This April Is Referendum II

Posted March 21, 2013 by chrisrobling
Categories: Education, Riverside Brokfield High School -- Referendum, Riverside Brookfield High School -- Athletics, Riverside Brookfield High School -- Turnaround

Tags: , , ,

A post from long ago…
That holds up…

Leadership extracts the price of attention for the benefit of influence. As one who has criticized individual board members — who are elected public officials — and has also been subject to a fair piece of criticism and attack, I understand. No problem, happy to have it, no peep of a complaint here.

But I suggest we hesitate before using pages / posts here or at to make personal statements about individual teachers and their compensation.

Here’s why: “We” asked them to come here and “we” offered them the package they currently receive. “We” are shirking our responsibility if we blame them for accepting something we offered.

Here’s another reason: The teachers – unexpectedly – have reopened the contract. It is a proximate step towards a sustainable RB. Does it help to beat on people after they have done something that is in our mutual interests?

Through the pendency of negotiations it does our community no good, and a considerable amount of bad, to write, “Sally Sue teaches algebra for $100,000 per year and in the private sector she’d be lucky to make $50,000.” Why?

1) PRIOR BOARDS DID THIS IN OUR NAME. It wasn’t Sally Sue who elected the Board that declined to negotiate with the teachers, it was us. So, by attacking Sally Sue, one gets back to being upset with the folks we put on the board, and the people they hired to run the school.

Anger at the beneficiary of our mistake – either an individually or corporately as RBEA — begs the question. Instead, check the mirror.

2) If kids see posts attacking Sally Sue as an unemployable private-sector drop-out who seized the lottery ticket to happiness as an RBEA member, it undermines her ability to maintain order in her classroom. That affects the 120 or so kids who cycle through her classroom daily. Since Sally’s check still comes twice a month, who does that hurt?

3) Forget about “the class,” think about “a student.” If one’s child is a student of Sally Sue, and she’s being trashed, might one reasonably anticipate one’s child to think, “Hey, my teacher is a loser. What can she teach me? I’m skipping out this term . . . ” That term never comes back.

4) Most of us, me included, know zilch about what’s really happening in the school day-to-day. With few exceptions, we never really will — and thus our evaluation of Sally Sue is specious.

I have written frequently about the governance problem we had at RB. It was in fact largely a delegation problem. We delegated our authority to the Board, which in turn delegated most of its authority to several centers within the school — the athletic center, the vice/assistant principal center, the outsourced service provider center, the RBEA, etc. Because our Boards were otherwise occupied, none of the centers in the school were aligned, nor were they oriented towards us. The wheels fell off when taxpayers said no to paying bills with which they did not agree, or when we found the boiler did not work, or the pool fan was broken and no one lifted a finger.

The new board, properly oriented, is bringing these centers back into alignment for us via a superintendent who is not part of the old cabal. Via the new Board, Dr. Skinkis carries our day-to-day delegation, not the various centers.

And, as Dr. Skinkis runs the place, it is he who knows — on our behalf — which teachers are cutting it and which aren’t. That is as it should be. He is roughly our G.M. to Principal Bylsma’s Manager — fielding the players Skinkis puts in her clubhouse (that’s a “Moneyball” analogy).

Even if one of us becomes a school board member, one’s personal involvement in teacher-by-teacher evaluation is going to be very strictly limited, or else there is a school board micro-managing issue.

Since Nov. 30 [2011] I have had a spreadsheet with all RB salaries for ten years. It is very interesting – and as a subject of descriptive statistical analysis it shows just how out to lunch our prior boards have been. Let me say it this way: They’d be right at home in the Greek Parliament when it comes to spending other people’s money. The problem is – that money is ours, and we have just about run out. The referendum was a big tab for their misfeasance.

It’s easy to blame bogey-people. (That’s the p.c. way of saying bogeymen.) It’s hard to take responsibility for a school district that was captured by internal centers because our elected board representatives phoned it in.

It is also hard for RBEA to re-open the contract, and I salute them for it. RBEA – while not our “partner” as the vision statement erroneously states — represents our single biggest expenditure. On any rational basis RBEA deserves respect informed by circumstances. As a community we have passed from ‘showing there is a problem’ to ‘finding a solution to the problem.’ That means our smart play is to strengthen both the Board (us) and RBEA (the teachers) to make the extremely difficult choices that will return RBHS to fiscal sustainability.

[End old post.]

Quite simply, thanks to the current Board’s dedication to emptying the overflowing in-box of issues left over from past procrastination, this election is really about only one thing: Referendum II.

The choice is: Who do you want representing YOU in the negotiations. One side is comprised of Referendum supporters, led by the CURB chair.

The other side has shown its fealty to the District’s 79% rejection of deficit spending, out of control spending and commitments to spending for which we do not have the money to pay, aka, the current contract.

I know which side I want representing me, both for the salary / compensation issues and the work rules, which are so far in the Union’s favor that it was willing to forego several years of raises to keep them…

…and that must be why this board said, “No deal, we must put work rules on the table.”

And that is why the hysteria level is beginning to echo the night-terrors of “Otherside.”

Seven years, average of 65 percent raises, work rules so favorable they are worth three years of raises. It was a nice run. Time for a catch-up contract for the community — and the folks who will negotiate it.

Four-year raises at RBHS top 27 percent

Posted March 18, 2013 by chrisrobling
Categories: Education, Riverside Brokfield High School -- Referendum, Riverside Brookfield High School -- Athletics, Riverside Brookfield High School -- Turnaround

Tags: , , ,

An analysis of earnings shows the average raise since the start of Riverside Brookfield High School’s current five-year contract has been 27.7 percent for 79 teachers and administrators.

The analysis compares earnings reported by the official Illinois Teachers’ Retirement Service (TRS) based on submissions from District 208 at the ends of the 2007-2008 and 2011-2012 school years.  The reports by TRS of District 208-supplied data were provided in response to an Illinois Freedom of Information Act request.  They are available at

The 79 members of District 208’s “certified staff” were selected because they are full-time and appear on both reports, and thus illustrate the actual operation of the current collective bargaining agreement between the District and the Riverside Brookfield Education Association.

Other District 208 certified staff members, who either left before 2011-2012 or arrived after 2007-2008, are not included in this analysis.

This analysis is based on total creditable (for TRS purposes) earnings before the current contract, and after four years of the current contract.

The 79 teachers received $8,292,550 in creditable earnings in 2011-2012, up $1,740,677, or 26.6 percent, from the 2007-2008 total of $6,551,872.

The average 2011-2012 earnings were $104,969.  The 2007-2008 average earnings were $82,935.

The average raise of 27.7 percent differs from the percentage increase in TRS creditable earnings due to different times in the four-year period when raises were granted.

Of the 79 teachers, 36 received raises of more than 27.7 percent, while 43 saw raises below 27.7 percent.

The teacher whose personal statistics most closely mirror the overall rate of increase earned $99,959 in 2007-2008 teaching English.  By the 2011-2012 school year, under the current contract, he had received raises of $27,769, or 27.8 percent, to conclude 2011-2012 with TRS creditable earnings of $127,728.

The individual teacher whose start and end salaries most closely reflect those of his 79 colleagues as a whole, earned $80,080 in 2007-2008, teaching applied arts.  Under the current contract, his TRS creditable earnings rose by some $21,720 or 27.1 percent, to $101,801.

Four District 208 teachers received raises between 40 percent and 49.95 percent.  Raises of between 30 percent and 39.23 were awarded to 18 teachers.  Raises between 20 percent and 29.65 percent went to 37 RB teachers.  Fifteen teachers saw their salaries increase between 10 and 19.85 percent.  Two teachers saw salary reductions and one received a single digit raise over the four school year period.

The raises appear not to favor one type of teacher over others.  Of the 18 District 208 teachers who received between 40 percent and 49.95 percent increases, there is a special education teacher, two math teachers, four science teachers including the science chair, a librarian, three wellness teachers and the wellness department chair, a guidance counselor, a French teacher, an English teacher and a U.S. history teacher.

Certified staff salary and other compensation are products of numerous factors, including seniority, qualifications, job responsibility, evaluations and, for some, non-classroom activity, such as earning stipends for coaching or directing extra-curricular activities.  By following this 79-member majority of District 208 full-time staff through the first four years of the current contract, residents and taxpayers can see for themselves how the contract worked in practice.

The current contract was preceded by a three-year, “Catch-up” contract, whose average raise for fulltime certified staff was 10 percent.

Thus, for illustrative purposes, a full time certified staff member who started in the first year of the “Catch-up” contract at $60,000 would, after three years at 10 percent raises per year and almost six percent raises after that, all cumulative, see her salary reach more than $106,000 by the end of the current contract.

The current five-year contract ends on June 30, 2013.  The District 208 board of education and the RBEA held preliminary talks in 2011 and 2010, but have not announced new talks since then.  Six candidates for RB school board are facing off Tuesday, April 9 for three seats.

The 2011-2012 school year is the latest for which such data is available.  Data for 2012-2013 should be available by August.

The truth about new goals, and $67 million

Posted February 26, 2013 by chrisrobling
Categories: Current Events, Education, Riverside Brokfield High School -- Referendum, Riverside Brookfield High School -- Athletics, Riverside Brookfield High School -- Turnaround

Tags: , , ,

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:  Or, go to the comment, below.  Thanks, c

Questions for D96 Candidates

Posted February 25, 2013 by chrisrobling
Categories: Current Events, District 96, Education

Tags: , ,

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

Posted February 24, 2013 by chrisrobling
Categories: Current Events, Politics, Reading List

Tags: , ,

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

Posted February 23, 2013 by chrisrobling
Categories: Current Events, Politics

Tags: , ,

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

Posted February 20, 2013 by chrisrobling
Categories: Current Events, District 96

Tags: , , , ,

“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.