Public Watchdog.org

D-64 Doubles Down On Fake Security With Part-Time SROs

04.30.18

Last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate reported that the Board of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 wants to damn the torpedoes and move full speed ahead on the construction of school building renovations masquerading as “security”; i.e., installing not-really-secured vestibules at Franklin, Carpenter and Field Elementary Schools, and at Emerson Middle School (“District 64 board agrees to speed up planned efforts to amp up security at four schools,” April 26).

The price: The Board and District administrators are hoping less than the $4.5 million estimated by FGM Architects in 2016.

That spending, like previous multi-million dollar spending on similar boondoggles at Lincoln and Washington, will be done without the District having to get taxpayer approval via referendum.

Why?

Because it appears that D-64 may have been overtaxing District taxpayers by millions of dollars over the past several years. Worse yet, it appears that D-64 also has been stealthily borrowing tens of millions of additional dollars in the form of “working cash bonds” and/or “debt certificates” – funding devices beloved by school boards and administrators because they permit millions of dollars of borrowing without taxpayer approval via referendum. We wrote about them in our 04.24.2017 post.

That overtaxing/borrowing has allowed the District to build up an almost $50 million (as of June 2016) slush fund, although the Board and D-64 administrators prefer to call it “reserves” because the latter term sounds so much more benign than the former.

But it’s still a slush fund that is enabling D-64 to get away with doing these half-baked/phony “security” projects without…wait for it…taxpayer approval via referendum.

Can you see the pattern developing here?

Frankly, it’s such masterful (albeit dishonest and cowardly) manipulation that it might qualify as an art form if not for the fact that it fleeces the taxpayers while the educational quality of the schools seemingly continues to decline – and may be contributing to Maine South’s academic decline as well.

Chalk that up to: (a) at least two decades of school boards with majorities of members who haven’t given a rat’s derriere about the taxpayers OR the students’ education, so long as they could keep the Park Ridge Education Association (the “PREA,” a/k/a the teachers union) happy; (b) overpaid administrators happy to spend Other People’s Money (“OPM”) on brick and mortar to distract gullible residents from the schools’ academic underperformance; and (c) financial consultants adept at enriching themselves at the taxpayers’ expense through underwriting, issuing and selling the District’s bonded debt.

And as we’ve noted in several prior posts, the “security” provided by these not-really-secured vestibules is illusory at best, a fraud at worst.

For starters, they will not prevent any student, or anyone appearing to be a student (can you say “Nikolas Cruz”?), from bringing in a semi-automatic weapon and ammo under his/her coat, or in his/her backpack. Nor will they prevent any wacky parent, vendor, or service provider from doing the same.

And once they are inside, who is going to stop them?

The SRO?

Not unless the shooter is considerate enough to plan his/her reign of terror during any of the 8 hours (in the average 35-hour school week) when the SRO will actually be in a building. And then only if the SRO does a better job than the one in Parkland, Florida, did.

Neither the not-really-secured vestibules nor the SRO will prevent a shooter from driving by the playground at recess and spraying AR-15 rounds into the crowd of playing kids; or prevent a shooter from sitting outside the main entrance of a school at day’s end, picking off emerging kids as if they were those little tin bears in a carnival shooting gallery.

But try telling that to the parents of kids at Emerson, Franklin, Carpenter and Field schools now that the District already has blown all that money on the not-really-secured vestibules at Lincoln and Washington; and plans to do the same at Roosevelt this summer.

And try telling that to D-64 Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz, as well as a majority of the pre-May 2017 board and a majority of the current Board.

Not only are Borrelli and Heinz all-in on the vestibules, but they appeared ready to compound that mistake by pushing through the SRO boondoggle at last Monday’s (April 23) meeting, which you can see and hear for yourself starting at the 21:30 mark of the meeting video – until Board member Fred Sanchez and Board vice-president Rick Biagi put the brakes on any such discussion.

Their reason?

The revised SRO Mission Statement (the original of which Sanchez, an attorney, drafted) and the redlined revisions of the proposed SRO Inter-Governmental Agreements between D-64 and the City of Park Ridge, and between D-64 and the Village of Niles were omitted from the Board’s meeting packet posted on the District’s website – allegedly for the benefit of residents wishing to inform themselves in advance of a meeting about what the Board will be up to at that meeting.

Biagi graciously tempered his criticism of that omission by stating that he was “not suggesting anyone did anything nefarious.” But listen to the dissembling of “Who’s The Boss?”, “I’m The Boss!” and Board member “Tilted Kilt Tommy” Sotos about how they should discuss the Mission Statement and the IGAs anyway, and you could draw the conclusion that the omissions – apparently in contravention of prior express directives by the Board to Heinz and Staff – may not have been “nefarious” but they most certainly were intentional.

After about 15 minutes of looking and sounding like kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar, Borrelli, Heinz and Sotos agreed to defer discussion of those documents until the next meeting. Then they attempted to beat a hasty retreat to the next agenda item.

They didn’t quite make it.

Resident Alice Dobrinsky commandeered the podium and started firing rhetorical shots at the Board and Heinz from which neither not-really-secured vestibules nor SROs could have shielded them.

For the record, we voiced some criticisms of Ms. Dobrinsky in our 01.29.2018 post and our 03.05.2018 post, which we stand by. But when someone whom we have criticized or disagreed with gets it right, we have no trouble giving him/her props for it. And Ms. Dobrinsky got this one as right as rain, starting with her first off-camera comments at 38:47 of the video which Borrelli tried to stonewall before realizing the Ms. Dobrinsky was not to be denied.

She pointed out in no-nonsense fashion how the Board and Administration have been consistently insisting that “many parents” support the SRO program, even though the District’s response to her FOIA request revealed that the District had received just one measly e-mail in support of that program. To Borrelli, Heinz and propaganda minister Bernadetter Tramm, “many” and “one” are synonyms.

She then asked two pointed questions about the SRO program: Will the Park Ridge officer assigned as the SRO at Lincoln receive SRO training; and will the SROs be disciplinarians or just facilitators of “socio-emotional learning”? Not surprisingly, Borrelli gave the questions the back of his hand, curtly responding: “This is not a situation for question and answer.”

How convenient. How dishonest, How cowardly.

And how totally Borrelli/Heinz: Keep the taxpayers in the dark by not publishing the documents that the Board is planning to discuss. Lie about the public support for the SRO program and get caught in that lie by your own response to a resident’s FOIA request. Then arrogantly blow off that resident when confronted by her legitimate questions.

We’ll consider that another tenet of what we previously labeled the “Borrelli Doctrine” in 09.18.2017 post.

Admittedly it’s not as good as “We have to trust Dr. Heinz that she is being fiscally careful with our money.” But Borrelli still has another year before his term expires. Given his history of imperious cluelessness, we’re betting he’ll add a few more tenets to his doctrine before his valedictory.

As no less a wit than Mark Twain sagely observed back in 1897: “In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards.”

D-64’s doubling down on the “not-really-secured” vestibules by adding part-time SROs is further proof that Twain was right.

To read or post comments, click on title.

12 comments so far

All of those years collecting higher property taxes creating additional financial reserves, is that even legal? There isn’t any Illinois statue that prevents local taxing authorities to limit their reserves to a specific financial threshold?

EDITOR’S NOTE: There probably is, but given the Mike Madigan clown-car that Springfield has been for the past 30+ years, we would expect that the legal limit on “reserves” would be pretty high – at least as much as a full year’s expenses, and probably more.

The director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police is on record as saying that “anything in this day and age that would reduce the number of [SROs] is bad.”

This whole SRO thing sounds like a Kaminsky caper endorsed by Heinz because her principals and school administrators can’t control the kids in their schools.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Of course Chiefs want more cops. And if putting them in schools part time is the easiest way to get more of them, that’s what they’ll do – which is why they are behind SROs.

And from what we’re hearing, we also would have to agree with you that D-64 teachers and administrators can’t control some of the kids in their schools, so they welcome cops coming in even if only for 8 hours per week.

Look at the above post (2:17PM) and reply by the editor. This post is a perfect example of all of the negative side of the internet and politics.

Slam the chief of police and slam the school district with not a single mention of a fact or even a second hand anecdote to back up your claim. Of course PD agrees with you based on what “he is hearing”. From who???

How exactly does this fit into that HITA thing you always go on about when it is convenient.

What a bunch of crap.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pretty tough talk from someone using the Internet for political commentary without the nerve to sign their name.

The U.S. Dept. of Justice defines SROs as “sworn law enforcement officers responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools.” Not all that long ago “safety and crime prevention” in Park Ridge elementary and middle schools were taken care of by teachers and administrators. So the fact that those schools now need/want cops speaks for itself – as does the fact that Chief K and Supt. Heinz, along with certain D-64 Board members, are so desperate to get SROs in the schools that they had their attorneys draft up intergovernmental agreements even before they had agreed on a mission statement for the SROs.

FWIW, we also have heard parents talk about certain incorrigible troublemakers at various schools that even the principals can’t seem to handle, which would appear to be corroborated by D-64’s embrace of SROs.

When will people realize how they have been misled by D64 and D207 on the quality of education? As you point out, the administrators and board members are committed to distractions so that people don’t see the failures.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re not totally sold on the methodologies of all those rating/ranking organizations, but they’re pretty much all we have because the ISBE doesn’t seem to want to rate/rank schools, presumably so as not to embarrass the underperformers.

Thank you, Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Biagi, for bringing more transparency to the D-64 Board. I am one of those people who looks at those board materials and appreciate getting full information, not pieces of information, in them.

My god. Have you ever had a chat with the man? Is this how he impresses you? As a person who worries about how many “cops” he has reporting to him? He does not impress me as that kind of man but even if we assume you are right, I believe the guy is in his mid sixties. So you think a man who has had a great career now nearing retirement is sitting in his office rubbing his hands together with glee about adding and officer?

Lastly you all act like this SRO idea is something hatched by the chief and D64. Well like them or not, SRO’s have been around since the 1950’s. In fact in the 90’s the DOJ had a $750 million grant program. Look at the first bullet point from the attached by Jeff Sessions.
https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-sessions-announces-new-actions-improve-school-safety-and-better-
enforce.
I post this not to defend SRO’s but the fact is there are millions of folks on both sides of the issue. There are caring, educated, experienced people out there who believe in SRO’s. You may disagree but to say that Kaminski supports them just so he can get another officer is ridiculous.

As an aside, my family had direct experience with the SRO at Maine South (Tony) during my daughters senior year. I am grateful he is at MS and grateful he is a PR police office.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Personally, this editor likes Chief K. And he seems to generally have done a decent job running his department.

But he’s also a consummate politician, possibly the most adept one at City Hall both when the Council is in session and otherwise. And like most/all chiefs, increasing head count is always a top priority. Which is why we don’t think it’s a mere coincidence that, around the time he was talking publicly about being short-staffed, he jumped on the SRO bandwagon by proposing rotating 4 officers in the 2 days/week, 4 hours/day Lincoln SRO position, without all the specialized training that is recommended.

The consultant hired by D-64 raised these and other concerns it its report, which we embedded in our 02.02.2018 post: https://www.publicwatchdog.org/archives/2018/02/02/moving-in-the-right-direction-albeit-too-slowly-on-sro-program/

Don’t sell yourself short. You are every bit as good of a politician as the chief. I believe you refer to it as building consensus.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If this editor were as good a politician as Chief K, he would still be on the Library Board. But since this editor views “politician” as an epithet, that’s okay with us.

As for “building consensus,” we’re pretty certain that two-word term doesn’t appear in any post of this blog.

“And like most/all chiefs, increasing head count is always a top priority”. OK, I’ll bite……how exactly do you know this??

EDITOR’S NOTE: It has its origins in Sun Tzu’s and von Clausewitz’s theories of warfare (where superior forces are highly valued) because the police are The New Centurions, as Joseph Wambaugh labeled them in his 1971 novel. And since police departments are government run, there is no real incentive for doing more with less if they don’t have to; i.e., if a chief thinks he/she can persuade elected officials to provide bigger budgets by crying “Wolf!” about whatever problem she/she believe will do the trick.

Like, say, SROs to deal with socio-emotional learning, bullying problems, and whatever the raison du jour might be.

OK, so essentially you have no idea whether Kaminski ” jumped on the SRO bandwagon” as a means to increase his staff or whether he really believes it is a good idea.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If he “really believes it is a good idea”: (a) why did he sign on to the program prior to the approval of any mission statement unless the “mission” really didn’t matter to him; (b) why did he want a four-officer rotation at Lincoln that was rejected by D-64’s consultant as a disfavored practice for SROs; (c) why did he argue against specialized SRO training for the officers, claiming that their “de-escalation” training was adequate even though most studies favor specialized SRO training; (d) why did he resist a special complaint process for SROs, saying the one for regular complaints is adequate; and (e) why did he agree to the uber-stupid 4 hours/day, 2 days/week schedule?

That’s why this is a savvy use of leverage to increase Police Dept. head-count, a portion of the cost of which a clueless D-64 Board majority – led by Borrelli and Sotos – will authorize.

There is a lengthy comment string about SROs on the Concerned Homeowners FB page started by Ginger Pennington and raising many of the questions you have raised in this post, including how the D-64 Board and Administration (Heinz) cannot agree on what is the SRO’s principal purpose and how it can be served just 4 hours a day for 2 days a week.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Good. The more people who start looking into this SRO goat rodeo being run by D-64 and the Police Dept., the better.

This whole SRO idea is so stupid I can’t believe it has gone this far.

If we need cops in the schools, that means the teachers and administrators have lost control and should admit it. But if that’s the case then the SRO should be there all school day, every school day, not just 8 hours a week.

Meanwhile the education that taxpayers are paying handsomely for is stagnant or declining based on any ratings I’ve seen (like Niche).

There is a significant difference between part time SRO in a middle school and full time SRO in high high school.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Starting with the significant difference between middle school students and high school students? Or the difference between full time and part time? Or the difference between part time and 8 hours per week spread over 2 days?



Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>