The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Superintendent Dennis Smith tenders his resignation

  • Harrisburg Superintendent of Schools Dennis Smith tendered his resignation effective Jan. 1, 2014, during Tuesday night's school board meeting, a dramatic change for the district at the end of a turbulent school year.
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  • Harrisburg Superintendent of Schools Dennis Smith tendered his resignation effective Jan. 1, 2014, during Tuesday night's school board meeting, a dramatic change for the district at the end of a turbulent school year.
    Since April four of the seven school board members have resigned and four new members have been appointed by the board. Disagreements between Smith and board members were cited as contributing factors to Smith's decision, according to a joint press release distributed at the meeting.
    "It is important to the parties that this is not a result of fault or misconduct, but rather as that the Board rapidly changed to the individual resignations/replacements of four members over the past six months. It would best be described as differences in direction and approach that could not be reconciled," the press release states.
    Despite those differences in direction, the prepared release indicates amicability between the board and Smith.
    "The Board of Education acknowledges Mr. Smith has notable skills in school financial operations and analysis, collective bargaining, policy development and implementation, and media relations and thanks him for his contribution over the years to the Harrisburg Community Unit School District No. 3. In turn, Mr. Smith would like to thank and commend the past and present Community Members, Parents, Board of Education, Administration, Staff and Students for maximizing the success of the students of School District No. 3," reads the release.
    Smith's resignation agreement involves $100,000 in severance pay. That amount includes the $60,000-some in salary owed Smith per his contract from Jan. 1, 2014, until the end of the school year. It also includes a bonus of $30,000 to $35,000 that makes up the difference between his salary owed and $100,000.
    Smith will also be paid for 13 unused vacation days and three and 3/4 unused personal days.
    The agreement calls for the district to also submit 93.8 sick days to the Teacher Retirement System for creditable service.
    The agreement states the board is to provide Smith with a letter of reference.
    Board member Kevin Dowdy voted no on approving Smith's resignation with all other board members voting yes.
    Dowdy and board member Jeffrey Drake voted no on approving the resignation agreement and Board President Tom DeNeal abstained from voting on the resignation agreement. DeNeal Wednesday explained his abstention vote as stemming from a long personal relationship with Smith — seven and a half years of working together — and as he has the final vote that in this case would have made no difference decided not to vote one way or the other.
    Smith was not at the meeting.
    The board set a special meeting for 4:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20 for considering the contract with the Harrisburg Education Association that the union has already approved and for personnel.
    "We will probably appoint an interim superintendent to take over Jan. 2," DeNeal said, when asked by teacher Beth Montfort how the district would fill the superintendent's role.
    Page 2 of 2 - Dorris Heights ball field
    The school district approved an intergovernmental agreement with Harrisburg Township Park District to take ownership of the 12-acre Dorris Heights ball field from the park.
    The cost of the purchase is $100,000, but in an agreement with the city of Harrisburg, that money would not come from school district taxpayers; it would come from revenues generated by the Harrisburg Downtown Tax Increment Finance District which includes Dorris Heights Road. Harrisburg City Council is expected to vote on the agreement during the 6 p.m. Thursday council meeting. The city would pay the school the $100,000 and the school would pay that money to the park.
    "The city is basically buying a ball field for us, but they're not," DeNeal said.
    Smith has been a vocal critic of the Downtown TIF that sets a cap on the amount of property taxes the school district can collect from properties within the TIF district for 23 years. The district is facing shortfalls in state funding. The action by the city might be seen as a goodwill gesture toward the school system.
    Athletic Director Jay Thompson said he did not believe maintenance of the field would require a major expenditure.
    "I think there will be a little bit of immediate expense. There has not been a lot done in the last few years," Thompson said.
    He estimated initial costs would be no more than $20,000, part of which would be required to install a new fence and dirt work for moving water.
    Head Custodian Tony Chrisman said the 12-acres involves a wooded area to the southwest. He said there could be a future opportunity to log that part of the acreage and create another ball field suitable for middle school play.
    Matt Businaro explained the district audit that he described as good overall, but with two findings.
    One of the findings was the material misstatement of financial statements due to what Businaro described as three minor incidents, none of which by themselves would have constituted a finding.
    One involved improper recording of a portion of sales tax proceeds received prior to the end of fiscal year 2013 that were not deposited until fiscal year 2014. The issue was due to the misplacement of a check the district had received in June, according to the audit report.
    Another was the misclassification of a loan from the working cash fund to the transportation fund due to improper coding.
    The third was misclassification of cash held in activity funds. Funds that should have been district funds were incorrectly included within the activity funds.
    The second finding involved the district activity fund checking accounts receiving, holding and spending money that should have been district funds. In June 30, 2012, $222,683 of district funds were incorrectly included in activity funds. The result after a year of revenue and expenditures was the education fund ending balance for fiscal year 2013 was short by $234,431. The cause was activity fund administrators at each of the schools not being properly educated on what is and what is not an activity fund, according to the audit.
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