Public Watchdog.org

Is District 64 Dishonest Or Irresponsible About Not-Really-Secured Vestibules?

03.29.16

If you believe the propaganda Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Supt. Laurie Heinz, Chief School Business official Luann Kolstad, and a majority of the Tony Borrelli-led D-64 Board has been spouting about the state of “security” at the District’s eight school buildings, the under-secured entrances to each of those schools currently put every schoolchild at risk of being injured or killed by:

(a) an “active shooter” like Sandy Hook’s Adam Lanza;

(b) some unbalanced parent looking to settle a custody or child-support score with a Glock;

(c) a radical extremist deliveryman wearing a suicide vest; or

(d) whatever other threat a fertile imagination can conjure up.

So, what are that Board and Administration doing to address these threats that, according to them, exist right here, right now…today?

NOTHING!

If you want or need proof of such recklessness, look no further than the meeting video of last Monday (03.21.16) night’s Board meeting.

Once again, the topic was “security” – assuming you can use that term with a straight face when discussing the not-really-secured vestibules on which D-64 wants to spend $8-10 million of our tax dollars. More accurately, however, much of the meeting dealt with the seemingly bogus-and-escalating cost estimates foisted upon this gullible Board by the District’s architect of record FGM Architects (“FGM”) and construction manager Nicholas & Associates (“Nicholas”), heavily aided and abetted by Heinz and Kolstad.

In just 18 days – since March 3rd – the projected costs of those vestibules has reportedly soared a whopping $807,000 from FGM’s/Nicholas’ previous $6.9 million figure. And that $6.9 figure itself was a boxcar increase from the dynamic duo’s initial $5.1 million projection last November.

This vestibules project has gone so far off the rails, so quickly, that even a dependable rubber stamper like Board member Scott Zimmerman balked at the 66% cost escalation – claiming that “I’ve never seen a miss like that” by FGM and Nicholas, before calling what they produced a “half-baked pie.”

Given the funny numbers tossed about at that meeting and mentioned in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate’s account of it (“District 64 struggles to balance school security upgrades with high price tag,” March 22) – $7.1 million, $8.9 million, or $10.1 million – we’re not sure any of those numbers is remotely close to real.

Yet Heinz, Kolstad, Borrelli and a majority of the Board weren’t going to let FGM’s/Nicholas’ cost WAGuess-timates stop them from finding some way of moving this ill-conceived and profligate project forward that same night. They made that clear by the two alternative motions (A” and “B”) contained in the Board packet, as well as by numerous comments made during the discussion.

Which is why we want to send a big Watchdog bark-out to resident Joan Sandrik, who showed up to once again speak truth to power – albeit this embarrassingly low-voltage School Board and Administration.

Check out the video (starting at the 2:31:30 mark) to see and hear how Sandrik pulled no punches, opening with a head-snapping left jab of “I don’t trust the architects” followed by a right hook of “I don’t trust anything they say.”

BAM!

In response to the cost escalation of these not-very-secured vestibules, Sandrik quite reasonably asked whether the architects “have…given us a Rolls Royce when all we need is a Buick?”

Although we haven’t seen FGM’s or Nicholas’ contracts with the District, the general rule of thumb is that the more “Rolls Royce” brick-and-mortar projects the District does, the more money flows into FGM’s and Nicholas’ bank accounts. That means it’s in their economic interest – as it has been for D-64’s “security” consultant, RETA Security, Inc. – to peddle as much panic as possible. And the District’s senior administrators and Board majority have been all over that panic-peddling like cats in heat, desperate for some catnip.

$8-$10 million worth of catnip.

Listen to Heinz’s five-minute aluminum siding pitch (starting at 22:40 of the meeting video) in which she invokes the opinion of “numerous security experts” (un-named and therefore un-verifiable) before panic-peddling the “active shooter scenario” (it “could happen”) and then shifting the focus of the vestibules to a more innocuous controlled-movement purpose: restricting where people go once they get inside.

Memo to Heinz: If you don’t have metal detectors at the school entrances, you can’t prevent people from bringing in concealed firearms and ammo. Or a suicide vest filled with ball bearings and metal shrapnel.

And unless you have school personnel escorting visitors (e.g., parents, siblings, grandparents, deliverymen, repairmen, etc.) to whatever room or area of the building he/she is authorized to visit, you have no practical ability to control where that person goes – assuming they have a specific target in mind rather than the desire for random acts of carnage.

Which is why we have to also send a Watchdog bark-out to Board member Tom Sotos, who suggested (starting at 1:10:25 of the meeting video) that the District look into the comparative value of posting an armed security guard at each school entrance for the next 10 years instead of spending roughly the same $8-$10 million on these not-really-secured vestibules.

And another bark-out goes to Board member Mark Eggemann for proposing a referendum on the question of whether a majority of taxpayers casting votes on the issue would support spending multi-millions of dollars on not-really-secured vestibules. He also joined Sotos in calling out Heinz, Kolstad and Borrelli for their insistence on rushing to judgment with a decision while so many options remain under-explored:

“We came here with [options] A and B, and now we’ve got C, D, E and F,” noted Eggemann.

While that kind of reasoning couldn’t completely deter the majority of this Board from blowing taxpayer money, however, it did cause at least a temporary downsizing of the project to a “pilot program” of one school – Washington – which will get about $428,000 of “critical infrastructure” and an $840,000 not-really secured vestibule.

If you believe the Board’s and Administration’s propaganda, that leaves the other seven schools, their students and their teachers sitting ducks for shooters, bombers and various other assorted n’er-do-wells.

It also begs the question of how the District will measure the success of this “pilot” program? Perhaps with an announcement like:

“The new secured $840,000 vestibule at Washington has been every bit as successful at keeping out random active shooters and ISIS terrorists as its predecessor vestibule, so we’re declaring the pilot program a success and rolling out the vestibule program for all the schools”?

Actually, that might be about as forthcoming as D-64 historically has been about the success and failure of many/most of its “pilot” programs.

Despite his professed concern over FGM’s and Nicholas’ 66% cost underestimate, Zimmerman happily endorsed the “pilot program.” So did Board member Vickie Lee, whose predictably mindless support for almost anything and everything the D-64 administration proposes was demonstrated once again by her thinking-is-too-hard “we hired experts” two-minute monolog, starting at 1:43:35 of the meeting video.

So Borrelli and Board member Bob (“Inaction guarantees inequality”) Johnson joined Lee and Zimmerman to approve that pilot program, with Sotos and Eggemann voting “no” and Dathan Paterno MIA. That means Washington will be getting its $840,000 not-really-secured vestibule this summer.

If you’ve got about two hours to spare, and a high pain threshold, you really should try watching the whole “vestibules” segment of the meeting video to see for yourself what passes for informed and intelligent deliberation about multi-million dollar expenditures at D-64. And if your pain threshold is low, you might want to accompany the viewing with an adult beverage of choice, holding the fixings for one or two reinforcements in reserve in case additional numbing is needed.

But whether you finish the video before your beverages finish you, one thing is troublingly clear: This whole not-really-secured vestibules program appears to be, basically, a multi-million dollar fraud.

Either that, or this Board and Administration are AT THIS VERY MOMENT recklessly and callously endangering the lives and safety of thousands of children, teachers and administrators by leaving all these currently under-secured schools “as is” – without trained and armed security personnel on-site to address all the alleged threats and dangers.

You can’t have it both ways, D-64. You’re either lying about the danger, or you’re totally reckless and irresponsible in dealing with it.

To read or post comments, click on title.

7 comments so far

I just watched about 20 minutes of the meeting video, skipping around a little bit. You are right. Painful. And I can’t start drinking yet.

It sounds like nobody on the Board or staff is capable or willing to challenge the FGM and Nicholas reps. So they can say pretty much whatever they want and get away with it. I would bet the same was true with RETA Security reps. So there is nobody looking out for the taxpayers.

And, worse yet, they talk about $8-10 million like it is nothing. I think it was Zimmerman who said when talking about $80 million of work $8 million is nothing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There’s been nobody at D-64 – or at D-207 – “looking out for the taxpayers” for decades. Borrelli came in with all kinds of potential but promptly “went native” as soon as Heinz arrived. Zimmerman, Lee and Johnson are just an “Amen” chorus.

Eggemann has shown the most potential of the rest, followed by Sotos and then Paterno. But all three of them left the reservation – or allowed themselves to get totally flummoxed – in giving Heinz an additional year’s contract extension. So they need to demonstrate a lot more consistency and resistance to the intimidation coming from the Board majority, Staff, and the so-called “experts.”

As the father of two children at D-64 schools I know that security has to be proportional to realistic threats. This is not about security because these new entrances will not be secure, just like kids going to and from school aren’t secure, just like kids on the playground aren’t secure. And as Sotos and this blog point out, if there is danger than it should be addressed today with security guards.

Why stop at schools? Similar threats exist at the Community Center, the library, the pools, the places of worship (we would not want to forget about all those threats around the world related to places of worship), the train stations, the vulnerable at City Hall, the little league games, and the list goes on. This is craziness on steroids in a drunken, comatose state of thinking and logic.

Can someone throw a bucket of cold water on these people dreaming up ways to spend tax payer dollars to accomplish NOTHING of substance–please!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This D-64 crowd is way past the bucket-of-cold-water stage.

If you watch that video you’ll see and hear the kind of groupthink that would make Irving L. Janis roll over in his grave.

I watched the video and looked through the packet. Arghhhh!

Why is it that we always end up with the dumbest, laziest and most spineless people on our school boards, which tax, borrow and spend the vast majority of our taxes? I’m not sure who might qualify for the dumbest, laziest or most spineless city council member, but even he would be the giant of the D-64 board, and I’m guessing the D-207 board as well.

EDITOR’S NOTE: One theory is that school board members are only there to maximize the schools for their kids or grandkids. So spinelessness in the face of tax/borrow/spend plans would be a likely culprit. Plus some board members get intimidated when dealing with “Dr.” – as in PhD, not MD or DDS – So and So, especially when the PhD purports to speak, ex cathedra, about education issues. And others really are just dumb and/or lazy.

Parents have every right to prioritize the safety of their children over all else. And that means at every school, not just one. If another Laurie Dann showed up at Roosevelt, Carpenter, etc. and shot up the police, the victims’ blood would be on every school board member’s hands. And yours too, Trizna, for mocking this essential safety feature.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yep, and taxpayers have every right to say “no” to such stupid spending. But this D-64 Board will never go to referendum just on the not-really-secured vestibules because they know such a referendum would fail badly. So they’ll lump it in together with more attracive and/or necessary life/safety stuff, which is exactly the tactic Zimmerman floated starting at 1:20:48 of the meeting video.

And for being dumb enough to consider these not-really-secured vestibules an “essential safety feature” we’ll mock you – and would do so even more enthusiastically if only you had the nerve to identify yourself.

Last night I watched the entire 2 hours of “security” discussion. Incredible. Heinz and Kolstad own that school board, and the way Kolstad was pushing the vestibule project you almost started to wonder whether she owned a piece of FGM or Nicholas. And Borrelli is a legend in his own mind, taking credit for raising the security issue in 2013 as if he is a visionary.

But the one thing you failed to mention is how Kolstad talked about NIPSTA (Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy) being “shocked” at how many school doors the students were entering and exiting by. (around the 1:21:00 mark). I was “shocked” to hear about that really great security based on the novel concept of locking or alarming doors.

Finally, Borrelli’s malaprops like using “suffice” as a verb (“no way we’re going to be able to suffice that”) are priceless.

EDITOR’S NOTES: That’s why we encouraged readers to watch that video. It’s almost impossible to convey just how ridiculous the whole thing is without watching it.

Anon 8:24, wow, I’d love to sell you something.

1. There should be a referendum
2. These dollars should not raise the overall contribution to the district by the taxpayers. The system users should get a separate line item fee for this.
3. This is just another reason for govt. to get out of the education business. If I want my little one to go to a completely secure facility, that IS MY CHOICE, but also should be my DOLLAR.



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