Archive for February 2013

The truth about new goals, and $67 million

February 26, 2013

At tonight’s board meeting, fascinating steps.

First, Tonight was a final reading of the district goals and priorities.  All of the critics who decry lack of vision, while yearning for a vision that was defined by overspending, allowing an indicted drug dealer onto campus, campaigning from the school for the biggest tax hike in history and an uncertified superintendent, have consistently missed the slow, thoughtful, deliberate, ongoing refinement of the goals and priorities.

Maybe they didn’t miss it — maybe they simply left it out since it would have disproven their thesis. Kind of like saying you are a 501c(3), but filing for seven years as something else, and then, when called on it, acting like lying to the IRS and donors is no big deal.

Anyway,drafting and deliberations have been going on for months.  Tonight, Dr. Skinkis said it took longer than he expected, but he felt it was worth it.  One reason it took so long?  The last board left nothing.  For all of the incessant whining out there, most of it coming from one relative of a former board member, the simple fact is the old board never took the time to get this down and build consensus for the list.

The new list is tough — and will mean a lot of professional educator time working through plans and tactics.  Who knows, it might also give shape to the community’s position in contract talks with the teachers this spring.  But the board is now just one vote away (at the March meeting) from a goals list that will set priorities through the school and the budget.  It is all new, a product of a board challenge to Dr. Skinkis and Principal Bylsma.  All seven board members deserve praise for bringing this about.

Then during a discussion with some very committed parents of RB tennis players, some truths about the $67 million construction project also came out:

1.  There are no new roofs on old portions of the building — only the new portions have new roofs.

Problem: In 2006, we were promised new roofs throughout.  What is worse: We now have to pay for new roofs.

2.  The athletic field, which made the soccer lines almost impossible to see, will need replacing about 2016.

Problem: We will have to pay for that.

3.  For $67 million, we did not get new tennis courts, our courts are in disrepair

Problem:  The tennis parents are concerned that the courts may be unsafe and injury-producing.

4. Nor did we get a refurbished football stadium.

Problem: We are now roping off areas in which people may not sit.

These came out as the board was conveying to the tennis parents why even a comparatively small request now generates considerable complexity.  It was at about 8:50 p.m., if you watch the thursday evening replay.

These complement the other problems with the project, which have been documented elsewhere on this blog, and are yet another peak at the iceberg of incompetence known as the construction project.  The current board, all seven of them, are to be commended for bearing this unnecessary burden, left by the Tim-Joanne-Larry-Jack crew, and sorting all of the steps necessary to get the work done that was necessary then — and now, despite us being out $67 million.

Please, if you supported the referendum, know that these failures were covered up at the time (some of us were already calling for an audit then), and that cynical ploy was: “Get their money now for the teachers’ salaries, and we’ll get it later for the projects ignored by the $67 million.”  Since at least two, and i think three, of the candidates this year supported the referendum, we can show them again how we really feel about the bad old days — and the folks who are leading us to a better tomorrow.

P.S. For more info on RB’s roofs, go here and scroll down: http://www.riversideinfo.org/forum/topic/landmark-letter-turnaround-needed-at-rbhs/page/60#post-19067.  Or, go to the comment, below.  Thanks, c

Questions for D96 Candidates

February 25, 2013

For the heck of it, and expecting no replies, here are my questions for all candidates:

1.  What are your take-aways from the Lieggi Scandal ?  Specifically, if you are elected what steps will you take to prevent another such mess ?  Please be specific.

2.  If elected, you will soon have a new superintendent.  Acknowledging you are just one vote, and the Board must act as a whole, what five priorities would you yourself personally present to the new superintendent ?

3.  Which curricular attainment areas, if any, of D96 are, in your opinion, not what / where they should be ?  Why ?  As a board member, what will you do about these ?

4.  Questions have been raised (please see, up this thread) about the Board’s direction and oversight of the $18 million renovation.  What is your reaction to the price, direction, oversight, transparency and FOIA compliance issues raised therein ?

5.  D96 has decidedly “Taxed to the Max,” building up reserves at one point of $43 million.  Some say we borrowed $10 million we did not need so we could keep “Taxing to the Max,” and are now stuck paying $325,000/year in interest, which is a good four teachers/year.  Will you support the “Tax to the Max” policy or oppose it ?

6.  Parents of special needs children have banded together to advocate for greater sensitivity / responsiveness from D96.  What statement do you make to these parents, and the community at large, about D96 and special needs ?

7.  At least since the founding of Network 96 there has been an organized or a visible expression of parental disappointment with how D96 treats parents.  [I myself said at the new superintendent public input session that since 2001, my experience has been that D96 treats parents as “witless interlopers,” with all attendant disrespect and derision.]  Does any of this resonate with you, or not ?  In your view, how should D96 treat parents ?  If elected, how will you work to bring that about ?

8.  The President in the State of the Union address said his administration will challenge U.S. high schools to “better equip graduates for the demands of a high tech economy.”  In your view, how does that national priority translate to the D96 curriculum?  Are you satisfied that our D96/D208 curricula mesh enough to take kids as far as they can go in their 12 (or 13) years in the two systems ?

9.  While, statistically, American suburban elementary schools are one of the safest environments on earth, the multiple victim public shooting by a deranged individual in Newtown, Connecticut has raised security questions for all in elementary education.  Are you satisfied with current security at D96 ?  If not, what steps might you support to strengthen security ?   

10.  What D96 policy, program or practice not yet mentioned, if any, strikes you as needing a new look and possible change ?  Please be specific.

Digital Age Ballot Integrity and Security

February 24, 2013

http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/23/v-print/3250726/the-case-of-the-phantom-ballots.html

In the above-linked story there is a fascinating report on what sounds like programmed-bots trying to gain access to absentee ballots in Miami last year.  The sleuthing necessary to make cases in situations like these is digital, and potentially very complex. Vote fraud is a permanent concern in democracies, like burglary, battery or embezzlement.  That means prevention techniques and detection tactics must also be permanent, and commitments by law enforcement must reflect the seriousness of the alleged underlying offense.  Very well written article by the Herald’s Patricia Mazzei.

Stop Jerry Clarke’s Latest Fiasco

February 23, 2013

Jerry Clarke is nursing a grudge because he blames his loss to Rodney Davis on Pat Brady.

This has as much to do with the gay rights bill, which I oppose, as the Man in the Moon.

Pat Brady is the most effective chairman we have has since Harold Byron Smith, and in some ways I think he has surpassed Mr. Smith’s impressive achievements. This attempted putsch, which I believe will be put down, is utterly unworthy of any party that wants to compete for the Governorship in 2014.

Our fellow Illinoisans are jobless to an almost unprecedented degree. Families fear for their ability to afford college, let alone retirement. Their state government betrays instead of serves them. Corruption reigns in the fetid dung heap of Springfield where cynical devotion to the Third House of Illinois Government, AFSCME, eclipses any effort at reform.  Democrats run amuck, unchecked, untethered and uncaring for the suffering they inflict on the beleaguered taxpaying families of the Prairie State.  It is a cruel game where insiders win and regular folks pay.

All who think, in view of this, pursuing a retrograde “gotcha” orbit, gets us closer to winning in 21 short months, should take a long, hard look at what is really happening, and what is really at stake, here.

If they say, “but Pat said something no Republican should say,” then my reply is, all who have not committed an error, get to the front of the line.

Jerry Clarke?  He drove Bill Brady, and all of us, into the ditch we now occupy.

Jim?  He is a friend I admire, but he flew over Soldier Field in a campaign ad against illegal immigration that made us out to be racists.

“But Pat deviated from the orthodoxy, he has to go,” they say.

Yes, he did, and I wish he had not done so for this bill.  But, if we start expelling all who deviate or have deviated, then we will be even less able to help our fellow Illinoisans recover their incomes, futures and hopes for their kids than we are today.  And today, please recall, we are super minorities in both houses — because when we needed Jerry Clarke to know how to run Bill Brady’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010, he hid under his campaign manager desk, afraid to contest the collars and Cook County — the largest source of votes in our beloved, open, flat and welcoming state.

How did that happen?  Funny you should ask.  Jerry Clarke, self-regarding Illinois Republican State Central Committeeman, cynically violated the orthodoxy when he hired the Democrat, Skinny Sheehan, to run Bill Brady’s campaign in Cook County.

That’s right, Jerry Clarke gave Republican donor contributions — your money — to a made member of the Chicago Democrat Machine make deals with his Democrat buddies so Bill would be Governor and Jerry could be a big shot.

And then, Jerry was so benighted, he actually expected the Democrats to fall in line for his thirty pieces of silver.  JERRY WAS FAMOUSLY SURPRISED ON ELECTION NIGHT !  He didn’t hear Judge Schmale say, “You will get nothing, and you will like it.”  Friends, that’s Jerry’s brand of leadership.

It’s about as “Republican” as George Ryan stopping the Willis investigation.  But Jerry did it, betraying every one of us, as did Ryan, and all of our donors, because he dumbly thought it would make him the next Bill Cellini in Springfield.

But he bounced back, last year, when Jerry and his longtime booster, former Congressman Tim Johnson, cooked up Tim’s “Oh, I forgot to retire” plan.  Jerry was poised to erase the blots in his copy book and become a congressman.  Hey, it’s not Bill Cellini, but it will do for now, right?

Frankly, we ought to be organizing a Parade down State Street for Pat Brady, since he had the outstanding sense to keep this reprobate out of the Illinois U.S. House delegation, and instead backed a Republican of whom we will be proud for years to come.

And we ought to be sitting in judgment as to why a bumble-brain would-be Cellini-esque wheeler-dealer like Jerry is even on our Sate Central Committee.  Jerry knows all of this, better than you and better than me.  And that is why he has signed the state central committee letter, pompously intoning noble motives for his grubby little payback play.

If you love Pat Quinn as Governor, and if you really love the map Pat Quinn signed into law, and if your heart bursts with joy to know the contributions of faithful Republicans were funnelled to the Chicago machine to make Bill Brady win, then thank Jerry this morning and follow Jerry wherever he leads.  And you know what Jerry’s 2013 fiasco is all about.

I have seen Jerry’s work, I am living in its result.  Pat Brady is ready to lead us past Jerry’s mistakes to Gubernatorial victory in 2014 — even when we disagree.  That is why I am proudly backing the best chairman we have seen in 20 years, the gentleman from St. Charles, Patrick M. Brady.

Please Read Steven Battersby’s Landmark Letter to the Editor

February 20, 2013

“District 96 should accept responsibility”

http://www.rblandmark.com/News/Articles/2-19-2013/District-96-should-accept-responsibility/

One of the most distressing aspects of the Lieggi Scandal has been the Board’s equanimity about ruining Susan Battersby’s teaching career.  She now works in a warehouse, I am told.  I have never met her.  It is an outrage, but the Board could not appear to care less.  I believe Ms. Battersby should be vindicated, and, as has been said by many, Lieggi dumped.  Please take a look at Mr. Battersby’s — her father — thoughts in the letter linked above, and evaluate the performance of the folks who brought this on.  Not their staff, not their top staffer, the superintendent, but they themselves personally.  The staff is the Board’s responsibility, just like this painful mess.

Lax Construction Management Detailed at D96

February 20, 2013

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnpV83u2CUHOSJR7-Ui69Y1K9-UxlEoew&hd=1 (click on video #2)

Above is a link to the presentation that Mary Ellen Meindl and D96 staff sought to derail at last night’s board meeting.

Very disturbing:

A) According to statements by Mary Ellen Meindl and senior staff, and documents obtained by FOIA, the board approved $18 million in construction payments last year without reviewing proper documentation, specifically, the lien waivers.

B) We paid $400 for gfi sockets that cost $20 at Home Depot.  We are paying our architect unlimited 7.5% markup; at RBHS, thanks to Attorney Karen Layng, they negotiated to guaranteed maximum contract(s) with limited mark-ups at 3.75%

C) We borrowed $10 million, are paying 3.25% interest ($325,000/year, or 4.5 teachers/year), and getting .5% on our deposited funds, all while we had the cash due to MaxTaxing.  Instead, we pay interest.

D) We employed neither a construction manager, nor a commissioning agent, despite the expenditure of 1x annual budget.  There was no consistent risk management policy.  (As it unfortunately happens, no one on the board or in the senior staff has architecture / design / engineering / construction / renovation / commissioning / integration experience.)

E) When the relevant documents (regarding the $18 million) were requested, it took six weeks to produce them, after numerous stall and delay tactics.

F) When FOIAs were used to get some of these documents, D96 deliberately did not comply with the FOIA request.

Email request to Justino Petrarca and Mary Ellen Meindl

February 19, 2013

The Landmark bombshell:

http://www.rblandmark.com/News/Articles/2-19-2013/District-96-board-questions-principal-about-ties-to-attorney/

… and here is a simple request, emailed just now:

justin –

1. as a district 96 taxpayer, i ask you straight up:  did you disclose your personal relationship with a district 96 staffer to mary ellen, in her official capacity, in writing ?

in replying, please bear in mind the rules of the Illinois supreme court, article VIII, Illinois rules of professional conduct, rule 1.7: conflict of interest:

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b), a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:

(1) the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or

(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer [emphasis added].  see: http://www.state.il.us/court/supremecourt/rules/art_viii/ArtVIII_NEW.htm#1.7

2.did you receive from mary ellen, in her official capacity, a D96 waiver indicating informed consent to your continued representation notwithstanding your declared personal relationship and any conflicts that may arise from said relationship ?  [see: rule 1.7 (b)(4).]

please produce these two documents at tonight’s meeting.

thank you.

mary ellen and jon –

under illinois foia, please consider this a request for any and all such notes, memoranda, letters, emails, declarations, waivers, communications, either on paper or in electronic storage, in the possession of riverside district 96, that amount to either attorney justino petrarca’s declaration to you of his personal interest that might give rise to conflicts of interest, or district 96’s waiver indicating informed consent in conformance with rule 1.7 (b)(4):

(b) Notwithstanding the existence of a concurrent conflict of interest under paragraph (a), a lawyer may represent a client if:

(1) the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client;

(2) the representation is not prohibited by law;

(3) the representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal; and

(4) each affected client gives informed consent. [emphasis added]

thank you.