“Turnaround needed at RBHS” — 10-20-09

Turnaround needed at RBHS

Riverside Brookfield High School District 208 will run a $1 million operating deficit in its 2010-2011 academic year, without a tax hike. By 2011-12, its deficit doubles.

Why? In 2007, the board, under then-president Larry Herbst, “negotiated” a five-year contract with RB teachers. Herbst and two other members were freshly re-elected with the RB teacher union endorsement.

Herbst and the old board guaranteed raises of – please fasten your seat belt – a cumulative five percent per year.

Including step increases, it nets out to 5.8 percent per year, or more than 32 percent in toto, according to the RB Landmark.

RB’s academic programs stand out. Our teachers deserve a good deal. But, on the day the Herbst signed, District 208 could not afford this contract. The board agreed to spend money it did not have.

That’s why, last year, Herbst ignored 1,800 voters who petitioned for a referendum and took out the school board equivalent of a payday loan, for $5 million. When that cash is gone, the board – with three new members who did not vote for the contract – must either ask us for more or make huge cuts.

This follows board failures in certification, personnel, finance, disclosure compliance, athletic management, drug counseling and basic oversight. That’s why the Herbst majority tried to rush (by November) hiring a successor to our disgraced former superintendent. A new superintendent turns the page and past failures are buried.

Herbst’s team of board holdovers admits neither failure – nor responsibility. For years it said the board’s only real task was to hire the right superintendent and stand back. Since June’s abrupt departure, it has frequently repeated, “Gosh, we really didn’t know what was going on…”

With this past record – and future red ink – the board should investigate, determine causes and seek an experienced turnaround superintendent to strengthen our academic success while rebuilding RB’s management, finance, transparency and athletics. If desirable superintendent candidates do not see that our board is ready for improvement, why apply?

But at an Oct. 7 meeting the Herbst majority said the district is functioning well and needs only a “refiner” to make minor tweaks.

Refiner? Functioning well? Tweaks?

Former board member Bill McCloskey advised the board to slow down and save the new chief’s inevitably hefty salary until it can give clear leadership.

The board’s recruiter, after assessing more than 100 in-depth questionnaires and interviews, agreed with McCloskey. On Oct. 13, it recommended keeping reform-minded interim superintendent David Bonnette in place, putting off that search for a year and focusing on finding a principal.

It praises Bonnette for more management in four months than RB had seen in four years.

But it points out that due to pre-Bonnette leadership, RB’s integrity must be restored.


The recruiter also reports that parents, community members, administrators, faculty and staff agree that RB needs accountability.

The board will do best for the district by adopting the recommendation and showing the community, and top superintendent candidates, it has learned from its repeated errors.

Accountability would get a jump-start with town hall meetings on why the majority approved a contract that requires higher property taxes to fund 32 percent raises.

Fasten your seatbelts.

Chris Robling
Chris Robling lost his race for RB board in 2007. This is based on his Oct. 13 remarks to the board.

See article: http://www.rblandmark.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=5476&SectionID=3&SubSectionID=17&S=1 
Explore posts in the same categories: Education, Riverside Brokfield High School -- Referendum, Riverside Brookfield High School -- Turnaround

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