District 65 Consultant who Skipped Background Check Paid for Services Not Rendered
A continuation of an investigation on a District 65 contractor who didn't complete the terms of his contract and a District that omitted background checks
FOIA Gras is a free newsletter run by Tom Hayden (FOIA GRAS LLC) that explores various topics in local Evanston Governance, especially around School District 65 (Evanston/Skokie). I publish and share all my data and reports. Subscribing is free, so please subscribe or share!
This is a continuation of reporting on a contractor that I did a few weeks ago. District 65 hired a contractor to do some dance and music sessions with students and faculty (I will detail below). You can read a copy of my FOIA request and the response.
The District signed the contractor with this contractor despite red-lining the clauses requiring background checks and certain types of insurance, including sexual molestation insurance. The District’s response to me is below:
The Illinois School Code requires a criminal background check of contractors who have direct daily contact with students.
As parents in the District will attest, this is an absurd claim. I’ve interviewed many PTA members, all whom had to get a criminal background check, despite not having direct daily contact with students.
Court records indicate that the contractor in question has a criminal background. He was on probation for a felony during the time he was contracted by the District. He received three drunk driving citations during a two week period in Will County in September 2018 and was sentenced to 2 years probation and some time served in jail.
I have no interest in litigating any individual and whether they should be permitted to work in schools. In fact, as an alcoholic myself (12 years sober), I strongly support forgiveness and 2nd chances. However, it is in the public interest for parents and citizens to have transparency in this process. If we believe in forgiveness, restorative justice, and second chances, we should be transparent about this.
In fact, I think Evanston would celebrate the opportunity to provide second chances and uplift someone. Instead, the District quietly red-lines clauses in contracts and is hiding behind the Illinois School Code.
A Christian Education
According to YouTube channels he has appeared in, this contractor advertises his business as;
[bringing] together hip hop culture and foundational Christian education. Our purpose is to teach youth how to dissect Christian literature using a critical lens using lessons Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 through 7. “Be-Attitudes” are the foundation of Christianity. Combining Rap literacy with the teachings of God improves understanding and retention.
With that said, references to Christianity were removed from the scope of work and contract with the District.
If District 65 hired Focus on the Family as a consultant, people would (rightfully) find this completely unacceptable, even if they were rendering non-religious services.
This contract was not listed on the District’s website (in violation of the law), so the community missed an important opportunity to vet where public money is being spent and who spending time with our children and their teachers.
The Contract Itself
This contractor was paid $35,800 in full to render the following services to the District;
18 sessions in person for young people aged 7 to 17 (Furious Kinship at Rice Children’s Center for Female-Identifying Youth and Male Identifying Youth)
Snack for program sessions ($150 per session) $2700.00
Chicago travel allowance of $50 per facilitator per session $1800.00
4 sessions in person to Educators (Radical L.O.V.E. Institute for Rice
Children’s Center Educators)
6 sessions zoom sessions to Counselors (for Female-Identifying Youth and Male Identifying Youth)
For a total of (18 + 4 + 6 = 28 sessions), they were compensated $35,800. I reached out to the District to ask how many sessions where conducted. My email is below:
The District got back to me with the following;
The contractor facilitated the agreed-upon sessions. It's correct that there were only 7 sessions for students; however, 14 other sessions were facilitated for various staff groups including Rice Education Center staff and district social workers and counselors.
I disagree. It is unclear to me how this constitutes “facilitating the agreed-upon sessions.” There was no amendment to the contract. I have no evidence to support whether the 14 other sessions were facilitated, when they were facilitated or whom attended. The District has refused to provide me with specific dates and times of sessions held; I’ve submitted a FOIA request for this information.
Even if the 14 adults-only sessions were held, he was compensated specifically to conduct 28 sessions and only held 21 (very limited) sessions. He was compensated for things such as snacks and travel for students and was paid for those, despite not conducting sessions.
I understand that not all consulting relationships work out (I’m a consultant, after all!) but the general practice is to pay contractors for less than the face value of the contract, and only for services rendered. In fact, District 65 has done this with other contractors such as Scholastic.
The funding for this contractor came from the “Equity - Consulting Services” budget line item, which is approximately $100,000 per year. This is money taken directly from the District’s children (from the equity fund, nonetheless) and given to an adult, who didn’t even fulfill the terms of his contract.
I am not posting copies of these records in public because I have no interest in litigating these particular charges or ruining this individual’s Google history. I strongly believe in second chances and that once you do your time, you are free.
I would encourage you to look into the LLC recently established by the Superintendent called National Stand Up LLC. He is an officer with the firm along with a few other people who apparently have CPS ties.
Given the Superintendent's personal debt of tens of thousands of dollars that NBC reported on before he was hired, I think there needs to be more scrutiny of his outside businesses. As you report here, the District uses consultants all the time and is not forthcoming about the nature and fulfillment of the contracts.
While I understand that people can start outside businesses (if their contract allows), I think that it is very unusual behavior for a high-paid public servant responsible for a $20 million budget. In the Superintendent's case he has started at least three corporations that I have found and they include operations outside of Illinois (St. Chi Enterprises (MO), National Stand Up LLC, and Altering the Xpectation)
I am not accusing anyone of any untoward actions, but it certainly should be reasonable to investigate any relationships between the District and the Superintendent's business partners:
The waiver of the sexual molestation insurance clause is fascinating. I have been working with the Director of Safety Town to get that program restarted after it being essentially mothballed for the last 3 years (shameless plug - it is a great program and if you have kids who are age appropriate for it, sign them up). The District was insisting on a year long insurance policy (despite the fact that the program window is basically 6-8 weeks) with sexual molestation coverage (which is appropriate given the ages of kids involved etc). And this was all just to be able to rent space in D65 schools - it isn't a 65 program. Picking and choosing who has to clear all of these hoops is wrong.