A Maywood minister who was paid more than $168,000 through no-bid contracts with a local school district is no longer on the payroll, and district officials said they have no plans to replace the ousted reverend.
Rev. Emanuel Little of the Salem Tabernacle Church was first hired by Proviso Township High School District 209 in September 2002 by then assistant superintendent Kevin Gilchrist. According to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Little was paid to teach several character development classes at Proviso East and West high schools.
Those monthly payments, however, were awarded in violation of district policy and the building principals said they have no idea what Little actually did for students.
“The only thing we did was have the kids ready at the times and places,” Proviso East Principal Milton Patch said. “None of that got filtered down as to what that role was.”
Patch was joined by Proviso West Principal Alexis Wallace in requesting that Little’s services not be retained, according to Supt. Stan Fields. The continuation of “self esteem” classes is unlikely, Fields said.
“We have no intention of putting out an RFP,” Fields said.
According to district records, Little was given 18 separate teaching contracts as the vendor of Educational Development in Truth (EDIT). District payments totaling $168,824 were authorized by a revolving door of administrators until August of this year.
At his first board of education meeting in September, Fields stopped payment on a $4,800 check to Little. According to Fields, a check for the same amount was paid in August despite several violations of district policy.
“It is a fact that when the check was put on the bills payable list for September, I did pull that one,” Fields said. “I pulled it because the district had no contract [with Little].”
In fact, Fields said, the district never issued a request for proposals and a competitive bidding process never took place. Contracts exceeding $10,000 must be bid, according to district policy.
District records indicate the most recent set of contracts ended in December 2005, however, payments totaling $30,265 continued through August 2006. Little was responsible for several character building programs during his run with the district, including Second Chance, 18/19 Year Olds and the MLK Non-Violence curriculum. Summer school, evening classes and some general population programs were also billed to the district.
Little denied that his relationship with the district was in any way improper, and said his goal was to help the community. The curriculum – developed by Little – was intended to teach accountability, respect and problem solving,” he said. Freshman students did not receive credit for the course, and the curriculum was “advisory,” Little said.
“Every student was impacted,” Little said. “I had students in line to get in that classroom. I saw five to seven classes a day, five days a week.”
Three contracts spanning from September 2002 to June 2003 outline a minimum of 30 to 35 weeks of instruction alternating between the two high schools. Only one contract specifies that classes are to be an hour in length.
Five contracts for work between August and December 2005 call for 18 weeks of instruction, but make no mention of class schedules.
None of the contracts signed by Little include language relating to performance evaluations, curriculum standards or goals. District administrators said they have no performance evaluations on record for Little.
Little said that he and the students in the classroom were evaluated by teachers who sat in on the instruction.
The reason he is no longer teaching for the district because, Little said, is because he declined to submit a formal proposal to administrators. The Maywood religious leader said he has not taught classes in any other school district, but is considering contacting others.
“I didn’t submit [a bid] because I thought a lot of support for the program was gone,” Little said.
The decision to end District 209’s relationship with Little is based strictly on the improprieties under which it began, Fields said and has nothing to do with Little’s religious affiliations. The superintendent said it’s not inherently improper for religious heads to play a role in public schools as long as their work respects the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.
Little said the curriculum he developed for the school did not incorporate religious teachings.
As the superintendent of District 120 in Mundelein, Ill., Fields took criticism for a proposal in May 2005 to invite local Christian ministers to speak with students during the lunch period.
“The issue of separation of church and state was not a factor in District 120 and it’s not a factor in District 209,” Fields said.