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Our View: District 47 taxpayers need answers

Published: Thursday, June 13, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Taxpayers in Crystal Lake School District 47 deserve to know why they could be paying former Superintendent Don Mendoza more than $50,000 in severance and insurance benefits when he no longer works for the district.

Mendoza, who joined the district in 2006 as principal at Lundahl Middle School and was appointed superintendent in 2009, agreed to resign his position last week for undisclosed reasons.

As part of a resignation agreement reached with the District 47 school board, Mendoza received a lump-sum payment of $27,870, equal to two months of his $167,225 annual salary. The district also agreed to pay Mendoza’s family health insurance through June 2014 at a rate of $1,936 a month, or at least until Mendoza finds other employment that offers the benefit.

If the district is on the hook for the health insurance through next June, it will cost taxpayers $23,232.

In announcing the resignation agreement, the district did not say why it was parting ways with its superintendent, who was under contract through June 2016.

In fact, the separation agreement says that neither board members nor Mendoza can “engage in conduct which disparages the others,” and that only board President Jeff Mason and Vice President Rob Fetzner can answer questions about the separation. But even they are limited in what they can say to a statement released last Thursday.

Why all the secrecy?

The board reprimanded Mendoza last fall for an incident in which a Crystal Lake police officer said Mendoza appeared to be intoxicated and asleep in the back seat of his vehicle a short distance from his house.

But Mason said that incident was not a key factor in the separation agreement.

Was there another incident then, one that has not been made public? Were there performance issues with Mendoza that led board members to believe he no longer could be an effective leader?

All taxpayers can do is speculate and wonder why they’re stuck with a bill for potentially more than $50,000 while receiving nothing in return.

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