2011 new board installed, lawsuit accusation — 4/28/2011

April 28, 2011:

Letters, we get letters

The lawsuit casts an unfortunate shadow over a big day for the RB community — the start of its new board. (7 p.m., Alumni Lounge)

The email below is the second like this I have received. So, i submit my reply further below.

(Identifying details of the correspondent have been removed. also corrected a spelling error.)

Email I received this morning:

From: [Name]
Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2011 7:18 AM
To: Chris Robling
Subject: Lawsuit

I’m stunned to realize you started this lawsuit (for the most part). You go to 2 meetings the entire year… just to make accusations?

I’m saddened that ANY resident of Riverside would intentionally hurt our community the way that you have begun with “Tony”.

What is being done here against the “individual” board members – will not “teach a lesson” (as if you are the father) —- the lesson here: People are not going to want to be involved as a board member, booster member, patrons council, etc…

Good luck with your endeavors and hope to see you running for the board in the future so that you may be sure “monies are spent appropriately”.

[Name]

P.S. Oh… That is right – I didn’t see you at the Patrons’ Council Auction – to support your children during their school years with the extra’s the Council can give them. Sounds like a personal pattern to me?

My reply:

dear [name],

hello and good morning. great to hear from you.

as a frequent strong practitioner of robust debate yourself, your views are always of interest, just as i consider your volunteer service at… d96 and now RB to be a model for all who want to make a difference in riverside and the RB community.

as for your note, i am not at your starting point.

i have and have had nothing to do with the lawsuit. it was news to me. i found out about it like everyone else, when the landmark ran its original piece, perhaps a couple weeks ago now. in the same way, i learned of its named plaintiff, former cook county commissioner tony peraica, when the landmark ran its web extra on tuesday.

my volunteer work regarding RB since 2003 has focused on governance and accountability. these are not exciting topics, i know, and they hardly generate the interest of a PTO or patrons’ council. nonetheless, i believe they have their own importance in the leadership and operation of our public institutions.

i deeply regret that anyone anywhere felt the need – or had the grounds – to file this suit. but – obviously – they did.

based on what you say in your note, i conclude that you, in good faith, believe what happened at RB, in its effort to pass the referendum, was o.k. it is your right to do so, and i absolutely defend your right to that interpretation.

i, on the other hand, think illinois law was broken – i said as much in my landmark piece, “tax hike campaign off track,” http://www.rblandmark.com/main.asp?SectionID=3&SubSectionID=46&ArticleID=7353&TM=39201.98

as i accord respect, if not agreement, to your conclusion that nothing untoward happened, i hope you will find your way to respect those of us who believe, just as sincerely, and with considerable factual basis in published reports, that lax oversight and management allowed illegal activity.

since every 29-year veteran of illinois education knows referendum politics stop at the school door, when i wrote, “Thanks to solid reporting by the Landmark we know that RB Vice Principal Tim Scanlon has improperly run the tax-hike campaign from his desk at school”, i was all but stating a very sober, sad and disappointing conclusion.

…which, along with everything else we know about RB’s pro-referendum campaign, points to fundamental problems of governance and accountability at RB.

some have said, in so many words, ‘to heck with questions of impropriety or illegality, and to heck with those who raise them. the campaign is over. the referendum failed. life goes on. what is the big deal?’

i think this reply supports low standards of board leadership, administration management and staff activity. it misses much of the point of the recent vote and it alienates the school from the community. i also think that this approach inevitably polarizes the community itself along false boundaries, and we have seen the results of that knowing polarization in recent months, but we can discuss that another time.

according to RB’s own policies, if there is a question of impropriety or illegality, then, it must self-report to law enforcement. as far as any of us know, that has not happened. why? what we have seen in the last several weeks amounts to a board nullification of its policies for inconvenience. the same happened several years ago on nepotism.

but in your note i find you take a further, and more seriously troubling, step, “What is being done here against the “individual” board members – will not “teach a lesson” (as if you are the father) —- the lesson here: People are not going to want to be involved as a board member, booster member, patrons council, etc…”

in fact, i believe the opposite. while the lawsuit is a regrettable means, i think the end of investigating, self-reporting and following board policies will inspire all community members whose personal standards include adherence to law, policy and mandate to sign up and serve in each of the capacities you mention and more. it removes the taint, opens the door and invites everyone to take a role in making RB the finest 1450-student public high school in illinois, and one of the finest such in the country.

we are this very day (evening, actually) departing an era in which much of RB was run by and for insiders. that led in many awful directions which, blessedly, we no longer need to discuss. the regrettable shortcomings of that era must be left in our past, so a totally new vision of openness can be built upon the good that exists at RB and animates its finer educational accomplishments by teachers and students every day.

so, my hope is that the new board tonight will seize this matter head-on and announce that — by standing in the shoes of the taxpayers — it is as outraged by the reports and questions of illegality and impropriety as anyone.

the new board should conduct the investigation that good sense and its policies require, and which was quashed by the outgoing board, despite impassioned advocacy by several members i heard myself personally at the monday, march 21 special board meeting.

the new board should pledge to the taxpayers that following the investigation, based on its results, it will take any and all appropriate action to rebuild public confidence in RB’s adherence to state law, board policy and community mandate.

my hope – and i have nothing to base this on except crossed fingers – is that by the board affirmatively and publicly taking these steps, the lawsuit is mooted and withdrawn, because its stated purpose will have been achieved by RB’s governing body.

i must make one other point because you use the phrase, “hurt our community.” others have said similar things in their notes on this completely avoidable and unfortunate situation.

please take a moment to consider that if state law was broken, then everyone in the state is diminished. if RB spends one dollar of state funds, then every state taxpayer has a vital interest in how RB is run. RB does not belong only to us. it is a state-chartered institution. we are its stewards. we may tax ourselves locally for RB because the people of illinois have through their elected representatives in springfield authorized local school property taxes. if we learn of responsible reports of illegality and impropriety at RB, and we turn our back on those for inconvenience, then we are failing not only ourselves, and of course most distressingly, RB’s students, but also our fellow taxpayers from cairo to galena.

frankly, i think our community is helped if it can look itself, the students, and every one of those taxpayers straight in the eye and say “we heard responsible reports of impropriety and illegalities at our public high school, and we followed them up with investigation and appropriate action.” certainly not the reverse. the lawsuit is hardly the preferable way to get there – thus i suggest the better way, through direct board action.

i know from your volunteer service that you are deeply committed to raising our standards and providing excellent schools for our kids. i celebrate our different points of view on these questions. it makes things more interesting. i certainly respect your vocal advocacy on issues you consider significant and hope this note provides you an insight into the very real issues at RB on which i and others have been working these last eight years. governance and accountability are not exciting, but they come in handy in a pinch.

all best,
chris

[Final note, not in my reply: If anyone thinks i would in any possible way support a lawsuit that names Dan Moon, Matt Sinde or Mike Welch as defendants, they need psychiatric help. That simply will not happen. To those three, and the four who join them tonight, we pin all of our hopes for a great high school. Thanks to all seven for what you have done and what you are about to do in service to the RB community.]

POSTED THURSDAY APR 28, 2011 14:19 #
Explore posts in the same categories: Riverside Brookfield High School -- Turnaround

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