A reply to Lisa Marciniak

Here is a note i posted over at Riverside Town Connection, after considerable back-and-forth between Lisa Marciniak and Jerry Buttimer over my note “Tim Scanlon and the Future of RB”:

I agree w Lisa—about focusing on what is happening right now at RB:
1. Governance – always important
2. Audit of the construction program – apparently on August agenda, after a massive document organizing project by Mike Welch and Garry Gryczyn
3. Compliance disclosure by Boosters / RBHSEA / Patrons’ Council – was up in July, coming back in September
4. Investigation into illegal campaigning – presumably coming up via dismissal of the lawsuit

…And I also agree with Jerry – if the school and the district do not “come clean,” then, even if they restore integrity, the community will not know, and future support for RB will be unnecessarily limited.

Accuracy

Back to Lisa – “I don’t think [Chris’ retellings about Tim Scanlon] present an accurate reflection of past events…”

If inaccurate, please correct. I have recited a bunch of governance-administration-Tim disasters. There are many others. Please take your pick. The better hold we have on the past, the more common ground we will have for future improvement. This gets me to…

Calls to action

“Chris’ original post is accusation after accusation with no call to any action that should be taken…”

First, most of what i wrote is straight from the public record, not “accusations.” I stand by every word. Second, the post says it is to put Tim’s actions in relief, and remove him from the Landmark’s hagiographic glow. In other words, the post calls us to face what actually happened.

Third, each section of the long version of the post (above) has its own moral. For instance, “Tim Grants Indicted Pusher Access to Our Kids and School” says, ‘Run the IHSA, RB Bd of Ed and ISBE volunteer background checks and let chips fall where they may.’

Most importantly, I point out that this was our fault, not Tim’s. The Herbst crew hired Tim Scanlon on Jack Baldermann’s recommendation. Jack brought Tim to be his thuggish inside Number Two, and Tim performed brilliantly. He reliably executed the junta’s decisions. We were no more going to change Tim into a diligent community representative than we were going to make the Des Plaines River run to Schaumburg.

Tim’s abuses are our fault for failing at governance. We hired the Herbst crew. If that does not sound a “call to action,” then perhaps some among us need four-foot painted block letters, “Get governance right to alleviate many concerns and grow community support.” (Basically, this is all I ever say.)

Personalities do not matter

Lisa then scores me with, “if you were truly concerned with the kids at RB, then you would stop complaining about grown-ups you do not like.”

But I am not complaining about grown-ups: “Full disclosure: I do not know Tim Scanlon personally, but have observed him and his official acts while studying the school.”

It’s not the individual adults who matter, it is their actions, and, specifically, their official acts. I also made this point several years ago when I went on against former athletic director Otto Zeman, a person I have never met and thus against whom I cannot have personal animus.

I cheerfully acknowledge both Tim’s service to my family, and to others, as part of the human glue that keeps a place like RB pulled together. This is to say that Tim is not “all bad,” it is that portion of his actions that have hurt kids at RB and the 208 community which is of concern.

As long as a sliver of credibility is invested in what was a fundamentally corrupt and spendthrift era, I will remind folks of the official actions – and actors — that led us into the mess our current board confronts. That is how we face the past to build a stronger future.

Tim and the audit

Lisa says I do not get the Tim and audit matter, because Tim lacked authority to promise, let alone deliver, the audit he promised at Komarek.

But Tim was surrounded by his superiors when he made the promise, as is clear on the videotape.

Dr. Bonnette, Mrs. Bylsma, and several board members were there. Not one of them interrupted Tim, or overruled Tim’s promise. Of course not – they were asking us for the biggest tax hike in local history. For any one of them to have said, “Tim is not authorized to promise an audit, there will be no audit of the $58 million you taxpayers gave us,” would have been impolitic in the moment. So they kept quiet, assented to Tim’s promise – and stiffed us later on the audit.

[This type of story-shading by Lisa, omitting the key detail in a way that benefits her narrative, causes me to believe her accusation, that I present inaccurate retellings, may in practice go a bit both ways.]

Lisa and Boosters

Lisa then seeks to rehabilitate Boosters. She says, in so many words, ‘the end justifies the means.’ “I’d say that was a pretty good return on investment,” she writes about their campaign contribution morphing into a leaky gym.

Here is my central disagreement with Lisa, as far as I can tell.

If the RB board, representing the District 208 community, gives a group authority to use RB’s name, a free telethon with RB equipment and personnel, and other special privileges, such as gate receipts at all home games, postage, office and clerical support, etc., and if that group raises funds from RB parents under the cloak of that status, then RB has every right to insist that the group actually observes corporate formalities, and displays such observance, in the form of its by-laws, minutes, submissions to IRS, the Illinois attorney general and the Illinois secretary of state, on its website. These are documents the groups must create or file in any case, posting them to a website is no burden whatsoever.

But Lisa writes: “Let’s remember that the Boosters are their (sic) own entity. They (sic) are not responsible to the public or the school. They (sic) are responsible to their (sic) members.”

This is flat wrong. Worse, it is exactly the approach that Tim and RB’s corrupt leadership sustained for its decade of error.

Boosters acted as though it was both a private association, able to do or spend as its members pleased–just as Lisa asserts. But at the same time it also claimed to be a section 501 (c) (3) IRS-registered non-profit, which status would subject it to federal requirements. And it claimed to be an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, too.

In fact, it had registered as an Illinois corporation, but failed to maintain that status. After years of telling the community it was IRS-recognized, and under pressure from a few of us who asked deeply unpopular questions, it reversed course, and announced its claim was unsupported.

So, Boosters enjoyed numerous benefits from RB, and took money from RB families, under false pretenses. Then, without authority from its members or anyone else, it spent $15,000 on a political campaign. (I supported the same side in that campaign, by the way.)

Lisa’s Darwinian, caveat emptor, boys-will-be-boys approach, namely, ‘check the Boosters not-for-profit status yourself, it is your problem, not RB’s and surely not the Boosters’, gets all of this upside-down. If the RB board grants special access, then there should be no reason for busy RB parents to question a group’s status. One should go with the other. Lisa’s let-the-donor-beware prescription misses the point entirely.

Dialogue

For all of our disagreements, the dialogue is essential. Much of what I have written is over at chrisrobling.com, and i invite folks to decide for themselves if my posts hold up over time. There is considerable good news coming out of RB, such as the unexpected surplus, thanks to the new board’s and Dr. Skinkis’ determination to air the place out and create much higher expectations.

About this, there should be no disagreement, since all of us seek a most highly distinguished school that meets our kids where they are and takes them as far as they can go.

That vision will require considerably more support than the school now enjoys, and the only way to get there is, in Lisa’s words, to stay focused and, in Jerry’s words, to come clean.

Explore posts in the same categories: Education, Riverside Brokfield High School -- Referendum, Riverside Brookfield High School -- Athletics, Riverside Brookfield High School -- Turnaround

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