Archive for February 2012

Scariano law firm represents D208 on TIF — 3/11/07

February 27, 2012

dear all,

here is what i know re the schools reaction to the tif proposal. neither have spoken publicly / officially about its impact on their own financials. both have said — at different meetings — that they are waiting for the village to provide ‘more specific data,’ or words to that effect, before fully briefing the idea. the scariano law firm — very highly respected ed. / municipal law firm — and very experienced in general education law and presumably in tifs, though i do not personally know its tif experience, is now representing both districts. scariano has represented district 96 for years. at the last 208 board meeting that i attended, it was announced that the firm would also represent 208 on the tif matter. what does this mean? this means that both districts have retained accomplished representation to advocate for them in their respective dealings with the village and — presumably — on the joint review board as well.

personal comment: i get the feeling that both districts think the tif is a done deal, in fact, at one recent bd meeting, i heard a board member quote a trustee’s statement in a landmark article some weeks ago to the effect — in the director’s words — that the trustees were simply waiting for the election and then they would enact it. i also heard at one meeting an expression to the effect that ‘this is the village’s matter and we have no business commenting. we must remain on the sidelines.’ i do not feel that way.
best, chris robling

POSTED SUNDAY MAR 11, 2007 18:37 #

Three necessities before a TIF — 12/29/06

February 27, 2012

reply to mike sedivy querie of 12-28-06, 17:57:

thanks for reading my stuff.

i think a ‘tif with the proper redevelopment plan,’ as you put it, is something i could support — but i emphasize could, not would.

i think the administration has fallen back many yards on this play. in one of my november emails, which is posted above, as well as in my personal remarks to the board back at that time, i raise the judgment issue as well as planning and financials. it is my opinion that this administration has credibility ground to make up just to return to the prior line of scrimmage, so to speak. katy’s january 8 planning process must be fully elaborated, well managed, inclusive and befitting a global landmark masterpiece of planning, design and architecture. the kane-mckenna document, as i hope to explicate soon, was an insult.

so, the administration’s new commitment to the sort of openness, transparency and uniformity of rule application that i think is rightly questioned based on recent history must be clear throughout this process.

for riverside to thrive, whatever we decide to do, tif or no tif, we must end up with both the right plan and the right people to implement it. frankly, i doubt we have the right individuals on board to implement a tif, should we as a village in due course become convinced that the comprehensive plan, financials, specifics and alternatives analysis all end up grounding an appropriate tif solution.

i may be wrong. commitment to a rigorous and thorough visioning and planning process, with a first-rate alternatives analysis and a clear statement of how and under what procedures funds would be expended will show if current staff is up to it. based on the village center debacle, i am skeptical, but i would love to be shown otherwise.

so i guess i seek three distinct but interrelated indicies: sound plan, compelling financials and proven judgment in historic preservation redevelopment. i think the first two are possibly achievable through our new process. the third is in my opinion reasonably implicated and at best, as yet to be determined.

i hope this helps. here’s to the forum.



POSTED FRIDAY DEC 29, 2006 10:36 #

Notifying Olmstedians about the TIF — 11-28-06

February 27, 2012

dear riverside info reader: following please find two 11-28-2006 emails that i sent to olmstedians and preservationists around the country ot alert them to what i considered to be the threat to the legacy we are entrusted with preserving. best regards, chris

7:49 am:
Dear all, later today I will forward to you an astonishingly bad TIF plan for downtown riverside. I believe very deeply that this plan must be stopped. We have a few well-intentioned, but frankly inexperienced, pro-development trustees in office just now. They are responding to sincere requests to “do something” in our downtown with quite the wrong remedy. The village staff simply wants more revenue and exhibits zero concern for our heritage in these matters.

I ask each of you to review the plan, especially the eligibility memorandum, which cites downtown riverside for ‘failing to benefit from a community plan’ and calls one of our premiere parks “blighted,” and then — if you feel as I do that olmsted’s legacy is too precious to be tossed up for grabs in commercial redevelopment — please use your platform to speak out. this plan is an outrage. Naop has already sided with the angels on this, but we will need charlie beveridge to speak before this is all over. I apologize for intruding on your days as I am, but I think this is the big one. More info to follow. Thank you thank you, best, chris

4:48 pm:

dear all,

attached please find the draft riverside tif plan and project.

i think any fair and independent review of this by individuals with background in inner-ring suburban infill redevelopment, Olmsted, historic preservation, or even simply knowledge of riverside and its special place in the history of architecture, design and landscape will find it irredeemably flawed.

the two main narrative sections are the introduction and attachment #6, the eligibility memorandum. the most offensive language is in attachment #6, but the entire plan is a disappointment.

thank you for your time, we will contact you shortly with more information.



POSTED THURSDAY DEC 28, 2006 11:00 #

Confidence, courage and creativity — 11/25/06

February 27, 2012

dear riverside info reader: below please find an 11/25/2006 email that i sent after a weekend of exchanges which have been grouped together in a pdf and called ‘the thanksgiving email.” you will see them referred to below as totalling 30 pages. if you would like a copy please let me know and i will send you the file. in any case, i believe the following makes additional points that are important to bear in mind as we confront the issue of fostering appropriate and scaled development in riverside. thank you for your time, chris robling
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

dear all,

i have re-read my wed. (11/22) email and to the extent that i failed to say the tif cabins the increment on the designated pins, or that — with possible exceptions — the other taxing bodies do not receive their assessment on the incremental eav, i thank charlie for pointing out that failing of mine. my apologies to any readers who were confused by my imprecision. such is the result of dashing something off as i did. i will be more attentive next time.

there’s a lot to be said based on the exchanges of the last four days, which filled close to 30 pages when strung together one on top of the last.

rather than get into the very specifics right now, let me propose the following:

1. new development downtown wd be advantageous

2. a tif may be the right way to go

3. tif’s require planning elements we do not have

4. no matter what, an above-grade parking ramp in downtown riverside is anathema to our community and all that it represents

5. the village should abjure takings of single-family homes for redevelopment purposes

6. the village has not created a consensus vision for riverside in the 21st century

7. the village has not produced a comprehensive plan for riverside

8. the village has not communicated what this tif would actually be, what it wd do, how it would accomplish those things, etc (i refer here to dan sommers’ email observation of no metrics established)

9. some people who support the tif, such as charlie, think that planning could be done concurrent with tif establishment

10. other people who support the tif think 99 percent of this planning talk is a waste of time that’s diverting us from our pressing fiscal issues which a tif — say what you will — is intended to help alleviate

11. some people who support a referendum on the tif do so in the hope that it will be defeated and thus go away forever

12. some of us in riverside see olmsted’s central park, with its museum, zoo, restaurants, refreshment stands, tee-shirt salespeople, and more, and yet think it is fundamentally wrong to imagine a riverwalk in swan pond.

13. harlem avenue is the rodney dangerfield of riverside redevelopment. it gets no respect. yet, like dangerfield, it has a lot to offer, especially in re a tif.

with people riled up as we are now, why not harness the interest and commitment to do the visioning and planning that is necessary?

and in so doing, let’s find within us the creativity to fashion solutions that befit this masterwork; and the confidence that we — riverside — can seek the appropriate established experienced and proven inner-ring suburban infill developers who understand what this place is and how best to accentuate its unique strengths; and the courage to say no to developers who would blight the face of our town, or landlords who would allow their property to sit unused, or to deteriorate before our eyes.

frankly i am troubled by some of the points that my friend charlie made. i think dale expressed many assessments with which i agree. i am more convinced than ever that we must do what we can do encourage the trustees to stop this tif now and do the planning homework we have skipped on an accelerated basis. if the downtown tif is a good idea, it will still be a good idea. if it does not fit we will all be relieved we did not pursue it.

can we do that? dan z. says he is concerned that the trustees may already have decided this issue. i hope he is wrong, but he may be right. i think that increases the burden those of us urging better planning must meet. where our advocacy goes from there, i do not know.



POSTED THURSDAY DEC 28, 2006 10:41 #

Letter to Trustees Against the TIF — 11/22/2006

February 27, 2012
  1. dear riverside info reader,

    below please find an 11-22-2006 email i sent just prior to the village’s tif hearing, which failed to address most of these points.

    it is gratifying that the village pulled the tif. however, now we MUST focus attention on an appropriate planning process.

    at the end of november and into december i wrote a series of emails that i am now going to transfer here. once i get that done i will write some new reactions to what has happened since the board pulled the tif. thank you for any amount of time you are able to spend on these and the other posts here as you consider this very serious re-development matter before us as a village.

    —“best regards, chris
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    dear all,

    on monday night i spoke to the village trustees in opposition to the tif district. specifically, i asked them to table, or defer action, on the district, pending development of an agreed-to vision for the town and completion of a comprehensive village plan.

    because of other commitments i will not be able to speak at tonight’s hearing. i pass along this overview of my argument for deferring action in the hopes that someone will find it useful in understanding what is at stake and how we may proceed together as a village from where we are. (because i am dashing this off, it won’t be as neat as it shd be. please forgive me. i will make a clean copy. thank you.)

    quickly, what’s a tif district and how is it used?

    tif districts allow municipal bodies to make certain decisions about development. typically, and certainly here, the municipality, after meeting procedural requirements, cabins the property taxes from a certain zone —“ the district —“ and supports development in that zone with expenditure of funds raised from the public finance markets against the anticipated growth in property taxes that will take place in the specific district.

    so, there are several distinct aspects of a tif program that are of vital significance to its viability and ultimate success. these include the district plan itself, the context within which it is utilized, the financing steps taken in support of the district and the judgment of the officials who have control over the funds raised by the sale of bonds in the public markets.

    (this is an extremely brief overview of tifs and probably does not do them justice. they have spawned an academic literature of their own. an award-winning local expert in the press is greg hinz at crain’s chicago business. if you go to and search for hinz and tif you will find a lengthy list of articles that may serve as a primer. the experts he quotes are, i believe, a good place for concerned citizens to go for more in-depth information.)

    in any case, i am personally unconvinced that the tif proposal now before riverside succeeds on any of the above bases, planning, finance or judgment. my opposition is not personal. i think the board of trustees is composed of good people who mean well. unfortunately, they are down the wrong road at the wrong time.

    I. planning

    1. tif districts are neither good nor bad in themselves, they are simply one of many tools in the municipal tool-box, so to speak. i have consistently said we shd take steps to see if a tif district is a correct option for Riverside. however, i think the way the village has propelled this conversation is fatally flawed.

    2. the success of tif districts fiscally and substantially depends almost entirely on the acuity of their underlying vision and the refinement of the comprehensive plan within which they are executed.

    3. riverside has neither an agreed-to vision, nor a comprehensive plan.

    4. instead, the village suggests tacking a tif district program onto a transit-oriented development study that was completed earlier this year.

    5. this is creates numerous problems:

    a. no one participated in the TOD study on the basis that it was a visioning exercise, so employing it as such draws invalid conclusions to issues that were not anticipated at the time it was executed

    b. the TOD study is merely that, a sober and serious assessment of strengths and weaknesses as well as transit / pedestrian oriented solutions to strengthen our downtown

    c. the TOD study thus is silent on a community-wide expression of preferences for types of downtown development, mobility beyond metra service, needed services to enhance the riverside living and visiting experiences, anticipated forms of development and their relation to other issues pending in the village (iow, square footages versus class size problems at central), and more—¦

    d. the TOD study did count parking spaces, and it found we have a lot. however, because of an ill-considered element in the downtown re-zoning, most of which is very sound, the village imposed the idea of a parking structure in downtown riverside. this definitely causes me to question the judgment of the trustees. no one should ever consider a downtown parking structure in riverside. our town has no place in and around Guthrie park and environs for a parking ramp (one cannot believe we have to actually say these things.)

    e. this is not planning for planning’s sake: this is setting expectations based on community consensus so that subsequent delegated decisions will be made in accordance with agreed-to terms of reference and not on a random or willy-nilly basis.

    examples of such subsequent decisions:

    shd we exercise the eminent domain power to take homes for construction of a multi-level parking ramp—¦?

    shd we spend money on planters at street level or restoring the spires atop the arcade building—¦?;

    should we allow first floor commercial at times or only first floor retail—¦?(this is somewhat a zoning issue, but in the district may arise anew—¦);

    what are our design guidelines for downtown?

    shd we provide funds to assist a strapped-but-noteworthy architectural bookseller to move to town to capitalize on anticipated tourists coming to see olmsted’s masterpiece, or shd all such inducements be directed toward new brick-and-mortar developers—¦?;

    shd a permitted building under construction be allowed to change features it agreed-to before various village board and commissions based on a staffer’s choice, or shd permitted buildings have a commissioner-level process for changes their developers think necessary—¦?;

    and on and on—¦

    f. all of these decisions have a direct impact on riverside’s viability as a place for investment and thus on the financial success of the tif. none of them have been addressed formally because we have not done our necessary tif homework of visioning and planning. how this happens in any community is a mystery. how it could happen here —“ in a globally recognized national historic landmark —“ is beyond my understanding. i think it gets to my reservations about judgment.

    g. the TOD study is not our comprehensive plan. (it never said that it was.) we also know it is not our visioning exercise. so it is not the correct basis for grounding a tif program. to the extent that the village’s tif district proposal refers to and relies on the TOD study, which is on nearly every page, it fails

    6. Riverside has for years had one of the most highly respected planning commissions in the six county region. under this planning commission we re-wrote both the central business district and residential zoning. numerous other issues have been resolved by this planning commission and the result is a dramatically modernized zoning code for the village. the tif proposal, which is at its heart a planning program, has NOT been referred to the planning commission.

    i find it impossible to construct a rationale for not sending such a proposal to the planning commission. i believe the village’s step here shows a genuine disrespect for the planning commission, its jurisdiction, expertise and members, to say nothing of —“ at best — a cavalier attitude on the part of those pushing the tif district program, essentially saying that it does not need / would not be helped by reconciling with all of the other planning activities of the village.

    7. What do i mean by a comprehensive plan based on a vision?

    a comprehensive village plan with a design year would show everyone how we want riverside to look in that particular design year, say 2026. it would index the existing population, demographics, structures, uses, roads, parks, approaches, traffic patterns, inflows, outflows, school sizes, and more and more, and then it would re-state where we think we should be in the design year, and how we intend to get from here to there. the planning process would be based on a vision, which is to say a shared understanding of the community we intend to build. the visioning exercise that i have seen as most effective for communities like us is professor tony nelessen’s ( visual preference survey, which wd present every resident who chooses to participate with a series of photos depicting choices about how things should look in riverside, from the curb cuts to new houses. each participant would rate the images, and each resident’s total ratings would be compiled with everyone else’s. i have seen this work in numerous states and communities and —“ if i may say —“ never was there a better town for this approach to visioning than riverside.

    for reasons known only to them, the trustees have decided it is OK to revise the codes, ignore the main street project of several years ago, approve the largest development in downtown riverside in history, do the TOD study, and then jump into a tif without completing the planning basics of vision and comprehensive plan. thus we have a tif cart placed well in front of a now-non-existent planning horse. this is planning madness. it gets to me questions about the judgment exercised by the trustees.

    II. finance

    1. a tif district’s vision and planning basis speak mainly to its substantial success, iow, its ability to attract the type and level of development that would not happen but for our tif district. if the tif district is successful in attracting that development, then it will probably be successful in the fiscal sense as well. that means it will repay the bonds that the village intends to sell if we allow them to do so.

    a. but we have no spreadsheet on the record that actually shows this —“ just a few charts

    b. in fact there is very little on the record now as far as i am aware about the financial commitment the village wants us as taxpayers to accept as part of this plan

    c. which commitment —“ as our oak park neighbors learned to their chagrin — is to repay the bondholders if the property tax increment generated by the designated tif district fails to achieve the original underlying assumptions of the bonds.

    d. this means that we may be liable for considerable sums at the back end —“ or even before the back end —“ of the tif district’s life. in a small village like ours, the consequences of such a default would be very serious indeed.

    e. the simple answer to this issue is —¦ sound and sober planning! but as we saw above, we have not taken that path.

    f. so an additional reason i propose tabling this idea for now is it makes no sense to take proximate steps toward establishment of a tif district without a full set of financials independently verified

    2. everyone shd understand that the main reason we are pursuing the tif idea is to increase revenues. this was the principal justification advanced last night by president jack wiaduck and trustee kevin smith. none of the other trustees present disagreed.

    a. tif districts generate more money now through sale of bonds sold that are backed by the increment in tax collections.

    b. they also generate —“ when they succeed—”more money at the back end because they have fostered development which, but for the tif district, would not have arrived.

    c. but they also deny government bodies tax revenues: the schools and other local districts would receive no funds from the pin’s in the designated zone for the life of the tif district. (there are some exceptions to this)

    d. as a taxpayer for districts 96 and 208, i am concerned about the extent of impact on these two fine districts. i believe the impact can be overcome, but that once again requires sound and sober planning, this time in the finance area.

    e. yet as recently as august, neither district had been involved in any formal discussions with the village about the tif or its financial impact on their operations.

    III. judgment

    i question this board’s judgment on key matters:

    n it failed to include the henninger development in the tif, leaving perhaps $1 million to $2 million on the table

    n it approved the henninger project’s absurd size in return for nothing

    n it gave away our zoning code and alley way for the henninger project and received a blot on our town in return, which actually will hinder the re-positioning of riverside that we should be pursuing.

    n it has begun the practice of buying developers out of their obligation for parking spaces under the downtown zoning code, for $5000, whereas new parking spaces typically cost $15,000.

    n it quietly REVERSED our time-honored ban on sub-dividing lots in a greedy pursuit of revenue at the expense of riverside’s character. at a time when our town shd be promoting lot combinations for larger homes, to say nothing of preserving all the vacant property as-is and as was agreed to in the 1990-1992 period by all concerned, as well as all subsequent purchasers. this is a genuine outrage.

    n when the trustees were asked about overturning the sub-division ban, they said that the new residential zoning code would cover the matter, but the planning commission then said it had never encompassed the issue of lot sub-division because no one had any idea the trustees would overturn our landmark ordinance banning further subdivisions.

    n it failed to recognize that the natural spot for a tif in riverside is on harlem avenue, in conjunction with Berwyn if possible, where we have considerable car traffic and thus customer traffic, and which is removed from the heart of olmsted’s plan

    n it has countenanced the idea of a parking ramp in sight of the water tower and Guthrie park

    n it has failed to co-ordinate the pendency of the tif district with the high school, with dist. 96, or with anyone else as far as i can tell

    n it has cavalierly put fellow residents’ homes into the district without telling them, and subjected them to fear of eminent domain proceedings, while saying publicly that eminent domain will not be used, but pursuing it just the same.

    n it has put us all in the position of dealing with a tif proposal without an agreed-to vision or comprehensive plan with a design year.

    (and more—¦)

    the movie they are showing us is: riverside redevelopment is all and only about money, and when what makes riverside special gets in the way, too bad.

    i do not think these people have the judgment needed to operate a tif that serves riverside. certainly not without the constraints that a normal process would create.

    i am not anti-tif, nor am i anti-development. but i am for visioning, planning and all of the usual serious and sober disciplines taken by municipalities before they get this far down the tif district road. riverside has not done so, so i propose tabling this and proceeding with visioning and planning.

    i challenge any one of them, or all of them, to debate on any of these points.

    thanks and have a great meeting tonight.


    chris robling

    POSTED THURSDAY DEC 28, 2006 10:31 #

I mean, confidence, courage and creativity about Riverside — 11/26/06

February 27, 2012
  1. dear riverside info reader, this 11-26-2006 email went to one person at the time who replied to me 11-25 “c,c and c” email posted above. the recipient is not identified here. since i stand by all that i said, i am now putting it here on the forum. again, thanks for your time.

    best regards, chris robling
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    here are some quick points:

    1. i think that we have a variety of issues in riverside that have slowed redevelopment. some are in the government, so to speak, and some are in the dialogue between the people and their government. i can expand on this in person.

    2. i have considerably less faith in the mechanisms you mention to guide development than you do. for example, i think the village center was wrongly decided. it will be too big and not high quality enough. basically, i think the village caved in to the developers on that one and we will be saddled with their decision for another 50 to 75 years. it is a massive lost opportunity, and the way the village staged these things its increment is basically lost to the tif forever, which i think was a glaring failure regardless of how they decided to scale the building.

    (btw, one might reasonably say that if they weren’t going to allow its large size, then not having it in the tif wd have made more sense, because it will create less increment so the lost $$$ is smaller. on this basis, one might further say that their not tiffing in time, when they intended to allow a big village center, is all the more indicative of indeterminate leadership.)

    3. when you said in the fri, 11-24, 1:32 pm email that you think “the TIF is the best alternative tool the Village has to possibly avoid [the] dire scenario” of hiking taxes or cutting services, i want to point out that you are arriving at this judgment w/out the benefit of the planning and analysis that dan somers, dan zigiluch and i are talking about. i respectfully suggest your conclusion is premature. i think our single most important issue may be MAY BE, (i am not sure) that we are not a home-rule unit. but i might be wrong.

    what i know for sure is that we have not done the alternatives analysis that would solidly ground your opinion. i do not think any of us actually knows what’s right, that’s why we need to do the homework.

    and, as i sd, if the tif idea is really that good, then it will still be good in six months or however long it takes to do the vision and the plan.

    4. your willingness to allow a parking deck is similarly premature. an actual peak-period-parking capacity baseline study has NOT been performed by the village. in fact, notwithstanding the comments we hear about waiting lists for commuter parking, one of riverside’s most apparent assets (at its current development level) is plentiful parking. we may need more parking, we may not. i withhold comment until we do the analysis on a factual basis. but i admit that a parking deck is probably a limit on my support for new development here.

    5. in your 11-22-06, 10:29 reply to dan z, you express the same “ugly girl at the dance” philosophy which i believe propelled us into a bad decision at village center: “it is naive to think that things will unfold just as we planned them just because we laid it out on a piece of paper…”

    in fact, i believe, the opposite is truly the case. we are not an ugly duckling with no hope of survival. we are a global destination, a masterwork and an unrepeatable icon of design, development and suburban planning. we are 12 miles from the home of the chicago architecture foundation, which hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors to chicago annually who come here to see things architectural. AND WE HAVE NOT ONE BED AND BREAKFAST!!!!

    who does the village think it is kidding?

    we shd have architecture students living here for riverside fellowships, we shd have a branded design competition here every spring for college kids to master architects that is curated by distinguished professors, we shd regularly host both the trustees national assoc. for olmsted parks and the superintendents of any FLO work still extent… we shd align ourselves with the congress for new urbanism, the todsters, railvolution, etc…

    there is a revolution going on in design which cd make us a focal point for global attention, and we shd ride that. we are a “green” suburb long before anyone thought up LEED certification…

    we shd be marketing ourselves to the highest levels of management at mcneal, loyola, all of the manufacturing companies nearby, highly paid downtown employees…

    consolidating lots and making high-end developments at a human scale downtown for high-networth west suburban empty-nesters with kids and grandchildren here, or in oak park, or in la grange / hinsdale….

    and if we have that amount of net resident income, and the kind of astronomically high demographics one sees in archi-tourism, then our retail core will fill out nicely to meet those needs.

    we can do this if we will just get working on it…………

    to give you a concept, i — a loyal son of winnetka — believe that riverside can assume a position of far greater significance in the mental image of this region than that of my hometown. i think we can develop a “finer,” if you will pardon the use of this term in an egalitarian era, experience here than has ever been present where i grew up.

    and no one — my friend — can stop us, because in all of the world there is only one riverside. that is, if we don’t let the trustees go off half cocked on the tif before all of the elements are in place.

    (recipient), all we need is a little confidence, creativity and courage.

    best, chris

    POSTED THURSDAY DEC 28, 2006 10:52 #

A new vision for RB — 11/2-4/2009

February 26, 2012

Anonymous said:

This is the smartest thing the new board has done. First things first. Dr. Bonnette is doing a fine job. Let him continue and use his expertise in selecting a principal and then getting him or her started.

and i replied…


Inasmuch as Larry Herbst deserves credit for reaching out to Bonnette in the closing weeks and months of the old board, I agree about this act and the new Board.

There will be a public input session on 3 December in the evening, I understand. All are welcome. Perhaps this can be the start of a community-wide shared vision for RB becomming the finest Illinois public high school of its size.

One hopes.

POSTED TUESDAY NOV 3, 2009 09:08
JohnM responds:
To expand on your vision statement, and to tie this in with the discussion on rankings, look at the most recent Sun Times rankings, where RB is rated 41. If you look at the schools rated ahead of RB, I can see only one other public, non-magnet, high school in the 1000-1500 student cohort–Vernon Hills. There may be others (I used IHSA stats to get these numbers) but even if so, I don’t think there are too many. Does this mean we’re close to meeting your goal? Or are there other rankings, ratings, opinions we should be looking at?
and i replied:
We are never close to the goal — that’s where complacency congeals the community. We have been dealing with that for the last several years.

The goal is always before us, but just a bit too far to grasp, causing us to reach farther ahead of ourselves.

Rankings are limited depictions, that is no news. Lots of rankings equals lots of limited depictions. Living by rankings imposes the wrong ordering priciple (and results in “teaching to the test…”).

JohnM, my two cents are to find out where you think RB is. Go to RB events, join one of the committees David and Jim pushed through. Read a board packet and go to a Board meeting. Then you will know where RB is relative to your conception of its goal. If you decide RB is important enough for your personal time, then you will be improving RB.

I guarantee you this, RB has no issue that more involvement by our community cannot overcome.

JohnM continues:

But if the goal is for RB to be the finest public high school of its size, how do you measure that? Standardized tests? COllege acceptence rate? A football team with a running game?

Again, I’m in agreement with you that we can improve–just trying to figure out where we’re trying to go and how we know when we get there.

(As an aside, I understand the constant exhortations to “get involved.” Community involvement is important. But really, attending village, D96 and RB meetings, while trying to hold down a job and raise a family seems a bit of a daunting task. I do like a bit of free time. That’s why I’m asking you these questions–I’m honestly curious).

and again:

The metrics form a bouquet of achievement, not all of which will always be in our dirrection, but all of which will consistently show both strength and improvement:

1. Sound budgeting in which expenses are less than revenues, a capital plan is established and maintained, a reserve fund is established and maintained, we do not dip into the market for payday loans, etc.

2. Graduation rate in neighborhood of 98 percent.

3. College matriculation rate in the 90’s.

4. Percentage admitted to first choice college high and growing.

5. Academic attainment levels across the broad spectrum of standardized tests for Illinois high schools are consistently in the very highest tier, say, top ten to 15 high schools in state.

6. Premiere-level state and national teams in academic, intellectual and forensic competitions (Math Clubs, Chess Clubs, Computer programming competitions, Langauge societies, debate, individual speaking, etc.).

7. High and growing rates of indicia of personal, non-academic achievement by students showing ability, mastery and dedication, such as High School All-Americans, Eagle Scouts, leading volunteerism, etc.

8. Pace-setting vocational-ed program for non-college bound students that is designed and updated annually to relate to west suburban employer needs.

9. A professional and collegial organizational environment in which the students’ learning is the ordering principle for all decisions.

10. A workplace in which no individual, be he department chairman, football coach, athletic director, longtime union leader, etc. exert influence beyond his area of particular responsibility.

11. An organizational structure that is instinctively open, transparent, inclusive and respectful, that locates the school as the manifestation of the community, that treats all its employees with respect and humanity, that does not tolerate inappropriate activities or beahviors by anyone, and that is equally prepared to reward initiative and performance as it is to hold individuals accountable for their failures and shortcomings.

I think these would be a good start, but I claim no special knowledge or insights, and there may be far better indicia or metrics out there.

What is so amazing is that we have a majority on the Board composed of two former school board presidents, a professional educator who is a principal in a large nearby school, and a current president who obviously wanted the job. But they are silent on their vision.

Why they have articulated nothing, let alone something sensible like the above fairly self-evident points, is a reasonable question. In the absence of such, and in light of their record, they seem married to the status quo.

I think we are underserved. The majority has been running things over there for years, and beyond a few axioms, like, “We hire the Superintendent and then take a seat in the balcony…” (??!!?), it is tongue-tied on where the school should go. Thus they drift from crisis to mess to patch-up to personalities to fear of offending over-influential employees to the next thing. Simply put, they are not up to the job.

Whatever you decide, JohnM, with a principal search on, there is no time like the present to Improve-RB.

Finally, I re-state my resentment at being probed by an anonymous poster. Nothing personal, but this is less for you than others who may happen by.

POSTED WEDNESDAY NOV 4, 2009 08:42 #