Latin’s New Head Faces IRS Fines to His School District


Latin School of Chicago

Beginning July 1, Dr. Thomas Hagerman will take over as Head of School.

In the final months of his eight-year tenure as Scarsdale Union Free School District superintendent, Latin’s incoming Head of School Dr. Thomas Hagerman is navigating several payroll tax penalties against the district from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The school district received multiple “failure to deposit” fines from the IRS after a series of payroll tax deposit errors in 2020 and 2021, ultimately resulting in a federal tax lien of $1.3 million. With the addition of an “unrelated error” penalty in 2021, the district’s fines total over $1.7 million.

According to excerpts from a Scarsdale Board of Education meeting, the IRS informed the district of its attempt to levy in June 2021. The lien was filed in October 2021, but the Board reportedly found out only in late March of 2022.

While the Board may have learned about the federal tax lien just recently, a record of the lien is published in a not-so-easily accessible corner of the New York State Uniform Commercial Code website. It’s unclear whether the existence of the lien may have been available on this site for several months. Its file date is listed as November 2021.

In an email to the Latin community, Latin School Board Chair David Koo said that the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees met with Dr. Hagerman to discuss the situation “openly and transparently.”

“Dr. Hagerman has a strong track record of service and leadership built over the many years of his career,” Mr. Koo wrote in his email. “We are fully confident in and excited to welcome him as our next Head of School.”

The Forum reached out to Dr. Hagerman to ask when he became aware of the errors and fines. He deferred an interview and additional commentary beyond what he shared in an email with the broader Latin School community until the issue is resolved. In his email, Dr. Hagerman described the payroll tax matter as “clerical errors.”

If the June 2021 notice to “the district” included Dr. Hagerman, he would have been aware of the matter many months before his Board reportedly learned about it. If the notice didn’t include him, several months may have passed before he knew of the fines piling up in his district.

Dr. Hagerman’s email to the Latin community emphasized that the district is working to resolve all errors and is negotiating abatement of penalties with the IRS. “Although it has taken some time,” he wrote, “the IRS has been forthcoming about the steps we need to take in order to rectify the situation and receive appropriate abatements and refunds.”

In a special Board meeting on March 30, the Board voted to satisfy the district’s payroll taxes due in 2020, upwards of $840,000. Since they fulfilled their yearly requirement for 2020, there will be no further penalties for that fiscal year.

The tax lien was filed on November 2, 2021, and was published on the NY UCC website. The board became aware of it only in late March.

Though it may seem as though this matter has persisted over a long period of time, such a lag may be typical for cases in which the IRS is involved. IRS funding has been cut significantly in recent years, making communication with the agency increasingly difficult; The Washington Post reported that the IRS answers one in five phone calls.

It may also be worth noting that errors similar to that of the Scarsdale District are not uncommon. North of $87 million was recently misallocated to Chicago Public Schools by the State of Illinois due to a “coding error.”

In addition to Dr. Hagerman, The Forum also reached out to Mr. Koo and Head of School Randall Dunn. Both declined an interview.

Recently, Katie O’Dea, Director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives, and Shelley Greenwood, Assistant Head of School, have contacted various members of the community to form a Head of School Transition Team to assist Dr. Hagerman in his first months at Latin. The group plans to convene multiple times throughout the first semester of the 2022-23 school year.

While he declined an interview with The Forum, in Dr. Hagerman’s email to parents, students, and faculty, he underscored the importance of transparency in situations like these. He said, “I believe in addressing issues directly and openly.”