Cairo Association of Teachers - Eye on the Board

The CAT is Watching

This page was begun in March, 2002, as it became apparent that the Cairo Board of Education was "pulling out all stops"...and would stop at nothing in asserting its power. The CAT felt that one and all should be made aware of the BOE's machinations. CAT's watch continued through December, 2003, as the BOE went through a "transition period" following the "Strike of 2002". Fortunately, things have since calmed down and the watch has been "suspended"...

  • December 16, 2003 - Unable to let it a desperate effort to save face...the Cairo Board of Education (upon the advice of its attorney and the recommendation of the superintendent) votes to issue a "Notice to Remedy" to a 27-year employee for joking with a student, despite the findings of its own selected doctor. Of course, these are the same folks who cancelled 17 days of school because the teachers would lose more money than they would! Even the hindsight of losing control of the District to a financial oversight panel has not altered their perspective. It's all about settling scores...even when THEY started it! Will they never learn?
  • December 4, 2003 - "Terrorist teacher" is allowed to return to work when District doctor concludes that the incident was, in fact, a originally asserted by the teacher and confirmed by the witnesses. Unfortunately, the damage has been done. A teacher with 27 years of satisfactory service to the District has suffered suspension and slander. A financially strapped District has wasted thousands of dollars.
  • November 25, 2003 - Teacher makes second trip to District doctor for making a joke that was construed by someone - a week later - as a terroristic threat. The teacher took a battery of demeaning tests and must await the results. However, he did receive some immediate news of interest. According to the District doctor, the witnesses to the teacher's "terroristic threats" was a joke!
  • November 19, 2003 - "Terrorist teacher" makes required trip to District doctor in Belleville, Illinois. The "joke" was on the teacher...the District failed to send background materials to the doctor! The appointment had to be rescheduled!!!
  • November 7, 2003 - "Joking teacher" receives letter from Superintendent...ordered to report to a District-selected doctor for a medical evaluation!
  • October 27, 2003 - District teacher with 27 years of satisfactory service suspended for joking with a student! He was escorted to his room to retrieve his belongings...although the joke had been made a week previously...AND...he had been allowed to teach the remainder of the day after confirming "incident" to the principal prior to the beginning of school! If he was so dangerous...
  • June, 2003 - Rumor has it that a certain employee recently received payment of $5,000 in a time when other employees are being told that they will have to perform additional duties in order to "absorb a RIF position" - additional duties during their regularly scheduled day...with no overtime!'s good to be the king...uh...queen!
  • June, 2003 - Ilene Pierce, Director of Finance and Payroll, tells employees that lump-sum payments will AGAIN have too much Federal and State tax held out...despite specific contract language to the contrary! REASON: "That's the way the computer does it, so that's they way it will have to be!"
  • May, 2003 - Cairo BOE fires CHS Principal Carl Riley...2 months before his announced retirement! His "crime"?...Trying to get the Board to schedule graduation sometime other than the middle of Memorial Day weekend! How dare he! I mean the dreaded teachers have been trying to do that for years...
  • April, 2003 - Cairo BOE RIFs 55 employees, including 25 certified employees. Move leaves some teachers scheduled to have as many as 63 students in their class next year...despite a contract limit of 30!
  • December 19, 2002 - Ilene Pierce, Director of Finance and Payroll, informs the Board of Education that ISBE has advised her that the District should request a Financial Oversight Committee...that it would "look better" than if the state simply came in and took over. During the discussion that followed, Superintendent Isom "seconded that emotion"...that with the "take over" would come money. Whoa...first the Board of Education wants to turn over the high school...and then the junior high outside management. Now, the Board of Education is considering turning over financial management to ISBE...although who could argue with that move, considering their track record? (I bet that ISBE would not have advised throwing away $100,000 of District money to punish striking teachers...and then complain about a shortage of funds!) this rate...what is going to be left for the Board of Education to do? Are they possibly recognizing...what others recognized long ago...that the management of Cairo School District Number One is beyond them???
  • November 18, 2002 - The superintendent was scheduled to recommend that Julie Newell's employment with Cairo School District Number One be employment spanning 34 employment recognized as superior by supervisors and fellow employees alike! President Joe Griggs pre-empted that action by making the motion himself...a little "personal touch/animosity". The members of the Cairo Board of Education eagerly approved that recommendation by a 6-0 vote...speaking up for a change instead of mumbling. (Board member Arnold Burris was absent.) This action came as no surprise...especially since the District advertised her job on the mailed out-of-town vacancy list in August...and then quickly withdrew it when the hearing had to be rescheduled. To emphasize the "kangaroo court" nature of the "hearing", Board Attorney Barney Mundorf told Julie's attorney at the end of her presentation that the Board would make the decision that night...this without any consultation with the Board or much for a fair and impartial hearing! The termination hearing had been rescheduled from August 22, 2002, at the request of Julie's attorney and rheumatologist...Julie's lupus condition had flared due to the associated stress...something her doctor warned the District about back in January! In fact, Julie's doctor had to resume her chemotherapy treatments despite his fears of resultant malignancies. The District "graciously" granted an extension...although Julie had to agree that the termination hearing would proceed - with or without her presence - on November 18th. Julie was suspended WITHOUT PAY on January 10, 2002. Her crime(s)...she was hospitalized over the Christmas holidays...allegedly did not notify her supervisor (which, by the way, was "my job")...and did not complete a lunchroom form - a form which she repeatedly requested for two months, but was not provided. After a 3-month investigation...a four-page listing of alleged "sins" ranging from not paperclipping forms together, not putting a date on a form, and being absent for medical checkups and rehabilitation! Horrors! I mean...think REEEEEEAL hard now...have you ever heard of any other employee in Cairo School District Number One who has done anything worse? How long were they suspended...WITHOUT pay? How many of these employees were recommended for termination? How many were terminated? You catch my drift? Why the differential treatment? Would it be because Julie filed an EEOC complaint against CSD #1 for failing to provide reasonable accommodation for her lupus condition...a recognized disability under the American With Disabilities Act? The Board bargaining team even demanded that the CAT "sign off" on a contract provision that would preclude Ron Newell from filing a grievance or unfair labor practice charge due to any action taken against his wife. Does something smell rotten to you? (For more on this topic, read the November 12th, 19th, and 24th editions of the CAT Tracks.)
  • November 12, 2002 - School is dismissed early in order to hold a District-wide meeting in the CHS cafeteria. During this meeting, ISBE representative Sheryl Poggi gave a PowerPoint Presentation of the findings and recommendations made by the 16-member state visitation team on October 9th and 10th. After listing various factors that would indicate the extreme difficulties faced by educational personnel in CSD #1 and which clearly showed that the situation in Cairo is NOT normal for Illinois...such as a 65% unemployment rate and an 80% welfare rate...Ms. Poggi proceeded to show a slide that indicated that the high school would be "restructured" at the end of this year...possibly being run by the Edison Corporation, the Sylvan Learning Center, or operated as a charter school. The junior high school was slated for the same fate at the end of next year! During the high school "break-out" session, Ms. Poggi was asked why the high school had been targeted for this year when the junior high had received all the publicity this past summer of being labeled a "choice school". Her answer was instructive and to the point..."Your Board of Education said that something needed to be done about the high school immediately." Talk about heavy-handed union busting! The Board and administration have (very publicly) labeled the high school teachers as "union radicals" for years. defiance any guidelines and procedures...ISBE yields to a District "request" to get rid of their "problem" at the high school. (For more on this topic, read the November 15th and 24th editions of the CAT Tracks.)
  • November 1, 2002 - CAT is forced to file a grievance on behalf of a bargaining unit member who has yet to receive any portion of her retroactive pay. This member was forced to go on leave of absence last year due to medical problems...but is still BY THE DISTRICT'S OWN ADMISSION an employee on continuing service...just like you! However, the District states that she is not entitled to any money for last year...WRONG! In fact, in researching this case, it was discovered that she is also due an additional day of pay for last year...because of the additional "12th" sick day that was negotiated for the 2001-02 school year. Actually, the District considers itself VERY generous...the Board of Education states that it will give her the money...IF SHE WILL RESIGN. Now...isn't that special?!
  • September 26, 2002 - Cairo Board of Education approves payment to Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton & Taylor, Ltd. (i.e. BARNEY MUNDORF) of $21,835.26 for ONE MONTH of legal services!
  • July 31, 2002 - The Superintendent lays blame for the exclusion of newly promoted CATs from "severance pay" at the feet of the CAT. A total lie! The concept of severance pay came about when the Board team wanted to exclude all persons who had left the District from receiving any compensation. The CAT team objected, whereupon, the Board's attorney drafted the severance pay language. When the CAT reviewed the language, it noticed and objected to the specific exclusion of recently named adminstrators. Despite continued objection and an appeal to reconsider by the CAT, the Board team insisted upon the exclusion...and now wants to blame the CAT. If the Board of Education and administration of CSD #1 are going to continue to be "big and bad", they should at least accept responsibility. And they wonder why no one ever believes what they have to say. "Trust us?"...I don't think so!
  • July 17, 2002 - The Cairo Board of Education issues a press release to The Cairo Citizen indicating that it is offering a 6.25% pay raise to teachers for the 2004-2005 school year. What they don't say is that they took away the "4.25%" from their 2001-2002 proposal and shifted it to 3 years from now! So...for last year your salary was cut by 3.75% AND you lost 17 days of pay...and are expected to just "Forget about it!" AND...they will portray you as greedy and unreasonable for not jumping to accept it!
  • July 11, 2002 - Cairo Board of Education approves payment to Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton & Taylor, Ltd. (i.e. BARNEY MUNDORF) of $24,168.63 for ONE MONTH of legal services!
  • June 30, 2002 - Cairo Board of Education "dumps" its recording secretary. Surely it wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that she sent out "thank you" notes on behalf of her family to all CATs at the end of school...stating that "We support you in your endeavors and wish you much success." CSD #1 wouldn't do something like that...would they???
  • June 20, 2002 - Cairo Board of Education approves payment to Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton & Taylor, Ltd. (i.e. BARNEY MUNDORF) of $27,311.37 for ONE MONTH of legal services!
  • June 19, 2002 - Overheard at a local ball field last week...A current Cairo school board member encouraging students to go to school elsewhere next fall...that Cairo Public Schools will not be opening until October or November!
  • June 15, 2002 - After the superintendent states that central office personnel mistakenly took it upon themselves to dock all teachers a sick day (and for some a day's pay) because of the 17-day strike, the District further violated the contract by refusing to reimburse the docked teachers in a timely fashion...AND...refused to schedule a required grievance hearing over the issue...a 3-for-1 deal!
  • June 12, 2002 - A current CSD #1 administrator telling CATs that if they go out on strike next year...they will be fired!
  • May 22, 2002 - Speaking for the Board...Attorney Barney Mundorf tells The Southeast Missourian "Can this district afford to lose $102,000? Absolutely not. But by our calculations, the cost will be greater to the teachers in 17 days of lost pay."
  • May, 2002 - Board of Education says "We have no money...the money is just not there", but throws away $102,000 of state aid rather than spend $34,000 to settle a contract with teachers.
  • April 28, 2002 - Board of Education distributes teacher salaries to public at a meeting supposedly called to prepare for the education of 8th Graders and Seniors.
  • March, 2002 - Board of Education cites economic problems and RIFs twenty-seven (27) employees, but then moves to increase the number of administrators.