupid, but that’s what I expect from OldDog.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’d bet the ranch that, once Heinz was certain that Borrelli would not be there to carry her books home from school after the end of this school year, she started heading for the exit and is phoning it in. No need to let her continue her mediocre tenure a day longer.

Throw her out before Borrelli and the dunces decide to give her a raise retroactive to September.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We doubt even Borrelli and fellow Heinz cheerleaders Eggemann and Sotos would risk giving Heinz a retroactive raise, given that we think it’s no mere coincidence that Borelli and the Dwarfs didn’t give Heinz an annual review at the end of last (2017-18) school year.

We think the arrival of four new board members (Biagi, Ryles, Sanchez and Tiu), who may not have been as enamored with Heinz’s act as their predecessors, convinced Borrelli to nix her review out of concern that she wouldn’t get her customary unanimous raves, contract extension and raise.

The teachers at Washington are also doing a happy dance that Daly is leaving.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ll take your word for it, but that could mean several different things – not all of which are good.



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