SD 81 board president, family members who were employees resign
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org April 1, 2013 2:28PM
John LaRocca, board president of Union School District 81, talks about the cafeteria at the school in Joliet. His wife Patty runs the cafeteria and two of his daughters work in it. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 3, 2013 6:18AM
Union School District 81 Board President John LaRocca recently resigned, along with three of his family members who were employed by the district, Supt. Tim Baldermann said Monday.
Baldermann said he could not discuss why LaRocca’s wife Patty and daughters Lauren and Katie resigned from their jobs, but said John cited personal reasons in resigning from the board.
One daughter, Kelly, continues to be employed by the one-school district that serves parts of New Lenox and Joliet, and Baldermann called her “a great employee.”
All resigned on March 22. LaRocca had been on the board for 22 years and employed his wife Patty as the full-time cafeteria manager.
“They resigned on their own. It’s not for me to comment on,” Baldermann said. “We have to run this district efficiently. We need to balance our budget, build up our reserves and spend the money on the kids.”
The district had to borrow money using tax-anticipation warrants this year, he said.
The SouthtownStar reported on the nepotism in the district in October 2011, revealing among other things that LaRocca’s wife made more money as a cafeteria manager — $58,000 — than all the veteran teachers in the district. The board later reduced her salary.
Patty LaRocca was hired in 2001. Daughter Kelly was hired in 2002 as a lunch aide and as a bus driver for special-education students, positions she continues to hold. Daughter Katie was brought on in 2004 to do maintenance — a job which other school board members said she was not qualified for — and to serve as library assistant and lunch room aide. Daughter Laura was on the school board but resigned in 2010 to become a lunch aide.
LaRocca’s sons Sam and Dan also did maintenance work for the school, and board members often were unaware of it until it was time to pay their bills, the SouthtownStar reported.
John LaRocca is the fourth board member to resign in as many months.
His son Sam LaRocca resigned late last year after moving out of the district. Cindy DelSasso resigned in December. Member John Hone, a friend of the LaRocca’s, resigned earlier in March, because he was unable to attend meetings, Baldermann said.
Jose Gonzalez and Camilla Warren were appointed to fill the vacancies left by Sam LaRocca and DelSasso, and another will be appointed to fill John LaRocca’s seat, Baldermann said.
Hone’s term was coming to an end and his seat will be filled in the April 9 election.
Baldermann said LaRocca “was always supportive of anything I wanted to do academically.”
Since taking over as superintendent last summer after Barb Littlejohn retired, Baldermann and the staff have been “completely revamping” the curriculum to align with the new Common Core standards and making cuts to keep the budget balanced, he said.
“Everyone is working very hard here and doing a great job,” he said. “The kids and taxpayers will benefit.”
To replace Patty LaRocca, who cooked lunches for the students, the district hired Lunch at Hand, of Mokena.