Posted tagged ‘Matt Sinde’

Unofficial list of Matt Sinde / Mike Welch / Board accomplishments in office

March 29, 2013

Unofficial list of Matt Sinde / Mike Welch / Board accomplishments in office 

With thanks to Members Garry Gryczan, Laura Hruska, John Keen, M.D., Dan Moon and Tim Walsh

(List in formation, not definitive)


For many months, dedicated critics of Riverside Brookfield District 208 president Matt Sinde have falsely alleged ‘no accomplishments’ in office.  I have constructed these notes from official board documents on the RBHS web site and the RB Landmark newspaper, and in one case from the student newspaper RB Clarion, to illustrate the fatuousness of the attack. 

I believe the fifty-some achievements listed below show Matt Sinde to have driven vital and necessary change at RB, an “institution in transition” in which decisions needed were “not… popular among staff and many in the community” but which were “inevitable” due to “the utter failure of a property tax referendum in 2011,” with those quotes from the RB Landmark of Wednesday, March 27, 2013. 

The Landmark is to be commended for finding Matt “qualified” and “deserving of the office.”  My own view is Matt provided the steady hand on RB’s tiller that had been absent for years.  With the school’s spending out of control, and the RB-backed 2011 referendum repudiated by a margin of more than three-to-one, tough choices over neglected crises had to be made.  Matt guided the board in its policy-making and oversight role to those choices and through them. 

If you read the minutes now as I have, you will be struck by the rare substantive votes with a division of the board.  Almost all substantive votes earned unanimous support, and the continued unanimity indicates Matt’s leadership style has quietly encouraged all to express their view and to see their concerns resolved.

Matt has said a hundred times his goal is quality sustainable education.  That requires both sides of the phrase, “quality” and “sustainable” to be met.  If one of them is missing, the other does not matter, because either the education is not good or the school will fail, as RB almost did.

Critics of the current board are convinced – or sound convinced – that RB’s recent past included a virtual Renaissance of serious learning.  That assertion will be the subject of another post.  But even if they are right, they should also acknowledge the precarious, if not outright failing, state of the RB they handed over to Matt Sinde and the new board in 2011.

It is no surprise that they do not, but it should also be no surprise to anyone in the community that the following list proves that without fiscal stability, no education program is secure, and the extent of stabilizing that has been necessary at RB shows the whole place had all but imploded.   

Matt Sinde and his incumbent running mate Mike Welch, and the other five members of the current board, Garry Gryczan, Laura Hruska, John Keen, M.D., Dan Moon and Tim Walsh, were dealt a tough hand in May 2011.  The following list of accomplishments shows they made the most of it, and in so doing have charted a path from disaster to a turnaround that, while still daunting in some respects, appears destined for success. 

Each of us – even the harping critics – owes each of them for all of that.  I hereby express my thanks and my admiration for a tough job done very well. 

And – no surprise – I suggest that upon your review of the following you will join me in voting for Matt Sinde, Mike Welch, and their non-incumbent running mate attorney Ed Jepson, on Tuesday, April 9. 

Here is the list:

  1. Established ambitious “School Goals” through consultative process that started in September 2011 with every educator in the building, led by Principal and Superintendent, up through board consensus / 5-0 vote, with Walsh and Keen already supportive, but absent from meeting.  Goals are specific per areas– academics, finance, communication and facilities, progress is measurable.  Major new decision: assess each class (Frosh, Soph, etc.) year-by-year, to chart and intervene if / when necessary for overall achievement, “Riverside-Brookfield High School board sets lofty goals for students,” RBLandmark, 3/19/2013
  2. Hired a talented and resourceful assistant principal after a search that looked closely at 16 candidates.
  3. Board instituted two meetings a month – one business, for official votes, and one Committee of the Whole, for issue briefs and discussion of personal views – to work through deferred issue backlog – May 2011
  4. Board adopted Dr. Bonnette’s recommendation of advisory councils instead of board committees, with all advisory council recommendations reaching the board through committee-of-the-whole meetings for notice and transparency:
  5.  No factions.  Reading the meeting minutes, one finds more than 95% of board votes are 7-0, very few are 4-3 or 5-2, several are 6-1, and some are 6-0-1, see:
  6.  Established new school / board website, see:
  7.  Put board agenda and packet items on website, adopted “Board Book” to make documents easier for all to see / understand / use.  See: and
  8.  Posted TV on its own page, by agenda item, so folks can select their specific issue, see:
  9.  Also streamed meetings online, while continuing cable broadcasts, see:
  10.  Posts all bills on school website, see:
  11.  Conducted first property inventory in memory, issued report with findings of non-existent procedures, differences to hundreds of thousands of dollars of unaccounted for physical inventory.
  12.  Authorized Superintendent to establish normal personnel procedures where none were found upon his entry into office: “He [Skinkis] wants to establish clear lines of authority, delineating roles among top administrators, something that may have been lacking at RBHS in the recent past… ‘One of my priorities is to clearly establish operational authority for building matters and district matters,’ Skinkis said.”  RBLandmark, 7/12/2011
  13.  Instituted emergency student safety video access to Riverside Police Department, expanded RPD co-operation, including unannounced searches to combat drug sales inside RBHS.  See:
  14.  Stood up to pressure for another referendum:  “There are no plans to hold a referendum for Riverside-Brookfield High School this spring.  In a story published by the Clarion, Riverside-Brookfield High School’s student newspaper on Oct. 13, District 208 School Board President Matt Sinde was quoted as saying, ‘We will not have a referendum this year.’”  RBLandmark, 10/18/2011
  15.  Rejected the scare tactics of the prior board and administration’s pro-referendum campaign: “If the referendum lost in 2012 the administration said it would cut all extracurricular activities, including all sports, and the school would basically shut down at 3:15 p.m….  “Sinde said Thursday that the current board does not feel that it is obligated to follow through on that recommendation.   ‘I don’t feel bound by that at all,’ Sinde said.  But Sinde wouldn’t commit to having sports next year.  He said that the board and administration will work to develop a budget and take a fresh look at everything.  ‘We are working to develop the budget,’ Sinde said.  ‘That’s all I’m saying right now.  We do not know what we’re cutting.  We don’t know anything like that.’  Sinde said the board is committed to providing students with a good education.  ‘We’ll make the necessary cuts and adjustments to make sure that our children are educated and make sure we’re meeting the needs of our students,’ Sinde said.”  — RBLandmark, 10/18/2011
  16.  Unanimously cut anticipated budgeted deficit by 50% from prior year’s deficit $1,835,131, according to the RBLandmark 9/20/2011, and “RBHS slashes budget deficit through cuts, 2011-12 shortfall half of last year’s number” RBLandmark, 8/16/2011
  17.  Unanimously passed its own 2011-2012 budget, through the two-meeting-per-month discussion process mentioned above, rather than accept the prior board’s legacy budget.  September 13 board minutes at:
  18.  Unanimously cut unnecessary stipends:
  19.  Did not end RB athletics, or other student life activities, as per scare tactic budget
  20.  By vote of 6 – 1, made the tough choice on pay-to-participate, sports participation levels for following season increased:
  21.  Unanimously supported a revised student activity fee:
  22.  Reduced non-certified payroll:
  23.  Unanimously established standards for facility use cost allocations and payments, generating $65,000 as of March 26, 2013 school board meeting report:
  24.  Instituted management of Aramark contract, gaining $40,000 payment prior board overlooked and unanimously cut Aramark costs:
  25.  Unanimously adopted green lighting standards ignored by the reconstruction, qualifying for a Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Energy Efficiency Grant for the transition and reducing future energy costs:
  26.  Found ways in 2011-2012 to assist volunteers in their support of Math Club, Spring Musical and other activities, despite cuts.
  27.  Through cost control, showed surplus for 2011-2012.  “Riverside-Brookfield High School ends fiscal year with a budget surplus” RBLandmark, 7/31/2012
  28.  Unanimously (with one member absent) restored Franczek-Radelet relationship to increase state aid when possible that prior board allowed to lapse:
  29.  Brought back Math Club and Spring Musical in 2012-2013
  30.  By a vote of 6-1, created IRS / SoS standards for adult volunteer organizations that raise $$ in the name of RBHS, and  and
  31.  Made ongoing valuable savings by switching to the Educational Benefit [healthcare services] Cooperative:
  32.  Moved class registration up in the year, giving students curricular certainty and administration ability to rationalize teacher hiring / deployment: and
  33.  Used registration results to cut unnecessary teachers from 2012-2013 rolls (approximately 10 full time equivalent positions), saving hundreds of thousands of $$:
  34.  Unanimously passed resulting budget:
  35.  Unanimously initiated first critical review of graduation requirements in memory, recruited community members to assist,
  36.  Unanimously passed “Minimum Course Enrollment” creating class size guidelines by type of class, performed first-ever review and approval each of the non-special education “under 20 enrollment” course under new class-size guidelines (all special education under-20s were automatically approved), saved thousands while almost all small classes remained, pre-algebra only ~15 students:         and
  37.  Instituted new, early academic intervention program to assist struggling students closer to signs of trouble (latest research = Freshman year results predict H.S. success)         and
  38.  Unanimously (with one member absent) adjusted Fine Arts requirement:
  39.  Breaking with prior boards, which approved two contracts (2005-2008 and 2008-2013) that led to 65% average raises over eight years, hired legal team to assist in negotiations with teachers’ union:
  40.  Union complained that board using attorneys may slow process:
  41.  Initiated preliminary talks with RBEA in 2011, concluded these in 2012 by a vote of 5-1-1:
  42.  Established 13 memoranda of understanding with RBEA to codify gaps in existing RBEA contract that had been handled ad hoc by prior boards, leaving District potentially liable for litigation and money damages:
  43.  Received reports on construction project from facilities manager in autumn, 2011:
  44.  Began conversation about report / accounting / audit of the construction project:
  45.  Through threat of lawsuit received FREE fix to RB’s new boilers improperly installed and approved under past board:
  46.  Facilities manager departed by 31 December 2011, new F.M. approved early 2012:
  47.  Without objection, decided to publish available construction project records for District 208 residents,  instead of report / accounting / audit, after lengthy volunteer cataloguing and scanning job by two board members:  September 11, 2012 board meeting
  48.  Faulty field house construction, overseen and approved by prior board, that resulted in three years of leaks and water on floor, fixed under this board at no cost to District 208:’No-issues’-after-latest-RBHS-fieldhouse-fix/
  49.  Addressed faulty boiler and boiler control installation overseen and approved by prior board, most recently at March 26, 2013 meeting:
  50.  Addressing faulty swimming pool ventilation system installed and approved under prior board: March 26, 2013 meeting, , and
  51. Unanimously hired new architect, at February 12, 2013 meeting:
  52.  Began life-safety process, especially in re roofs, pool, stadium and tennis courts, at February 12, 2013 meeting:
  53.  Began capital programming process to overcome no operating or maintenance manuals from construction project for major new systems, and no inventory of long-term capital needs:
  54.  Hired new attorney, without ties to past school improprieties:
  55.  Kept prior FA:
  56.  Entered inter-governmental agreement with North Riverside to maintain existing athletic offerings and save D208 taxpayer $$$:
  57.  Secured high-level training from Cook County Department of Homeland Security in partnership with Riverside Police Department after intruder incident:

(List in formation, by no means definitive)