Elizabeth Burghard and other advocates of financial reform are keeping a close eye on the prosecution of Lawrence Wyllie, the former superintendent of Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210.
“I think the feds have handed over their evidence to the lawyers,” Burghard told the Will County Gazette recently, citing a court date of Dec 11. “As a citizen, taxpayer and parent, I've been very much affected by all of his misdoings. I hope justice is swift and speedy. It sets a precedent and serves as a warning to other school administrators.”
Wyllie faces federal fraud charges stemming from his alleged use of $50,000 in school funds to open a dog obedience school, lying about the school district's finances that led to it going approximately $7 million in debt, and paying himself $30,000 in benefits he was not entitled to.
Burghard also spoke about how overbuilding has led to waste in the district, with a closed high school being vandalized and sitting empty after hundreds of millions of dollars in new construction spending over the past few years.
“Many of us begged the school board to just build one (school),” Burghard said of a plan to build two schools that she said ultimately led to the district closing Lincoln-Way North High School in Frankfort.
“It was ramrodded through,” Burghard said of the building plans, characterizing the implementation of board policy as a “dog and pony show.”
Part of the problem, Burghard said, is that students and parents in certain areas of the school district are not getting a lot of attention from the mayors of nearby small towns who could have an impact on policy. Burghard said part of the community has been “cast aside” with little real representation in the district.
Burghard also said she thinks the school board is turning a blind eye to vandalism at the shuttered high school. She also questioned why the board chose to close a newer school rather than shutting down an older school in the district with a lot of maintenance problems.
However, the fundamental problem, she said, is lack of good fiscal planning and an inability to listen to residents.
“They overbuilt in the first place,” Burghard said.