Posted tagged ‘Riverside Brookfield High School’

The Voters and Districts Won

April 9, 2013

Congratulations to tonight’s seven winners in Districts 208 and 96, and thanks to all candidates.  It takes special determination to campaign.  Since in these candidates, that determination is based on a desire to serve others, the mere campaign was itself noble.  Seven will now hold office and continue their service.  To them, thank you in advance for all of your time and energy, and best of luck as you work on our behalf.  With you go our hopes and aspirations.  Please be bold as you pursue them.

Something of a Sum-up

April 8, 2013

We have come to the end of another campaign and I am struck by the words of another poster, “Respect is about more than money.”

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, all of the RB reform that people have pushed since 2006 derives from the observation.

RB in 2006 spent without controls, made promises it did not keep, was ruled by a group of cliques operating with the knowing approval of the board, and pushed kids into AP classes and AP tests to mask the above by getting meaningless ratings on one ranking.

Smart kids did well, but average kids fell into gaps between regular and AP classes. Resources were wasted. Curriculum was skewed. Integrity was sacrificed. RB’s actions disrespected students, parents, taxpayers and residents.

No surprise: Beneficiaries of the dysfunction have bayed loudly, deceptively and, as we see nearby [at, Landmark letter – Turnaround needed at RBHS, 70] crassly, to impede reform.

It is exactly what they did two years ago – trying desperately then to convince voters to impose on themselves the largest local tax hike in history. More money, in their view, would solve all of RB’s problems.

Voters said, “No.” The resulting stringency enabled a reform board and administration to unearth the depths of RB’s overripe issues – in curriculum, construction, collective bargaining, finance and simple management.

With the next contract on the line, these issues are present in tomorrow’s vote. All of RB’s reform is right there, before the voters. We will see what they say, and we will learn from their choices. My sense is the voters know who in their board actions has respected them and their tax dollars, and they will reward those officeholders, and their running mate, accordingly.

Don’t forget to vote.

Salaries, Ratios and Results at RB

April 1, 2013

Much criticism of Riverside-Brookfield High School’s leadership relies on assertions of lost quality of academic achievement.  “These class size raises are hard to bear and really make education at RB worse…” is one quote from a poster.  But a straightforward review of official sources reveals that RB’s academic achievements were halting and discontinuous, particularly when the board has considered raises for members of the Riverside Brookfield Education Association, until the last four years, when progress has been measured and steady, even after “class size” grew.

For instance, no RB class ACT composite score between 2002 and 2008  equaled, let alone exceeded, the 2000-2001 composite score of 22.8 (2002 = 21.6; 2003, 21.7; 2004, 22; 2005, 22.4; 2006, 22.3; 2007, 22.5; and 2008, 22.5).

By 2007-2008, two of five scores (English, Math, Reading, Science Reasoning and Composite) were higher than those of 2000-2001.  English and Reading both reached 23.3, from 2001 bases of 22.2 and 23.0, respectively.  But Math and Science Reasoning both fell, Math to 21.9 from 22.6, and Science Reasoning to 22.0 from 22.7.

In fact, of the 35 individual scores that followed 2001 (five scores per year for the seven-year period) only five exceeded their 2001 value.  Those were the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 English scores, and the 2008 Reading score.  Each of the 30 other scores were less than the 2001 result for their particular area.  That means all of the scores in Math, Science Reasoning, and Composite, and all but one Reading score, were below their respective 2001 outcome.

By 2008, the four-year upturn in English and the improved Reading score were not enough to pull the composite above that of the class of 2001.  What slight improvement RB’s Composite saw came almost exclusively from English results, until 2008.  Source: Table 9, “High School Profile Report,” page 7 in “Riverside Brookfield High School District 208 Testing Report, 2007-2008 School Year.”

To focus on the decision-making period that led to the three-year, ten-percent raises per year, so-called “catch-up contract,” which took effect on July 1, 2005, the 2003-2004 results, which were available in the run-up to signing the new contract, are particularly illuminating.

As RB’s board considered granting three years of ten percent raises in the spring of 2005, the 2004 results underperformed those of 2001 across the board.

English, Math, Reading, Science Reasoning and Composite all fell from the 2001 levels.  English fell to 21.7 (2004) from 22.2 (2001), Math to 21.6 from 22.6, Reading to 22.4 from 23.0, Science Reasoning to 21.6 from 22.7 and Composite to 22, down from 22.8.

Similarly, the run-up to the current contract (July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2013) took place in view of the 2007 results.  English was in the third year of a rise, at 23.1 from 22.2 in 2001.  But it stood alone as an increasing value.  Math was 21.8, down from 22.6 in 2001, Reading, 22.4, down from 23.0, Science Reasoning 22.4, down from 22.7, and Composite was 22.5, still down from 22.8.  Source: Table 9, “High School Profile Report,” page 7 in “Riverside Brookfield High School District 208 Testing Report, 2007-2008 School Year.”

Throughout this period RB’s “Average Teacher Salary” grew to more than 151 percent of the state “Average Teacher Salary” in 2012, from more than 138 percent in 2001:

Year State average RB average $ Difference % difference
2001 $47,929 $66,186 $18,257 38.1
2002 49,702 68,342 18,640 37.5
2003 51,672 69,864 18,192 35.2
2004 54,446 70,538 16,092 29.56
2005 55,558 75,545 19,987 35.97
2006 56,685 76,490 19,805 34.94
2007 58,275 79,110 20,835 35.75
2008 60,871 83,745 22,874 37.58
2009 61,402 86,442 25,040 40.78
2010 63,296 90,120 26,824 42.38
2011 64,978 95,138 30,160 46.42
2012 66,614 101,014 34,400 51.64

Source:  Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois School Report Cards, Riverside Brookfield Twp HS, Riverside Brookfield Twp SD 208, 2001-2012, “Teacher/Administrator Salaries (Full-Time Equivalents)”

In the period of the latest contract ACT scores have risen consistently.  English rose to 23.7 (2012, the latest year for which data is available) from 23.5 (2009), Math to 23.7 from 22.4, Reading to 23.5 from 22.7, and Science to 23.2 from 22.5.  RB’s ACT Composite in 2012 was 23.6, up from 22.9 in 2009.

The student-teacher ratio increased to 23.2 in 2012 from 21.5 in 2009, or to 121 percent of the state ratio (19.2) from 112 percent of the 2009 state ratio (also 19.2).

The 2011 RB ratio was 21.3, meaning its rise to 23.3 in the 2011-2012 school year accompanied ACT score increases to 23.7 from 23.4 in English, to 23.4 from 23.2 in Math, to 23.5 from 22.9 in Reading, to 23.2 from 23.0 in Science and to 23.6 from 23.3 for the RB Composite.

Thus, as Average Teacher Salaries increased to 151.6 percent of the state average in 2012 from 141 percent in 2009, and student-teacher ratios increased to 121 percent of the state ratio from 112 percent, RB saw the Composite ACT rise three percent, less than a one percent increase in English, a 4.5% increase in Math, a 3.5% increase in Reading and a three percent increase in Science.

Because overall achievement – as indicated by the ACT scores — continued on its pre-existing course between 2009 and 2012, it is reasonable to conclude economies enacted after July 1, 2011 have not materially diminished attainments — at least as reflected by this data.

(None of this is to suggest either that correlation equals causation, or that descriptive results equal inferential trends.)

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)


Four-year raises at RBHS top 27 percent

March 18, 2013

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.