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Polka Scored Big Haul of Taxpayer Money With Popular Sick-Time Scam by School Chiefs

Residents of the Centinela Valley School District (amid the suburban sprawl of Los Angeles) absolutely reamed district superintendent Jose Fernandez for his high salary...
Christopher Roser
Walter Polka

Several weeks ago we reported how former Lew-Port School Board Member Ed Lilly scrutinized former Lew-Port School District Supt. Walter Polka's qualifications for appointment to the New York State Board of Regents. Lilly suggested that Polka is not qualified because Polka engineered a back-room deal with the Board of Education.

The facts seem to support Lilly's contentions. When Polka retired in 2003, he was earning $119,106. During his final years, he cashed in nearly $300,000 in unused sick time, boosting his pension to $144,595 ($25,000 more than his annual salary).

It was not Polka's extraordinary health that allowed him to accumulate such an unprecedented amount of unused sick time. The school board had written into his contract that Polka was NOT required to be on campus at any time. Even when he legitimately was unable to work due to illness, since he was not required to show up, he could get away with not calling in sick. Therefore, he made it appear he was willing and able to work on days which he was sick.

While Polka danced away with hundreds of thousands of unearned taxpayer dollars in Lewiston, in Los Angeles, Calif., Supt. Jose Fernandez pulled the same scam on the Centinela Valley Union High School District. With sick days and perks, Fernandez's base salary of $271,000 was boosted to $663,000 in 2013.

"I propose that there be a special recall election of this whole damn board, and a criminal investigation into the board for breach of fiduciary responsibility," said one man to the School Board at a meeting last week.

"You are a disgrace to this country," said another.

Former school board member Sandra Suarez called for Fernandez's resignation. "I think the superintendent needs to resign and give back everything he's taken," she said. "It's morally and ethically wrong, and it's affecting our children."

Pointing his finger at school board members and shaking with rage, another attendee shouted, "You should all step down and walk away from this! This is ridiculous! This is nuts, this is crazy!...Who are you sleeping with?"

Unfortunately, the "sick time" scheme has become the norm for superintendents of schools across the nation. Boards of Education are being dominated by teachers' unions, whose loyalties lie with the perpetrators. Teachers' unions recruit, endorse, and encourage their members to aid the campaigns for candidates for school boards. Once a union achieves a majority on the board, it hires a union-friendly superintendent, like Polka, Fernandez or Lew-Port's current superintendent, Chris Roser.

Once the teacher's union takes political control of a school board, the board members can "negotiate" bonuses with superintendents, (such as not having to show up at campus, yet getting loads of sick days) in return for making things comfortable for the teachers.

What's lost in all this is the proper representation of the taxpayers.

During a recent interview, Roser dismissed the state comptroller's financial analysis of school districts in New York which ranked Lewiston's school district in the bottom rung of districts. The report was damning. It warned residents that the district in effect is so union friendly that it has mismanaged its finances to an extent that continuing to do so will lead either to massive tax increases or bankruptcy.

While we know Polka and Fernandez got golden parachutes, we don't know how much Roser, who earns in excess of $176,000 per year, plus ample benefits and sick days where he does not have to call in sick, will get. The comptroller has called out this town and its school district management as the 4th worst in a state with 674 districts.

But really, who cares?



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Mar 04, 2014