Last week the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate published an article (“District 64 board president: ‘Significant progress’ on negotiations with teachers,” July 19) consisting almost entirely of unfiltered propaganda from Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 about the interminable contract negotiations between D-64 (a/k/a the taxpayers) and the Park Ridge Education Association (the “PREA”), a/k/a, the teachers union.
We’ve come to expect our local media serving as unquestioning conduits for whatever half-truths, misinformation and disinformation D-64 and Maine Twp. School District 207 disseminate in their quest to preserve their Teflon coatings. The next time the H-A or the Park Ridge Journal conducts any investigative reporting about either school district will be the first.
But we did get a kick out of the H-A article’s reporting Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli’s proclamation that “significant progress” has occurred in the negotiations, especially given how those negotiations commenced way back on January 19 yet we’re barely a month before the expiration of the existing contract and the start of the new school year without a new contract.
It took the U.S. and North Vietnam around eight months just to agree on the shape of the bargaining table for their negotiations to end the Vietnam War, so by that pathetic benchmark these D-64 and PREA negotiators are crushing it. But by any reasonable standard, they’ve already been lapped at least twice by Team Escargot.
If D-64 and the PREA were making even half an effort, they would have met more than twice a month; and these negotiations would have been wrapped up in a couple of months. That would have given D-64 plenty of time to publish the proposed contract so that it could receive ample taxpayer scrutiny and public comment. Heck, there’s even a miniscule chance it could have been sent back for further negotiations over the more ridiculous provisions.
But among all the things on which the D-64 Board/Administration and the PREA march in lockstep, nothing surpasses their mutual dislike for public scrutiny – especially if that scrutiny reveals how irresponsibly and unaccountably the Board members are discharging their stewardship of the $70 million-plus the taxpayers give them each year.
It’s that mutual distaste for scrutiny which suggests the most likely explanation for such a glacial pace of negotiations, an explanation as nefarious as it is opaque to those on the outside of these secretive, closed-session negotiations: D-64 and the PREA have been colluding to intentionally delay the process in order to create a crisis.
By deliberately stalling the process of getting to “yes” until right before the current contract expires and school resumes, the D-64 Board and the PREA can cynically insist on lickety-split approval of whatever taxpayer-unfriendly deal they’ve cooked up – with no time left on the clock for the contract’s terms to be disclosed to the taxpayers and a meaningful opportunity given those taxpayers to question, comment on, and/or debate those terms prior to the Board’s approval of them.
It’s a strategy as clever as it is dishonest, a charade pretty much guaranteed to deceive and neuter the taxpayers while benefiting the PREA and covering – at least temporarily – the derrieres of the eight members of the D-64 negotiating team.
That way, Borrelli and his fellow bobble-heads won’t have to explain to taxpayers why they agreed to renew the current contract’s anti-transparent, anti-accountability (Article III, Section B(3)) – a provision which doesn’t expressly prohibit open-session negotiations but which uses just enough weasel-words (“Public releases must have prior mutual consent until either the Board or the PREA declares impasse…[after which] public releases or statements may be made without mutual consent provided the other party is given 48 hours’ advance notice.”) to encourage the PREA to file an unfair labor practice charge if D-64 actually tried to inform the taxpayers of the PREA’s demands and negotiating tactics.
It also means Borelli et al. will be tying the hands of the next D-64 contract negotiating team and once again keeping the taxpayers in the dark – just like Borrelli’s predecessor, John Heyde, did four years ago.
And it means the D-64 Board can approve the new contract without even showing it to the taxpayers, like Heyde and his Heydettes did four years ago.
That also means that Borrelli and the bobble-heads can renew the current contract’s “spike” provision that jacks up the salaries of near-retirement teachers by an additional 6% per year to fatten their pensions by tens (hundreds?) of thousands of dollars over their retirement– as Borrelli seemed to suggest in response to a question from resident Peter Karas at the July 18 Board meeting – with the taxpayers being none the wiser until the new contract has been approved and that spike provision has become a fait accompli.
You can watch the Karas-Borrelli colloquy, and Supt. Laurie Heinz inviting Karas to e-mail her or finance guru Luann Kolstad his questions (so that the answers never make it into the public record?), from 6:20 to 14:30 of the meeting video.
You can also watch – from 3:58 to 6:15 of that same video – how Borrelli, Heinz and the rest of that assembled multitude fail to engage taxpayer and education advocate, Joan Sandrik, when she asks them to remove the closed-session bargaining provision from the new contract. Heinz didn’t even invite Sandrik to correspond by e-mail.
That’s the way the D-64 Board operates under “Boss” Borrelli, much the same way it operated under “Boss” Heyde.
Which calls to mind a lyric from The Who’s rock anthem, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”:
“Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”
Sadly, Borrelli has proved that painfully true.
And that taxpayers are getting fooled again.
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