Lake Forest schools lent administrator 28,000 to cover Naperville mortgage
Nov 25, 2012 (Menafn - Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --When Jennifer Hermes started working for Lake Forest Elementary School District 67, she put her Naperville house up for sale and bought a place in Long Grove, closer to her new job.
But two years later, the business administrator still hadn't sold her Naperville home. So in June 2008 -- in what critics say was an example of overly generous administrator perks at a time when many taxpayers were being pinched by the recession -- District 67 school officials stepped in to help.
The school board, noting the downturn in the housing market, agreed to lend Hermes money to cover her mortgage on the Naperville home until she could offload it.
Hermes borrowed 28,000 from the school district. And though she and her husband ended up selling their Naperville home just two months later -- for about 135,000 more than what they had paid for it five years before, according to public records and BlockShopper -- Hermes, as of last month, still owed the school district about 16,400 from that loan, district records show.
The contract requires that she pays the district back with interest, set at the federal fund interest rate, which has remained at about 0.25 percent since December 2008. Hermes, who could not be reached for comment, agreed to pay the district back over five years, paying 10 percent of the obligation annually and paying the rest in the fifth year.
She and her husband paid nearly 1.6 million for the Long Grove house in May 2007, according to Lake County public records.
Hermes received about 213,000 in salary and benefits in 2011, according to state records. She was scheduled to receive an 11,600 bonus this school year, according to District 67.
Hermes also conducts business for Lake Forest High School District 115, which shares some administrative services with District 67. District 115 school board President Sharon Golan said her board had nothing to do with the loan agreement.
Separately, both school boards forgave a home loan of 75,000 made to Harry Griffith, who served as superintendent for both districts before he retired last summer. Griffith never had to pay back any of his loan, which irked some taxpayers who have criticized the districts' spending.
But School District 67 board President Julia Wold said the district does not intend to forgive the loan to Hermes. She said it was considered necessary to retain a valued employee.
"She was hired before the crash of 2008 and has young children and was commuting here from Naperville," Wold said. "It was taking her an hour and a half to commute from Naperville. Home loans at the time were impossible to get. We felt she was a very valued employee and felt it was necessary to retain her."
Wold noted that two nearby school districts, Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire and Winnetka-based New Trier Township High School, recently announced openings for similar job positions.
"Both of those positions pay more than what we pay," she said. Wold noted that Hermes works for two school districts.
Offering help to pay for housing "is very common in the private sector," said Michael Jacoby, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials.
"Most people don't move unless there is some support in housing. In the public sector it's a little bit less in the status quo, but it's all part of if you want a quality leader and if those are the issues in stopping them. ... It's up to the board of education to make those decisions."
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