Biagi Invites Censure, Gets No Takers


At the Park Ridge City Council meeting on March 3, 2008, then-Park Ridge mayor Howard Frimark took the unprecedented step of “condemning” then-1st Ward ald. Dave Schmidt for publicly disclosing the contents of two memos about topics discussed in closed session that should have been discussed in open session.

Since history tends to repeat itself, you might want to read about that buffoonery – which led to Schmidt’s adoption of “H.I.T.A.” (Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability) as the centerpiece of his successful 2009 mayoral campaign – in our posts of March 5, 2008 and March 19, 2008.

We were reminded of Frimark’s condemnation of Schmidt as we watched the video (from the 2:51:20 mark continuing through the 3:16:33 mark) of the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 School Board’s September 25, 2017 meeting at which president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli ripped into Board vice-president Rick Biagi for the latter’s response to our 09.18.17 post – which we published in our 09.21.17 post and which Biagi also posted on his own D-64 Facebook page in response to e-mails he claims to have received from other constituents.

Borrelli branded Biagi’s response “malicious and disrespectful…self-aggrandizement,” and took particular issue with Biagi’s reference to “the Borrelli Doctrine” used by “a blogger” – presumably this blog’s editor, who used that term to describe Borrelli’s philosophy of government revealed by his own words: “We have to trust Dr. Heinz that she is being fiscally careful with our money.”

Wasn’t that the philosophy of the Lincoln-Way High School District 210 school board prior to the indictment of former supt. Larry Wyllie for wire fraud and embezzlement?

SIDEBAR: We’re not suggesting D-64 Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz is committing any indictable acts. But any elected steward of a unit of government and the taxpayers’ money, such as Borrelli, has his head in the sand – or in another warm dark place – if he simply trusts but does not verify.

Instead of waiting for Borrelli to propose some action against him, however, Biagi went on the offensive and pointedly invited Borrelli and the rest of the Board to censure him if they disapproved of his explanation of his vote, or of his blogging/Facebooking in general.

Borrelli immediately started backpeddling, and kept backpeddling even after Biagi read his entire response into the record for the benefit of Board member Larry Ryles, who was not aware of it.

Not only did no Board member accept Biagi’s censure invitation, but Ryles noted how “very eloquent” Biagi’s explanation was. Ryles also questioned why Borrelli was so offended by the term “Borrelli Doctrine,” given that Ryles had heard it back when he was campaigning for the Board prior to last April’s election.

We thought we had coined that term, but we’ll offer a Watchdog bark-out to whoever beat us to it – if only because Borrelli needs to be held accountable for his six years of: (a) perpetuating D-64’s Star Chamber proceedings; (b) two negotiated-in-secret PREA contracts providing non merit-based raises exceeding the CPI; (c) three negotiated-in-secret extensions of Heinz’s contract, with raises; and (d) in-house rave reviews of D-64 schools even as they remain MIA from virtually every Top 100 rating/ranking of Chicago-area public elementary/middle schools, and even as the rating/ranking of Maine South – populated substantially by D-64 graduates – continues to slide.

But we digress.

We still believe Biagi and the rest of the D-64 Board effectively rewarded Heinz and finance czarina Luann Kolstad for their typical intransigence and lack of transparency – in this instance, by almost two months of failing to provide data to support those administrator raises despite Biagi’s admittedly throwing a “public tantrum” and having “pitched a fit over three separate board meetings” about such a lack of data.

Transparency is not something over which elected officials should have to bargain with highly-paid administrators: It should be expected as the sine qua non of any issue those administrators bring before those officials. And if it isn’t provided it should be demanded – with the clear message that, if it has to be demanded again, somebody will need to update their resume.

That being said, however, Biagi has shown once again that in less than six months on the D-64 Board he has caused more transparency and accountability than President “Who’s The Boss?” has mustered in his six years there.

Whether Biagi can build a consistent majority of allies (or followers) on that Board remains to be seen. We also are mindful of how service on our two local school boards has the uncanny ability to turn even ostensibly well-meaning reformers into zombie-like pawns of the teachers’ unions, domineering administrators, and an established network of consultants and vendors whose manipulation tactics seem positively K Street’s.

But if D-64 is going to turn around and start providing top-shelf educational quality and achievement for the top-shelf money it spends, it will need the H.I.T.A. of Rick Biagi.

And a few more like him.

To read or post comments, click on title.

10 comments so far

Well done, Mr. Biagi.

We need better performing schools, pure and simple. It is one thing to not make the Top 100 on every list, but if you do not make it on many or most of them you are doing something wrong. And from the looks of things D64 is doing something wrong.

Please take the lead and let the others follow or get out of the way.

GO get ’em, RIck.

What would it mean if Biagi had been censured?

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we understand it, nothing in a legal sense – just like Frimark’s “condemnation” of Ald. Schmidt had no legal effect.

Dr. Heinz complains about social media commentary as if citizens shouldn’t have opinions on what she does with taxpayer money. Dr. Borrelli complains when anyone *has* an opinion contrary to his own. They’re both having a hard time adjusting to a Board with three or four fewer people nodding “yes” to everything put in front of them.

I’m still shaking my head that the latest $75k request was approved 7-0, but this attack by Borrelli makes me more supportive of Biagi than ever before.

Thanks for linking and giving us the points on the video where that discussion took place. My vote for the best exchange was Borrelli complaining about the “Borrelli Doctrine” but then saying how he has a thick skin, and Ryles saying that Borrelli’s comments indicated otherwise. Ha!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We got a kick out of that, too – as well as “Tilted Kilt Tommy” Sotos doing his best to avoid saying this blog’s or this editor’s name.

Further to my last comment, transparency is the key to everything, but it has to be real transparency. As The Great Communicator always said: “Trust, but VERIFY!”

And thank you, PW, for shining a light on all this stuff for so many years.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re welcome.

Mr. Schildwachter: I agree wholeheartedly with your statements. It is bewildering that every time teachers or administrators want more money, they get it without any showing that they are actually working harder or producing better results.

We also need to remember that the teachers work only 8 months of the year, so if the administrators’ main duties are to manage the teachers, that would also be an 8 month job.

Lastly, I fail to see any objective evidence that D64 students are learning more, or better, when compared to other school districts. Although rankings may not be the be all and end all, they do mean something to people with school-aged kids who are choosing which community to live in. And that cannot be good for Park Ridge.

I find it interesting, PubDog, that you are ripping Borrelli after endorsing him not once but twice. I guess your judgment isn’t what you would like us to believe it is, or is it just that Borrelli wouldn’t roll over for your Tea Party agenda?

EDITOR’S NOTE: If, by “Tea Party agenda,” you mean getting at least $1 of quality gov’t service – including education – for every $1 the gov’t sucks out of the taxpayers, then we’re guilty as charged. But we challenge you to find anywhere in the decade-plus of this blog’s posts where we ever advocated for anything other than VALUE from this community’s tax dollars – which is why our endorsement of Borrelli in our post of March 31, 2015 was tepid at best:

“On one hand, Borrelli has delivered for the taxpayers on a number of occasions during his first term – like with his “no” vote on the current teacher contract, his “yes” vote for residency checks, his “yes” vote for videotaping Board meetings. But seemingly just as frequently, he has stiffed those same taxpayers with his “yes” votes on “free” Chromebooks, on a sweetheart contract for newly-minted Supt. Heinz, and an even more ridiculous contract extension for business manager Becky Allard.

And most importantly of all, the educational performance of D-64 students seems dead in the water.”

Two years later Borrelli has proved himself incapable of improving the educational quality for which the District’s taxpayers pay top-shelf prices – while being a dependable soft-touch for the PREA and a dependable suck-up to Supt. Laurie Heinz and her fellow administrators.

Getting the most for our money is a foreign concept to government officials. That is why there is no trust or confidence in government anymore.

Since when do teachers only work 8 months a year? A bit hyperbolic, I’d say, and not in sync with any school calendar I’ve seen. I have no problem with criticizing administrators but with the very rare exception I’ve yet to encounter a teacher who hasn’t earned every penny of his/her salary. It’s so easy to rip on teachers when you’ve never been on the front lines. Chances are many people in the corporate world wouldn’t last a week in a classroom.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome back, Mary!

As we pointed out in our 08.02.16 post, , a 5th-year D-64 teacher who took all the vacation, sick and personal days allowed would work less than 8 months per year.

As for how tough a job it is, when you figure in the time requirements, salary, guaranteed pension at an earlier age than private employees can take Social Security, lack of accountability and all the other factors we cited in that 08.02.16 post, it’s still “the best job in Park Ridge,” bar none.

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