Public Watchdog.org

“Good News” From D-207? Yes…But, Then Again, Maybe Not

08.13.18

For the first time in a long while we have good news coming out of Maine Township High School District 207.

At last Monday (08.06.2018) night’s meeting, the D-207 School Board voted to place a referendum question on the November 6 ballot seeking voter approval of the District’s issuing $195 million of bonds – that will cost D-207 taxpayers $300 million to repay – to help fund the District’s $241 million facility improvement plan.

The approved referendum language:

Shall the Board of Education of Maine Township High School District Number 207, Cook County, Illinois, improve the sites of, build and equip additions to and alter, repair and equip existing buildings, including, without limitation, constructing security improvements, increasing accessibility to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, replacing electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems, renovating classrooms and labs, improving the Library Media Center and renovating special education spaces, and issue bonds of said School District to the amount of $195,000,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?

By calling it “good news” we’re not saying such a mega-project is necessary or reasonable. As we’ve pointed out in our 05.07.2018 post and our 05.08.2018 post, Supt. Ken Wallace and every member of the D-207 Board since Wallace became superintendent in 2009 should be figuratively horse-whipped for letting the schools fall into the state of disrepair Wallace now claims they need $241 million to remedy.

That kind of mismanagement is, in a word, inexcusable. And as we’ve previously pointed out, that’s squarely on Wallace and Sean Sullivan, the only Board member whose tenure matches Wallace’s stint in the big chair.

If Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability (“H.I.T.A.”) meant anything to Wallace and all the current and past D-207 Board members (save for, perhaps, semi-newbies Aurora Austriaco and Linda Coyle) who spent the past 9 years neglecting the maintenance, repair and replacement of the infrastructure of the District’s three high schools, Wallace would tender his resignation; and members Carla Owen, Terry Collins, Paula Bessler, Jin Lee and Sean Sullivan would perp-walk out the door after him.

But to Wallace, et al. H.I.T.A. is a foreign language – and apparently more difficult to learn than Mandarin Chinese. Their preferred language is prevarication, often spoken with a shameless dialect. Which is why the feckless Board members will sigh and wring their hands while letting Wallace off the hook yet again for his continuing mediocrity.

In the face of that kind of unaccountability, we have to take our “good news” wherever we can find it.

In this case, that’s a referendum on this November’s ballot – if only because turnouts for November elections regularly are several thousand voters higher than for our local elections in April. And that’s just in the City of Park Ridge: It might mean as much as a ten thousand vote difference, or even higher, given the much larger D-207 boundaries.

More voters exercising their franchise always makes for better citizenship than a smaller turnout, no matter what the outcome. That’s because it’s well understood that the smaller the turnout, the easier it is for special interests to manipulate the process. Which is why the public officials seeking to pass a referendum always prefer an April election if they can finagle it.

Hence our bet that the D-207 Board would drag its heels until after the August 20 deadline for putting their referendum question on the November ballot – just like the Park Ridge Park District Board appears to be doing with a referendum on the uber-foolish purchase of the Shibley Oaks property.

Which is why the D-207 Board surprised us with its 6-1 vote to go to a November referendum – with the only dissent coming from, even more surprisingly, Sullivan.

Given Sullivan’s virtually spotless record of wrong-headed voting, his dissenting vote caused us to start wondering whether there might be something anti-H.I.T.A. about the Board’s November referendum decision that we might be missing.

So we checked out the 08.06.2018 meeting video and attempted to listen to Sullivan’s explanation of his dissent, which starts at the 43:40 mark and ends at the 45:50 mark. That was more difficult than one would expect because of a poor sound system, compounded by noise from what sounds like the air conditioning and the clacking of a few computer keyboards that rendered some of what he said inaudible.

As best as we can tell, however, Sullivan’s main beef with the November referendum question is that the cost is too high.

We can’t recall when, if ever, Sullivan balked at the high cost of anything at D-207, which is one of the oddities about this situation that suddenly causes us to suspect there may be another sub rosa strategy at play here, one that is anti-H.I.T.A. and which we’ll write about in our next post.

Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with a few hints about that other anti-H.I.T.A. strategy: (a) the D-207 Board already has a back-up, $135 million “Plan B” in the can; (b) the Board recently hired Brett Clark as its co-propaganda minister to work with current propagandist Dave Beery, reportedly until the latter retires in December; and (c) the possibility that Wallace and/or the D-207 Board clandestinely engaged a prominent public opinion research firm to drive this referendum.

All of which may just go to show how even “good news” can turn bad in the hands of Wallace and this D-207 Board.

To read or post comments, click on title.

15 comments so far

I am not sure whether these public bodies are mismanaged (your word) or that you’re never satisfied. Like you I like referendums for significant projects (like this d207 one) or projects that are less significant but that have a long-term effect on the community (creation of Shibley Oaks park).

Now d207 is going to a November referendum but you are critical. What do you want?

EDITOR’S NOTE: What we want is what we’ve always wanted: H.I.T.A.

We’re now sitting here months after the May “scientific phone poll of likely voters” (as it’s described on the D-207 website) and we now hear that “58% of respondents indicated that they would support the $195 million ballot measure” – without any publication of the actual call sheets, or even how many actual “respondents” there were.

And, not surprisingly, that same poll supposedly showed that “61% of respondents gave District 207 an A or B rating on five-point scale” – again without any publication of the actual call sheets or how many respondents there were.

THAT’S neither honest nor transparent, but it does reveal a lack of integrity that clearly is intended to avoid accountability. Hence, no H.I.T.A.

To your point, these high schools have been neglected for all of Wallace’s (and Sullivan’s) years as supt. (and on the board), and for another decade before that by school board members whose names we don’t even remember anymore. Why? Because it enabled those administrators and those board members to keep giving more money to teachers and administrators without raising taxes as high as needed to cover all those costs.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly!

Simply astounding that this board would ask the taxpayers to reward fiscal mismanagement with more fiscal mismanagement. And to focus the propaganda around the need for safe and secure entrances is insulting. D207 teachers have always been handsomely paid and are currently the second highest paid teachers in Illinois at an average salary of over $111,000 per year.

Enough is enough. Take the time to read the marketing propaganda on the district’s website. Lots of marketing BS but very little real data.

This is an easy NO vote-whether it’s $195 million or $135 million.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This superintendent and this Board (like past boards) are all about the sizzle because the steak is closer to a T-bone from Ponderosa than from Gibson’s.

IF this referendum passes, my understanding is that the real estate property tax increase will be split between Niles, Des Plaines, and Park Ridge. Park Ridge having higher property values will pay more of the cost of this referendum.

So if every voter in Park Ridge voted no and every voter in Niles and Des Plaines voted yes, it would still pass correct?!?

I don’t know how much per $100,000 real estate valuation it will be, but I am thinking it might be $125 in increased tax per $100k, maybe it is only $50 per $100k, I don’t know.

Either way, this could be a significant hike to property owners in Park Ridge that could be impacted by Niles and Des Plaines voters. That is what I really don’t like about the whole situation.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Also Harwood Heights, a bit of Glenview and some unincorporated areas.

The D207 website provides guidance on how to quickly figure the impact to your property taxes-an addition on top of normal year to year increases. “Simply” take your 2017 D207 tax amount and multiply by 12.96 percent. This is the estimated referendum tax increase. And yes a higher burden to those with higher property values. Yet per D207 the $240,000,000 in spending will be split equally-with no details provided-between the three schools.

Again-this is an easy NO vote. Do not reward fiscal irresponsibility with more fiscal irresponsibility.

And with the implementation of the new Hybrid Block schedule where students may spend less time in class being instructed by a highly compensated teacher-even more reason not to give this incompetent school board more taxpayer money to mismanage.

Anonymous on 08.14.18 11:16 am,

I assume you are from Park Ridge (PR). Many homes in PR are familied homes with children who attend one of the three high schools managed by D207. I am not from PR. There are parts of Niles that are incorporated and parts that are not. Same with Des Plaines, and Glenview and Harwood Heights. All of the “homeowners” in these incorporated and unincorporated areas will be affected, and like home owners in PR, the affect will not be evenly distributed from home-owner to home-owner.

Anonymous on 08.14.18 11:16 am, your Park Ridgitus is showing and I suspect I should be offended. Park Ridgeitus is that attitude where PR folks assume thay are their neighbors’ better. It’s nothing new.

Too bad you can’t see past your nose. If this thing passes (and based on history of similar referendums in Illinois over the past two election cycles, there’s a 70% chance that it will), we are ALL going to have to pay.

Sorry chaps, PR is not “north shore”. Get you head out of your behind or you’re just going to have to pay more for the education of all those other “inferior” children from other places.

Did you notice the D207 does not post board packets in advance of its Board meetings, unlike D64, the Park District, the City and the Library Board? What gives with that?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We just recently noted that. Can’t say it surprises us with Supt. Wallace at the helm and a clueless, rubber-stamp board propping him up whenever its members aren’t smooching his derriere. But it may win the prize for least transparent and accountable.

A dubious distinction, well deserved.

Why do you keep giving Austriaco and Coyle a pass? They are both attorneys and they’ve been on that board for over a year. If they can’t figure it out by now, they’re incompetent or just more of the same old same old.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This editor is an attorney with significantly more experience than either of the two whom you mentioned, yet when he was first elected to the Park Board in 1997 it took him awhile to get the lay of the land, determine how much any of his fellow Board members and District bureaucrats could be trusted, etc. Hence our special treatment of Austriaco and Coyle.

That being said, however, the training wheels should have been taken off before now; and, from this point forward – and maybe even looking back a few months since the early-May end to their 1-year “honeymoon” – they need to be held accountable for their acts and omissions.

8/14 6:09 pm-many of us here in PR do not have our heads in our behinds and know full well this is not the North Shore. Just look at the test scores and rankings of all the public schools in PR and you can see we are very far from the NS. However many of us simply do not want to give any more tax money to a board full of fiscally irresponsible people who will take this additional $195,000,000 and use it irresponsibly-whether it is spent at ME MW OR MS.

Again read the propaganda BS on the D207 website and you will see this board is not being forthright dishonestly hiding how and where the funds will be spent. They are hiding behind the “safe and secure vestibule” BS and the it’s for the kids argument. Beyond insulting!

I just looked at the “Referendum” section of the District’s website and it is totally inadequate and deceptive, both by what it says and what it doesn’t say.

Also, the “Community Engagement” section is like a battle plan for a referendum political campaign. Doesn’t the law forbid the District from using taxpayer money to campaign for a referendum?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, but there are ways to get around it, as we will point out in our next post.

Anon on 08.15.18 2:41 pm,

Well you may not have your head where the sun doesn’t shine, but a lot of our fellow taxpayers in D207 do.

Here’s part of what we know for sure, and forgive the comment’s length.

D207 Board & Administration over the last few years have been withholding tens-of-millions of dollars ($45mm) from short term maintenance activities, substantially diminishing the value of those taxpayer-funded working dollars v the increased cost of those future maintenance activities. Best estimate at this point is a 3% to 5% loss in dollars working-value. Those previously taxed dollars, added to the $195mm, will bring D207 back up to their $240mm+ goal.

How many of those FUTURE Referendum projects could have been eliminated from the “Plan” had they actually spent the money as we Taxpayers expected? We were never told of this arrangement. We were never informed of the monies not being properly spent, by design.

Where were our representatives? Why were voter/taxpayers not informed of these activities and the long-term consequences there to?

Making sure ALL of the taxpayer derived dollars are spent wisely and in a timely manner and not squirreled away for more expensive schemes in the future, is the responsibility of the Board and their employee, the Superintendent. Unfortunately, the Board isn’t up for a vote in November, only the Referendum. As for the Superintendent, he still has a contract.

I want you to think about this.

The referendum monies are to used only for those activities stated in the referendum. It is a cash cow, but for this purpose, let’s call it a stream – a money-stream.

If the referendum passes there will be two money-streams; the regular property tax money-stream including the ($45mm hold back, currently growing at 3%=/- per year), and the a Referendum money-stream of $195mm. Two streams to drink from.

The current property taxed money-stream has, to date, been doing all the hard work; paying for acquisitions, maintenance, administration, teaching activities, etc.

The new Referendum money-stream will relieve the current property-taxed stream (now increasing at 3%/yr +/-) of much of its burden. Once relieved of that burden, the remaining property-taxed stream monies can be used to pay for other things. Use your imagination.

You’ve got to love this scheme!

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Where were our representatives?” Asleep at the wheel and/or pathetically intimidated by the “educators” like Supt. Wallace.

Worse yet, four of them are attorneys…although their timidity and their passivity re Board matters suggest they would have their hands full defending against parking tickets.

Thank you 2:12 for your information. As I have stated numerous times this referendum even if lowered is an wasy NO vote. Unfortunately those people who oppose this irresponsible money grab to be spent by a demonstratively incompetent board will be vilified by some loud mouths on social media.

I would add another item to demonstrate the incompetence of D207. This new hybrid bell schedule has been so poorly planned and executed. It has created blocks of time with no teacher lead instruction on Tuesday and Wednesday. Many students have 4.25 hours of free time. Therefore these two days for many sophomores thru seniors does not appear to constitute a school day under IL law. How did the board get this thru the IL board of education?

So in a world where our students should be spending more time in the classroom to compete in today’s competitve market D207 students will have less time with highly compensated teacher instruction. And the district wants to get more money from us to mismanage give unjustified bonuses and overpay teachers. Again vote NO encourage your neighbors to vote NO. Do not support this referendum.

At least we get to vote on it. Hopefully the voters will see this project for the foolish waste of money it is.

Agreed this is an easy NO vote. I’m embarrassed for PR that our schools have declined so significantly and we are being led by incompetents.
This block schedule is an absolute joke! I’m going to send an email to Wallace asking when we can expect to see the results and/or early indication of success or lack thereof of this bone headed move. All the kids are discussing how they want to leave school at 11:30 because they’re finished with classes for the day??!! This WON’T help the pathetic decline of MS

Where can we get VOTE NO signs. I see VOTE YES, but would like a VOTE NO.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t know, but you might want to contact the manager of https://207referendum.blogspot.com/. Or if you want to have some made to order, we recommend AlphaGraphics in Park Ridge (642 Busse Hwy, Park Ridge, IL 60068).



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