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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Why Did East Aurora School District 131 "Rush" to Change Retirement Health Insurance That Suddenly Jacked Up Costs? Follow the Coincidences

Aurora, Illinois has become "second to none" for corruption and excuses usually are explained by Mayor Tom Weisner, his old-guard cronies and those who get rich off others that it's all just a "coincidence."

The latest "coincidence" involves East Aurora School District 131, which has gone into full damage control over a controversial and "sudden" change that jacked up health insurance costs for retired teachers.

Over the last few days, we've received dozens of messages from teachers who say not only they are outraged by the excuses made, but they believe there's "more to the story."

District 131 Board President Annette Johnson says there was a "rush" and she admits there's been "poor communication" regarding the situation.

On Wednesday, according to an article in the local fishwrap, the excuse goes something like this:

"In an attempt to calm the fires, East Aurora attorney Bernie Weiler took those who had gathered around the table through a detailed explanation of why the district had no choice but to quickly force these former educators into a much costlier insurance plan.  In the end, it came down to rising costs and the changing nature of the many complex and convoluted insurance plans out there - a problem that was exacerbated by serious bookkeeping issues that led to the resignation of East Aurora's finance director and the firing of his assistant."

However, turns out the teachers may be right and there is MORE to the story...

Recently, East Aurora School District dumped their benefits broker and replaced them with HUB International, which resulted in these changes to plans and "sudden" cost increases.

Back in December 2011, HUB International acquired the J.N. Morcos Insurance Agency Limited (Morcos) of Aurora, Illinois.  It's President, Stephen Morcos, joined HUB's Midwest office based in Westmont, Illinois.

In the spring of 2012, various backchannel discussions were going on regarding a "technology" grant for $660,000 between East Aurora School District 131 and the Dunham Fund, the philanthropic political slush fund run by Bob Vaughan, the former Fox Valley Park District Director, current political mafia boss of Aurora and Mayor Tom Weisner.

The Dunham Fund's also pays certain Morcos family members to oversee over $60 million of assets that were intended for education, but have also been used for "parks" and other projects alleged to be full of corruption and/or coincidences with Aurora and Mayor Tom Weisner.

So, who are the Morcos family members and why should it matter to you?

From Janet Morcos who helps dictate grants from the Dunham Fund to Michael Morcos history with Old Second Bank to Vicki Morcos who works for KDI (interiors and furnishing contracts from police palace to library scheme) to Stephen Morcos, who happens to work for a company that got the contract to handle District 131's retired teachers health insurance costs, the Morcos family is "coincidentally" intertwined with some of the most important members of the political mafia of Aurora and certain deals that happen to "coincidentaly" cost taxpayers and "coincidentally" enrich certain people.

Of course, these could all be "coincidences."

As discussions went forward on the technology grant, it became clear the Dunham Fund was anxious to make sure District 131 got the grant and nobody else.

An investigation by OpenlineBlog has learned a civil war erupted within District 131 over getting the grant paperwork processed with School Board President Annette Johnson blasting Superintendent Dr. Jerome Roberts for failing to make sure the district went through all the motions, paperwork and process to get a grant that had been basically assured.

Ms. Johnson herself got involved and negotiated herself with the Dunham Fund to make sure the $660,000 grant happens.

Meanwhile, Johnson was in a "rush" to change the benefits broker for District 131, which apparently didn't follow an open review process involving teachers and unions, but did create a massive cost increase and lots of upset retired teachers, which she blames on "poor communication."

That change ended up being HUB International, which employs Stephen Morcos, who's family members sit on the board of the Dunham Fund, giving the $660,000 grant.

Of course, like everything in Aurora, this could be yet another "coincidence."


Anonymous said...

Annette Johnson should resign.

Anonymous said...

Jim Rydland should resign they are using the company East fired who overcharges by millions maybe that's why East has money and West does not. Maybe that's why the State calls West Aurora situation the worst rating you can have.

West Aurora does not pay Retirees insurance either so what's the point!!!!

No it's time for the tax payers to ask why are we out of money.

Anonymous said...

The Aurora Way: Where's Mine?

Anonymous said...

maybe D131 shouldn't have dumped $3 million into Weisner's pocket for that Freddy Rogers Community Center building.

Anonymous said...

Morcos family sure seems to have their hands in a lot of bags of candy. Hello Andy Shaw and BGA?

Anonymous said...

Rydland and West Aurora let kids get raped and are moving your insurance rates up because of all the lawsuits on Orland

92 million at East
4 million at West
Who is best in finances

Looks like East is better than West maybe Johnson and Roberts know a little more about a school district than West

Anonymous said...

Hey Annette, how's Roberts doing? Still coming over?

Anonymous said...

Why is Openline not expressing any outrage that East Aurora taxpayers are subsidizing the health insurance for retired teachers? How much is the subsidy?

Anonymous said...

There's a mix in the world of pensions. Some pension plans (like my father-in-law's from Illinois Bell/AT&T) include lifetime health benefits just as an included benefit. Some, like the TRS plan, provide health benefits if the employee has been paying an extra premium throughout their working years. (My daughter informs me the military works this way, too. All veterans can get a basic level of care at Veteran's Administration facilities, but if they want to be able to choose their own doctor or facility, they needed to have been paying into that plan throughout their military career). And then some pensions provide no health benefits at all. In this case, East Aurora taxpayers, through the School Boards they elected, promised these teachers they'd get health benefits when they retired.

Anonymous said...

Other school districts do not provide health insurance either. The insurance teachers get is from TRS. I am glad to see EA become responsible to their taxpayers and not provide insurance. Good for them.

My company does not provide insurance but then again everyone retires at 65 not like the government at 55.

It's called medicare

Anonymous said...

D131 had multiple quotes and the union was involved. I have had this same discussion with union reps from 129 maybe it's time they get quotes. Understand 131 saved a ton.

Anonymous said...

I am impressed $660,000 grant from the Board President.
Annette Johnson is the best thing that happened to that district in years.

Anonymous said...

The grant was not because of Annette Johnson. She just got involved in the politics. I know she writes comments talking about how wonderful she is but that is narcissm. Like Tom Weisner.

I love the excuse by Bernie Weiler, the attorney. They had to raise costs because costs were rising.


Anonymous said...

interesting, coincidences Morcos old second, dunham fund at the old second building, S/D 131 has 93 million? where? city of aurora? maybe old second. would be interesting to know where the money is. follow the money.

we all know that it is none of our business, move along, nothing to see here. Go back to watching american idol.

It is only taxpayer money, kind of like tarp, oops.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the fact the Vicki Morcos was involved in the police palace and now the library deal is a "coincidence." What else is she involved with? Did she or KDI get Waubonsee or D131?

Anonymous said...

East Aurora needs a federal takeover asap. From the clowns in the admin to the clowns on the board, this is a disaster.

Anonymous said...

Some pension plans (like my father-in-law's from Illinois Bell/AT&T) include lifetime health benefits just as an included benefit

Which may be why they downsized so much and have had so many difficulties.

Anonymous said...

Could you imagine what it is like to be an honest but unconnected vendor in this city? It must be frustrating to see the same gang get all the contracts!

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the late Jack Morcos... big time crony of Bob Vaughan and the forgotten Denny Wiggins...corrupt former Aurora Township supervisor and now "manager" of corrupt Joseph Corp.This is where it all starts my friends.

Anonymous said...

Funny Openline, Why are you against the current board Prez.

I had the unfortunate opportunity to attend the East Urora Ed Forum run by the Mayors cronies Richard Irvin, Clayton Muhammed, Dan Barario, and Rick Guzman.

it went like this Bob OConnor is a friend of East Aurora Schools shouts Richard.

As a audience member I submitted a reasonable questions about my taxes, overcrowding, what are we doing to work with the city and not one of them was asked.

It was clear the questions being asked were to cause enbrassment to the current board and its president. Out of the six questions asked all focused on negative topics. The Strand, Montroy, Peryea ticket read from prepared statements as if they where given the questions.

Strand announced the Mayor appointed me to the Spark Board. Why? Is she a educator.

Montroy announced we must support the Mayors buying of the old run down Waubonsee building and build a Technology Center for all Aurora. Why so my taxes can foot the bill.

Peryea, I recently learned is a friend of Mariyn Weisners she works with Hope Wall.

Duermitt gave politcal contributions to Friends of Weisner.

Then their was Vern Lavia who was openly loud about firing Jerome Roberts. See Vern would benefit by The old Waubonsee being developed.

I also learned Roberts and Johnson are not supportive. they don't want myself and others footing the bill. They feel the building should be donated. The City paid fir Waubonsee already and all the parking. You now wonder why the questions, Ray Halls attack and recent Beacon problems have been a problem for Johnson.

I know Annette and she does have Ingrity and the ability to say no.

Ask why does the Wiz have so many of his friends running for

Anonymous said...

Weisner wants Johnson out because she is the only one who has the intelligence, community support, and hootspa to say no and challenge him on many fronts. He also wants to control the $$$. He is playing all his allies to work on Johnson to get her to fall into his trap. Watch out Annette!

Anonymous said...

Lully's story should have included the attempts by Weisner to mess with this race:

— There were plenty of topics the eight candidates for the East Aurora School Board agreed upon at the public forum held Thursday night.

All eight spoke about the importance of transparency, communication, early education, fiscal responsibility and academic excellence. They also agreed the role of the board is to act in a supervisory role, with an emphasis on fiscal responsibility and accountability.

They all concurred any board worth its community’s trust must put the children of the district first.

But just as there were plenty of nods of agreement, there were also obvious ways to differentiate between the four incumbents fighting to remain on a board that’s taken more than its share of PR hits lately; and the four challengers who insist new leadership is essential to an impoverished school district with low test scores, low morale and lack of vision.

An audience of about 200 gathered in Hawks Auditorium at East Aurora High School to hear incumbents Ignacio Cervantes, Stella Gonzalez, Annette Johnson and Richard Leonard tout the many positive programs taking place in the schools; as well as changes in procedures and policies that have been implemented to improve everything from accountability to communication to teacher morale.

The tenor of the forum, sponsored by the Aurora East Educational Foundation, was polite — with the evening’s moderator, Aurora Alderman Richard Irvin, keeping the pace light and on track.

But the challengers, including Zach Montroy, Kirsten Strand, Mary Louise Peryea and Marcella McIntyre-Duermit, called attention to the need for a stronger and more unified board that could build trust, respect and professionalism; with Montroy and Strand specifically calling out the current leadership for its lack of vision and for actions that have led to embarrassing headlines.

The school district has taken numerous hits over the last six months because of bookkeeping problems within the finance department that included thousands of dollars in unaccounted credit card purchases, late fees for utility bills and major discrepancies in health insurance premiums that resulted in the abrupt retirement of the finance chief and firing of the coordinator.

The board also became the focus of negative press after it retracted a policy regarding transgender students that received national headlines. Then there was that nasty name-calling exchange between two board members during a public meeting.

District improvements

But at the forum, the incumbents, especially board President Johnson, stressed that the tide was already turning in policies that have put the district on the right path. She and the other incumbents brought attention to the district’s major accomplishments, including the Fred Rodgers Magnet Academy that will open this coming school year; and a $660,000 grant through the Dunham Fund that will put laptops in the hands of 750 academy students.

Johnson, a business owner and accountant who has taken the brunt of much of the criticism, said the many changes in effect now are in response to 30 years of stagnation by previous boards. Unfortunately, she added, “change creates upheaval.”

Touting technology and aggressive grant writing, Johnson said the goal of the district is to see that every student is given a laptop. “We need to stay the course,” she said.

‘Leadership vacuum’

On the other hand, Montroy, pastor of Ginger Creek Community Church, declared, “We’ve got an issue on our hands.” He called attention to low test scores and the need to give teachers and students the tools they need to succeed, insisting there are teachers who don’t have enough desks, chairs and textbooks.

He called for a fiscal audit, as did Strand, a clinical psychologist who is founder of Community 4:12, a Christian outreach that advocates for justice and equality.

Anonymous said...


Strand spoke repeatedly of a “leadership vacuum” at the highest level, as well as a weakness in curriculum, especially as the district transitions to the Common Core.

She, too, called for a financial audit, adding there is a need to be creative as money becomes tighter.

But Gonzalez, a retired bilingual teacher who was with East Aurora for over three decades, described the district as “very judicious.”

“We have cleaned up our house,” she said, adding that the district is one of the few around that will not have to lay off teachers.

McIntyre, a nurse who says she was motivated to run for the School Board so every child has an “opportunity to be who they can be,” called for a need to focus on teacher support and student/family learning and involvement. To be fiscally responsible the board must plan for the future, she said, as well as pay close attention to finances.

All the candidates agreed school boards must be as transparent as possible, with the incumbents stressing the reason there’s been so many negative news stories is because the board has been doing just that.

“We don’t hide anything,” said Leonard, a retired contractor.

When the board saw problems, he added, it corrected them.

Early education

They all agreed the role of the School Board is to ask questions, make hard decisions and be fair. But the challengers made it clear some board leaders have become too hands-on, taking on duties that should be the job of the superintendent; and, at the same time, not holding the one man they are responsible for hiring not accountable.

The role of the board,” said Strand, is to be sitting “in the balcony,” not on “the floor playing in the game.”

“You need to keep out of the day to day activities,” agreed Peryea, who works with autistic children at Hope D. Wall School. It is not the role of the board, she added to “disempower the administrator.”

They also agreed early education is a priority, including full-day kindergarten.

Peryea, who placed a strong emphasis on programs for younger children in many of her responses, said the district needs to look at critical reading skills, and find ways for the community to embrace children and help them achieve better reading skills.

“We can’t afford to use lack of funds as an excuse,” she said, calling early education the “foundation of success.”

Anonymous said...

Leonard and Gonzalez both noted there was an unsuccessful attempt last year to go after grant funds for such programs. The district will continue to pursue these avenues, they noted, but without additional funding, there is no space to expand existing programs. Leonard insisted that, under absolutely no conditions should the board go back to taxpayers and ask for more money.

Cervantes, an East High graduate and Aurora University student, agreed. With a landlocked district and taxpayers struggling to survive, the board must be aggressive about going after grant money and finding other avenues to cut costs where needed, he said.

Addressing low morale

Communication, all eight candidates agreed, is essential in going forward. It is especially imperative, McIntyre said, that teachers be “part of the process.”

Johnson claimed the district is “turning the corner on morale,” citing teacher surveys and visits to each of the buildings to talk to employees about their concerns.

“Issues are being addressed,” she said, but added even more town halls and newsletters are needed.

Peryea noted the importance of not just asking teachers about their concerns but acting on those concerns so employees believe the district is truly listening.

Montroy suggested more communication is needed with the community, too, which could mean translating board meetings in Spanish and holding those meetings in a larger room to accommodate better attendance.

He and Strand brought up the negative stories coming out of the district that have “deflated and demoralized” the staff. Strand, whose husband teaches in the district, described morale as “at a 30-year low.”


Leonard, while admitting that what the press writes is “not necessarily untrue,” insisted that “sometimes it is slanted.”

Most of the criticism leveled at the board “is not our fault,” Leonard said.

“We are only here for the children,” he said.

Anonymous said...

Openline, THANK YOU for showing some class and removing the spam & obscenities from this thread!

Anonymous said...

Yeah openline, thanks for being a bunch of fucking pussies.

Anonymous said...

Kirsten Strand is absolutely correct that our current board is way too hands on. It creates a multitude of issues.

First, it disempowers the superintendent and other central office administrators (no more than making public comments saying that we need a new superintendent but not hiring one).

Second, it removes the system of checks and balances. If the board is assuming the role of the administrators and running the district. Who is assuming the role of the board and supervising those running the district?

Third, how can you legally hold the superintendent responsible and fire him for poor performance if the board has been assuming the role of the superintendent? He would have a strong legal argument that the board should be ones held responsible.

Finally, as we have seen, the board members have done a very poor job in the superintendent role. There has been one scandal and embarrassing story after another.

With our current board not being able to work cooperatively with anybody, even themselves, it has thrown the district into complete chaos.

There is no doubt, especially with the high caliber of the new candidates, that this is time to clean house.

Between Annette's public fight with Raymond Hull, her insulting every low income resident of District 131, Annette's public statement that she will sue the district if she remain the board president, public statements that the board does read policies before voting on them, she knew about the finance department issues for years but did nothing until the Beacon FOIA'd the records, etc, etc, etc.

The school board has been completely disfunctional since Annette became it's president. She is the first one that must go.

I agree with: March 7, 2013 at 10:12 PM

The community should vote for:

Zach Montry
Kirsten Strand
Marcella McIntyre-Duermit
Mar Louise Peryea
Richard Leonard

Anonymous said...

10:12 you've got to be kidding. Keep Leonard but dump everybody else? Yes this board has not functioned as it should -- but neither have any other boards in recent memory. And perhaps some of the micromanaging (such as Leonard, who you support, getting his buddy hired) has been better than just staying hands off and letting the district fall even farther. Have they been perfect? No. Has some progress been made? Yes. Strand and Montroy BOTH worry me. Unfortunately, at least one of them is going to end up on the D131 board. So I'm supporting Johnson and Leonard, even though I'm not 100% in favor of either of them, because I'd MUCH rather have the 2 of them and EITHER Strand and Montroy than to have BOTH Strand and Montroy. And since I'm having a hard time deciding which of the two of them is the "lesser of two evils" I don't plan to vote for EITHER of them. Just think, if they both get on, we have TWO members of the board who have to recuse themselves on any issue involving faculty pay, benefits, contracts, personnel issues, etc. That's 29% of the board taken out of action on those items.

Anonymous said...

Definately Johnson and Leonard over any of the opposition. The opponents have all kinds of pie-in-the-sky ideas that will be expensive and blithely imply the taxpayers will have to up their ante. Plus all three are in cahoots with the Mayor. Montroy loudly supported the Mayor's Tech Center. Strand was put on the SPARK committee by the Mayor and Peryea is friends with Marilyn. What a nest of vipers!