Public Watchdog.org

Guest Essay: D-207 Gearing Up Propaganda Machine For Funding Referendum

07.24.18

Today we are posting a letter to this blog’s editor by Kenneth Butterly, a Niles resident (Elementary School District 63) who nevertheless lives within Maine Township High School District 207. It addresses many of the points made in our 07.19.2018 post; and it is published with the permission of its author. FWIW, Mr. Butterly’s reference to his and this editor’s past disagreements might be better understood, at least in part, by reading our 12.12.2011, 01.19.2012 and/or 11.03.2015 posts. 

__________________________________________

Robert, you and I have gone nose to nose on several occasions regarding local subjects. And we’ve hardly ever agreed. However, this is not going to be one of those times. 

The “Public Opinion Survey” was District 207’s attempt to finesse its way toward its goal; the $240.7 million referendum. The questions were obviously designed to solicit a positive District-leaning response. And yes, we’ve not seen the results of those surveys, nor in my opinion, were we ever meant to. The “Public Opinion Survey” technique is a commonly used marketing gimmick designed to make target audience members feel as if they are part of the show. This same method is being utilized elsewhere by districts engaged in similar referendums.

Now to your question. Is the District planning a November 2018 or April 2019 vote?

On June 29th, D207’s Superintendent and his Board hired Mr. Brett Clark as D207’s Co-Director of Communications for $150,000+. Sean Sullivan and Teri Collins moved and seconded, respectively, the motion. Results: Aye: Austriaco, Collins, Coyle, Lee, Owen, Sullivan; Nay: None; Absent: Besler.

What does this mean? Two things I think.

First, D207 now has 2, yes I said 2, Co-Directors of Communications: (1) Long time Director of Communications, $85,000+ Mr. David Beery; and (2) $150,000+ Mr. Clark, to work toward the referendum. That’s $235,000+ in propaganda-creating talent.

Second, D207 intends to go for broke and, at this moment, it’s still unclear as to whether that will occur this November or in April 2019.

Mr. Beery, to my understanding, has never fought a referendum battle. It’s also unclear if Mr. Clark has done so, either. On the other hand, if you believe Mr. Clark’s work history, this is not his first rodeo.

Mr. Clark’s “Linkedin” page states the following:

“Summary

Experienced educator with more than 20 years experience in the areas of communications, marketing and human resources. Skilled in Crisis Communications, Editing, Public Speaking, Media Relations and Publications. Earned the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation from Public Relations Society of America.”

Under the “Experience” section he displays the following job titles: 

  • Adjunct Faculty, Governors State University (Feb. 2017 – Present – 1 yr. 6 mos.);
  • Director of Communications and Marketing, Consortium for Educational Change (Sep. 2015 – Jul. 2018 – 2 yrs. 11 mos.);
  • Executive Director of Human Resources, Glenview D34 (1 yr. 3 mos.);
  • Executive Director of Communications and Strategic Planning, Glenview D34 (4 yrs. 1 mo.);
  • Director of Community Relations and Grants, Glenview D34 (7 yrs. 11 mos.);
  • Public Relations Director, Ladue SD (2 yrs. 3 mos.);
  • Lead Public Information Specialist / Public Information Specialist, Parkway SD (2 yrs. 5 mos.);
  • Publications Coordinator, Missouri Society of CPAs (8 mos.);
  • Information Specialist U. of Missouri, St. Louis (6 mos.); and
  • Public Relations Coordinator, McCann Erickson Public Relations (9 mos.).

If you want to see it all, go to: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brett-clark-apr-0b69126.

So, what’s the bottom line?

The fact that Dr. Wallace and Board President Carla Owen see a need for this much public relations fire-power says a lot about their fear of being rebuffed by the taxpayers/voters, and a heightened determination to get the money.

The plot thickens!

P.S.  For those of you who might be interested, please take notice of the following:

SUBJECT:      D-207 Building & Grounds Committee mtg. Monday, July 30, 2018 at 5:15 p.m., 1177 South Dee Rd.

AGENDA:      “…3. Public Comments  4. Facility Master Plan  5. Financing Facility Master Plan….”

Kenneth Butterly

To read or post comments, click on title.

12 comments so far

So the D-207 Board is making the taxpayers pay Brett Clark $150,000+ to generate the propaganda to convince us taxpayers to vote for D-207 borrowing $240 million to do building repairs and improvements that the current and previous D-207 Boards neglected for the last 10 years or more?

Yeah, that’s money well spent alright.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If anybody thinks Supt. Wallace and the D-207 Board care about how they spend taxpayers’ money, the Brooklyn Bridge might be available for the right price.

Or the Shibley Oaks property.

Hiring a “Referendum YES!” mouthpiece is SOP in these situations. D-64 hired Maureen Buckley Jones to perform referendum mouthpiece services for the 1997 “Yes/Yes” referendum that bulldozed the District’s newest school (the “old” Emerson) to build the new Emerson.

And D-64 even brought in a new Superintendent, Fred Schroeder, to promote the educationally meaningless “middle school concept” that made a new Emerson necessary by adding 6th grade to the existing “junior high concept” (7th and 8th grades) so that Lincoln, even with an addition, couldn’t handle the enrollment.

The lessons of history.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Right you are, on both counts! And not too long after the “Yes/Yes” referendum passed, both Jones and Schroeder left their D-64 employment. Go figure.

Thank you, Mr. Butterly, for further illuminating the dishonesty and misconduct of the D207 board and admin.

Where are the results of the “POS”? Are they so bad the school board is just burying them, or are they spinnable and currently in the process of being spun?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The D-207 Board could just publish a scan of all the POS forms it received on the District’s website, but that would eliminate their ability to bury the results and also might significantly limit their ability to spin those results. So don’t expect that kind of transparency.

Anonymous on 07.25.18 7:31 am. Yes, it’s somewhat illuminating. But the hiring in itself does not rise to the level of dishonesty and misconduct. I think this hiring tells us D-207 is serious, and if your intention is to defeat a potential referendum, you’d better get off your derriere now.

Why does it seem like unless I am both a taxpayer and a parent of school children in either D-64 or D-207, not just a taxpayer, neither school board wants me to know anything important about what’s going on and why?

The results of the survey (POS) should have been produced in raw form well before now, and the Board should already have made it clear that it is proceeding with a referendum in November (which requires the passage of a resolution by around mid-August, as I recall).

No survey results and no commitment to a November referendum is a bad sign for the taxpayers, although it is a good sign for the parents of future D-207 kids who will benefit from upgraded school buildings far more than what their parents will be paying in additional property taxes.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because members of those boards don’t run for them in order to represent the taxpayers: They run for those boards to represent their own kids, or their neighbors’ kids, or the teachers. And its almost always the parents of the school kids, as well as the teachers, who show up at school board meetings to ask for more or better “free” stuff, not the taxpayers who mistakenly believe the board members represent them.

Anonymous on 07.24.18 11:37 pm.

The Owen lead Board IS the issue here!

They’re no longer our representatives, alone. Once installed, they also belong to the School District Superintendent, and in fact, as a result, represent both School District and Taxpayer. A rather unfortunate situation for the taxpayer/voters that elected them to look out for the taxpayer/voters best financial interest.

Most folks who represent us on School Boards have limited experience with leading, managing or overseeing government organizations, so they take the word of the leadership (Superintendent in this case) as gospel. They seldom look deeper than the information presented to them by organization management. They almost never venture into the weeds; a place they’re encourage early on never to go. Those that attempt to go there are marginalized.

If the public wants to know how their tax dollars are really spent, they have to do it themselves. And how many of you are willing and/or capable of doing that? Too few I fear!

At the same time, don’t just blame the employee/Superintendent. That employee has every right to go for the gold; just like you and I. Put yourself in his/her place and be honest. Assuming you’re still working; are you going to work for less than what you think you’re worth and what you know you can get?

Of course not.

In my opinion, School Boards, especially in our region, when it comes to pay, are easily spooked or sometimes even snookered.

Finally, if school boards were serious players, acting as serious investors, they’d pay a lot closer attention to the numbers and demand to see a plan, a real action plan, not facility study and no committee of the wishful would be called before moving this process any further forward.

Just my opinion

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly right…which is why so many school board members answer any tough questions or criticism about the district or its schools with the uber-lame “We have to trust the teachers and administrators because we don’t have their background, knowledge, or experience.”

“Spooked” and “snookered” is the way most school board members operate. Which is why Mark Twain proclaimed school board members the very best Idiots that God could make.

Bnonymous on 07.25.18 12:45 pm

When you want to understand why you’re being treated like a mushroom I suggest you think of the following advertisement line:

“What happens in Vegas, stay’s in Vegas.”

The communication that takes place among Board Members individually as well as in “closed session”, matters just as much as communication that takes place in public. Maybe even more so! Nothing is publicly said by individual Board Members that does not represent the “party line.”

You and I are being told no more than is required and sanctioned.

And that’s just the way it is!

Unless YOU change that.

Just my opinion.

As an attorney for a dozen years I understand and respect the oath to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” As a resident of Park Ridge for the last ten of those dozen years, however, I have not seen enough truth, have seen even less of the whole truth, and have seen that truth mucked up by all sorts of irrelevancies that blur or bury the important issues.

The way this whole survey and referendum process has been conducted, as well as the $241 million project itself, is the antithesis of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And that seems to be standard operating procedure not only for D207’s board but also for D64’s board, and now the park board with this Shibley Oaks project.

Park Ridge is a great community, which makes me wonder why we can’t elect better people to our local public offices.

EDITOR’S NOTE: (1) Having been elected to the Park Board twice (1997 and 2001) and having served two full 4-year terms on it, and (2) having been appointed twice (2011 and 2014) and having served two full 3-year terms on the Library Board, and (3) having actively published this blog for 11 years, and (4) having been an active observer and participant in Park Ridge local government since 1991, this editor would offer the following answers to your question, in no particular order:

a. too many public officials are one-issue wonders who don’t much care about all the other issues their unit of government has to deal with and, therefore, aren’t willing to do their homework on those issues;

b. too many public officials are blank slates with no strong political philosophies or beliefs who just want to hold office and, therefore, are easy dupes of the bureaucrats and/or willing windsocks of the various special-interests;

c. too many public officials are “pleasers” who will vote or do whatever it takes to figuratively get their heads patted and their tummies rubbed in order to compensate for their low self-esteem; and

d. some public officials view their offices and whatever activities come with it (e.g., marching in parades, invitations to various events) as social and business networking opportunities.

The only good thing about the foregoing, however, are that they don’t reflect the brazen pay-to-play, quid pro quo corruption that seems to permeate Chicago, Crook County and Illinois state government.

Anonymous on 07.26.18 7:12 am

Your telling us that a “seasoned” attorney such as yourself believes a politician is capable of telling “the truth and nothing but the truth” all the time?

Look, School Board, Park District Board members are now part of an exclusive club and you’re not in it. They’re in the loop and you and I are not. That’s the playing field, and it doesn’t matter at what level they’re playing; local or for that matter, national. If you truly want to know what’s going on, YOU, not just ME, have a responsibility to YOU to do some heavy lifting. Whimpering about this situation among this small group of blog commenters isn’t going to get the job done.

YOU need to get YOU, your friends, your family and neighbors to go to Board and Board Committee meetings. YOU need to ask focused, targeted questions. YOU need to make your presence known. YOU need to have the Board fear YOU and respect YOU more than the Superintendent, by using your god given skills.

The School Board (or any publicly elected Board) member will only respond positively toward you when they feel significant pressure from your side of the fence. The one they sit on. Talking among ourselves, will not do that.

So Anonymous on 07.26.18 7:12 am, Counselor, are YOU going to remain a moaner or become a doer?

Before we close out this thread I’d like to put this hiring into perspective.

My $350,000 house in Niles is valued tax-wise, at over $8,0000. For argument sake, lets do the math at 8k.

The two Co-Directors of Communication are base valued at $235,000. I currently pay 28% of my taxes to D207, or $2,240. How many of my houses would it take to pay to equal $235,000?

Answer: 105 Houses.

For Mr. Clark at $150,000 alone?

Answer 67 Houses.

If we add fringe, you can add another 35-40%.

Mr. Beery only cost us 38 houses.

I’m starting to think that was a bargain.

Mr. Butterly re your 07.28.18 10:02 am comment:

There are no “bargains” in local education. Want proof? Check out the latest Advocate/Tribune story about how the D207 board voted to give Supt. Wallace a $52K “merit” pay based on goals he establishes for himself.

Since he got $51K last year in addition to the $52K this year, one of his goals must be letting Maine South’s rankings drop since he became the big cheese in 2009. Well played, Supt. Wallace! Poorly played, board.

Wallace’s current base salary (under a contract that runs through June 2020) is $216,387 and he’s due for a $5K raise (2.5%) for this coming school year. He also gets his entire contribution to the TRS pension fund paid for by D207 taxpayers, as well as medical and dental insurance coverage, a $700 monthly travel reimbursement, life insurance coverage and up to $700 for an annual comprehensive health examination, according to the Advocate/Tribune article.

All that for fiddling while Maine South’s rankings fell from around 14 when he started in 2009 to 45th in 2016 before falling out of the U.S. News & World Reports rankings altogether, with student college readiness at around 45%.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Stop being a killjoy: So long as Wallace is pleased with his performance and the D-207 Board is pleased with it, he’s doing a great job. Just ask them.

Reminds us of Pres. George W. Bush telling his FEMA director in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

Anonymous on 07.29.18 5:27 pm

You’re absolutely right, “there are no ‘bargains’ in local education”. And I feel your pain when you link Dr. Wallace’s pay, fringe and performance package with his job performance vis-à-vis Maine South’s ever-declining ranking.

That said; in the eyes of the Carla Owen lead Board, Dr. Wallace’s performance meets or exceeds their combined expectations. And since that duly elected Board represents you and me, by extension, his performance meets or exceeds our expectations.

Now tell me if I’m off base here since I didn’t attend the meeting. None of us “bloggers” were there that night or other meeting nights to inject our thoughts about this issue or any other relevant issue, regarding Maine South’s (MS) standings or Superintendent Wallace’s professional performance. Speaking for myself, I’ve only attended one D207 School Board meeting in the last decade Which gets me to my earlier point located somewhere in the comments above, regarding our lack of participation. Piddle and moan as we wish, we have no one else to blame for Superintendent Wallace’s $52,000 “merit” pay outcome but ourselves.

As to MS’s declining performance. Maine South’s parents seem to be happy with their children’s declining and possibly inferior educational experience. Until MS parents get pissed, until they confront THE BOARD and Superintendent Wallace’s Administration, and demand better (may I suggest less enlightened and historically proven) methods, in my opinion, the documented decline in performance will continue, or at least not get better. I further believe additional Referendum monies for MS facility maintenance and building interior changes as described within the “Plan”, will not bring that about.

Just my opinion!



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>