Public Watchdog.org

Building $50 Million Surplus On $78 Million Of Debt Borrelli’s “Greatest Achievement”

03.12.19

In our post “Is Tonight’s $20 Million Bond ‘Hearing’ Another D-64 Charade?” (April 24, 2017)), we criticized the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board for issuing $9.25 million of high-interest, non-referendum “debt certificates” in March 2017 and then, a month later, approving the future issuance of $20.7 million worth of working cash bonds (“WCBs”) without adequate notice to the taxpayers.

We pointed out that $9.2 million of debt certificates were issued while the District’s reserves were already 60% above its target amount: 30% of annual expenses. We also noted that Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli appeared to be pushing through that borrowing before four new members – a potential Board majority of Rick Biagi, Larry Ryles, Fred Sanchez and Eastman Tiu that might not share Borrelli’s love of non-referendum debt – were to join the Board in May, 2017.

Our critique prompted a rare Watchdog comment from Board member (and dependable Borrelli stooge) Tom “Tilted Kilt” Sotos, a comment that so marvelously illustrated Sotos’ cluelessness as a school board member that we turned it into its very own post on 04.28.2017 (“D-64 Bd. Member Sotos: Trizna Failed To Do My Job On WCBs”).

But that was when Tilted Kilt Tommy still had two more years left on his first 4-year term of office and would jump like a playful puppy whenever Borrelli and/or Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz commanded.

Now, however, Sotos is running for re-election against two men (Steven Blindauer and Sal Galati) and a slate of women campaigning as the “MOMS for D-64 School Board!”, so we suspect somebody may have told him he needs to stop acting like Borelli’s and Heinz’s lap dog if he hopes to win another four years on the Board.

That’s likely why, a few weeks ago when Borrelli tried to push the Board into issuing an extra $11 million in bonded debt to fund this summer’s construction projects, Sotos suddenly became the taxpayers’ BFF by joining a “consensus” of Biagi, Sanchez and Bob Johnson (yes, Johnson…can you believe it?) in rejecting Borrelli’s idiocy and deciding to use some of that stockpile of cash (a/k/a, the $50 Million “slush fund”) to cover this summer’s construction costs.

According to a February 12, 2019 article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“District 64 opts not to borrow money for construction projects, instead will pay with available funds”), Borrelli bragged about that $50 Million “surplus” being “the greatest achievement that this and prior boards have been able to achieve,” no doubt because of his presidency over the past six years .

Not surprisingly, what Borrelli failed to mention during his verbal victory lap was that much of that $50 Million “surplus” has been built up through the District’s accumulation of over $78 Million of…wait for it…DEBT, all of which appears to have been rung up on Borrelli’s watch.

But don’t take our word for it: Check out the “Long-Term Debt” section of the District’s financial report contained in the packet from the Board’s December 10, 2018 meeting.

There you’ll discover that almost $9 Million is still owed on the non-referendum General Obligation bonds issued back in 2014; and another almost $9 Million is still owed on those high-interest, non-referendum Debt Certificates issued in April 2017, on which the District will pay over $3 Million of interest during the expected lifetimes of those certificates.

So why was Borrelli pushing another $11 Million of bonded debt like he was Ron Popeil pitching a Showtime (“Set it and forget it!”) Rotisserie?

We don’t know and, frankly, we no longer care: With his departure from the Board already scheduled for this May – a long overdue addition by subtraction – his motives, however stupid or self-serving they may be, are mercifully irrelevant.

We encourage you to watch the entire discussion of Borrelli’s mostly arrogant, sometime comic efforts to ram through more District debt while keeping his $50 Million slush fund intact, starting at the 1:13:20 mark and running through the 2:03:31 mark of that 02.04.2019 meeting video.

If you don’t have the time or the stomach for all of Borrelli’s bloviations, however, we suggest you check out his attempt to bamboozle his fellow Board members with a bunch of back-of-the-envelope calculations (conveniently – for him – missing from the meeting packet) from 1:15:02 to 1:17:20, followed almost immediately by District finance chief Luann Kolstad’s refutation (“So there’s really no need to rush to issue [bonds]”) from 1:17:35 to 1:18:08; and Borrelli’s explanation, from 1:27:03 to 1:29:14 of the meeting video, of how issuing more bonds might not actually “increase” taxes but merely “extend” prior increases as the new bonded debt replaces the expiring older debt.

Chalk that up to more Borrelli sophistry.

Where the video starts to get interesting is when Biagi calls out Borrelli and the pre-May 2017 board for a lack of honesty, integrity and transparency in connection with the issuing the debt certificates and the approval of working cash bonds in the Spring of 2017, first from 1:29:45 to 1:30:38 and again from 1:50:40 to 1:52:30 of the meeting video.

Those comments chafed Johnson’s chaps, causing him to launch into a feeble-but-rambling defense of his and that prior board’s rubber-stamping of all that additional debt in Spring 2017 – from 1:55:37 to 2:00:12 of the video – before his spine seemingly calcified and he dared to indicate to Borrelli that he would not be supporting more District debt at that time.

Once Borrelli realized he had failed to stampede anybody but Eggemann into backing more bonds, he launched into Biagi – starting at 2:00:36 and continuing through 2:03:24. Borrelli staunchly defended his integrity and joined in Johnson’s defense of the transparency of all these debt matters, suggesting that taxpayers had no excuse for not knowing all they needed to know about the District’s finances and how to legally object to any of the debt rung up by the District.

In one sense, Borrelli and Johnson are right: There were “so many discussions” (per Johnson) by the  Board about the District’s finances and its debt, many of which we have watched. But we can’t recall even one of them mentioning any of the really important information – such as the $78 Million of District debt, the $3 Million-plus in interest those debt certificates will cost the taxpayers, the District’s $50 Million cash reserve slush fund, or the process and timing for taxpayers to legally object to the WCBs – that might have made those discussions something more intelligible to the average listener than a lot of yada, yada, yada.

And it should come as no surprise to anybody who has observed Borrelli’s and Johnson’s tenures on the Board that neither of them had the decency to admit that those high-interest debt certificates, unlike WCBs, could not even be legally challenged by the taxpayers – which we would submit is the exact reason Borrelli, Johnson, Sotos, Mark Eggemann, Terry Cameron, Vicky Lee and Scott Zimmerman unanimously voted to issue them at the March 13, 2017 meeting.

Too bad we can’t put the $3 Million-plus of interest from those boneheaded certificates on their personal tabs.

Fortunately, Cameron, Lee and Zimmerman are almost two years gone; and Johnson is joining Borrelli (and Eggemann) in a march to the exit this May. Heck, with a little luck and a decent turnout of informed voters, Tilted Kilt Tommy will be sent packing along with his comrades-in-harms.

Happily, we get to end this post on a humorous note thanks to Borrelli himself, who prefaced his attack on Biagi by grandly stating that, as Board president, he has “served as a figurehead for this Board….”

“Figurehead” is one of the things we haven’t called Borrelli during his tenure as Heinz’s sock-puppet (something we have called him, in our posts of 04.28.2017 and 02.02.2018). So it’s gratifying to see that, in his waning days on the Board, Borrelli has finally accepted the truth about his presidency.

Hopefully that truth will set him free.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Time For Heinz To Go

02.25.19

We won’t lie: We were not unhappy to hear back in December that Park Ridge-Niles School District 64’s Superintendent Laurie Heinz had accepted the same position at Palatine School District 15.

When she arrived as an untested rookie superintendent from her position as an assistant superintendent with Skokie School District 68, we “sincerely wish[ed] her well” in our 02.07.2014 post: “Here’s Hoping New Supt.’s Performance Matches Big Contract.” The “big contract” referred to the guaranteed 3-year deal with a starting compensation package valued at $243,000 – approximately the same as the senior/“seasoned” superintendent she was replacing.

The 3-year deal was supposed to give Heinz a sufficient warm-and-fuzzy for the jump from assistant at Skokie to the big chair in Park Ridge. And Board president Tony Borrelli – at that point not yet having been disabused by Heinz of the notion that he was the D-64 “boss” – was already hailing Heinz as “someone who will provide direction, find answers” and help D-64 develop into “one of the highest performing districts in the state of Illinois.”

We doubted she could do that, but we acknowledged in that 02.07.2014 post that, if she did, “she will be worth every penny” the D-64 taxpayers would be paying her. But we did add one caveat that now appears to be prescient, but really wasn’t:

“But make no mistake about it: Ms. Heinz is a mercenary. She does not hail from Park Ridge, nor does she live and pay taxes here. The superintendent’s position is simply a career move for her, not a long-term commitment to this community.”

Not surprisingly, that warning was totally lost on a clueless Borrelli and his six fellow board dwarfs who, a year later – after discussing Heinz’s first year’s performance in a series of closed sessions where the board could hide its questions, comments, opinions and reasoning from the taxpayers – voted unanimously on a one-year contract extension (thereby keeping Heinz’s contract at a guaranteed 3-years) worth more than $250,000, including a $4,000+ raise and additional benefits. We wrote about that in our 06.22.2015 post and our 07.06.2015 post.

By that time Borrelli was smitten like a schoolboy, willing to give Heinz whatever she wanted on the theory that she was such a superstar that no expense should be spared to keep her at the helm, notwithstanding her lapses in judgment, her manipulation and concealment of information (with the assistance of propaganda minister Bernadette Tramm), and the lack of any objectively measurable gains in student academic achievement vis-à-vis comparable districts.

About a year later he and Heinz earned their respective “Who’s The Boss?” and “I’m The Boss!” sobriquets, reflecting the total domination Heinz had achieved over Borrelli who, in turn, exercised similar domination over all of his fellow Board dwarfs until May 2017.

All that is background to the main point of today’s post: Heinz should be relieved of her duties NOW!

Actually, she should have been relieved of her duties the moment the Board discovered that Washington School principal Stephanie Daly and Franklin School Principal Claire Kowalczyk were leaving D-64 and joining Heinz at Palatine D-15.

In the real world (a/k/a, the world of private-sector employment, as contrasted with the fantasyland of public employment), management personnel like Heinz, Daly and Kowalczyk would have employment contracts that contain restrictive covenants that customarily: (a) limit what employment could be accepted if the employee terminates his/her employment; and (b) prohibits the employee from recruiting fellow employees to his/her new employer.

But since D-64 is a public-sector fantasyland instead of the real world, neither Heinz nor the two principals have such restrictions in their contracts. And while Borrelli and his board dwarfs rubber-stamped Heinz’s guaranteed 3-year deal and its annual one-year extensions at the end of the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, they never demanded a reciprocal guarantee from Heinz that she’d remain at the District for the duration of her contract.

Without such restrictive covenants in her contract we can’t begrudge Heinz for proving the truth of our February 2014 warning that she’s nothing but a “mercenary.”

Irrespective of contractual restrictions, however, real-world employees – especially upper-level management employees like Heinz – have common law “fiduciary duties” and “duties of loyalty” to their employer throughout the duration of their employment with that employer. Those duties include acting honestly and with the utmost good faith and loyalty in performing the employee’s job. In the real world of private-sector employment, that means not recruiting away your current employer’s personnel for the benefit of your future employer.

If that’s what Heinz did with Daly and/or Kowalczyk, she should be fired immediately “for cause”; i.e., breach of her fiduciary duty and/or her duty of loyalty to the District.

But even if she didn’t recruit those principals to D-15, there’s no reason to let a mercenary with one foot out the door pointed toward Palatine continue to run the District. As best as we can tell, after five years of top-shelf compensation she has come nowhere close to Borrelli’s fantasy of making D-64 “one of the highest performing districts in the state of Illinois.” So why keep her?

We now know that Heinz is expendable because she has told us so with her resignation. There is no need to treat her otherwise, or to let her hang around as an under-achieving lame duck.

Admittedly mixing our metaphors: The sooner the stable is cleaned, the more welcoming it will be for the fresh horses.

To read or post comments, click on title.

SPED Major Factor In Picking New Sup’t., Choosing D-64 Board Candidates

02.13.19

A recent “candidates’ forum” hosted by parents of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 students with “special needs” was held at the Shawarma Inn in South Park.

In attendance were 6 (Steve Blindauer, Sal Galati, Gareth Kennedy, Rebecca Little, Carol Sales and incumbent Tom Sotos) of the 8 (Lisa Page and Denise Pearl MIA) candidates for the D-64 School Board. Six of the 8 candidates also submitted written responses to questions posed in advance to them by the organizers of that forum. Sotos and Pearl did not do so.

When discussing the shortcomings of the District’s special education (“SPED”) program, the candidates and the assembled parents repeatedly cited “communication” and “trust.” But that’s the lowest-hanging fruit: Inadequate communication and a lack of trust have been among the bigger problems not just for D-64 SPED parents but for all D-64 parents throughout the 6-year reign of Board President Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and the 5-year reign of Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz, aided and abetted by D-64’s minister of disinformation, Bernadette Tramm.

But it was more than poor communication and a lack of trust that created a SPED program so dysfunctional under former SPED director Jane Boyd that an outside consultant (Lisa Harrod of LMT Consulting) had to be brought in last Spring to audit it. She and her team concluded that, in additions to neither SPED parents nor SPED teachers trusting the Heinz administration, SPED services had actually declined over the previous two years.

We wrote about that in our 06.22.2018 post.

Because students with special needs are the most vulnerable of D-64 students and are very dependent on the SPED program’s educational quality, a dysfunctional SPED program would appear to be more problematic than, say, a dysfunctional Channels of Challenge program. Yet for the better part of the last three years many/most(?) SPED parents were virtually invisible at School Board meetings.

That changed in N0vember 2017, when SPED parents showed up to object to the District’s misguided plan for moving 5th grade SPED students into middle school a year early. Many SPED parents also objected to the District’s plan to install part-time School Resource Officers (“SROs”) in the District’s middle schools.

Although a few of the candidates at the forum identified the hiring of a new superintendent as one of the challenges the D-64 Board is facing, none of them listed any specific SPED-oriented qualifications, abilities and philosophies a new superintendent should possess – at least judging from the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“District 64 school board candidates call for improved communications with parents, community,” Jan. 28) and from the candidates’ written responses.

Why not? Haven’t they learned from the Heinz/Boyd debacle how important it is to have a superintendent who is fully-engaged in the process of providing SPED services?

Let’s face it: SPED costs a lot more per student than the District’s regular curriculum. And teaching special needs kids can be very challenging. Because of the confidentiality related to information about all students, SPED parents also tend to feel isolated. And, frankly, many (most?) teachers and administrators do not care about their special needs students nearly as much as they want SPED parents to believe they do.

But don’t take our word for that last point: Check out the minutes of the D-64 Board meetings from 2016 and 2017 and we’re pretty sure you’ll find no mention of any of the problems with the SPED program that the consultant identified last Spring. We’re also pretty sure you’ll find no mention of SPED teachers appearing at Board meetings asking the Board for help with the problems that the consultant indicated were not being addressed by the various school principals, by Boyd, and by Heinz.

This isn’t anything new: Back in the 1990s the editor of this blog had a special needs child who received very uneven SPED while a student at Field. Every IEP meeting was a dog-and-pony show by several teachers and administrators replete with edu-speak, SPED-speak, charts and graphs clearly intended to pass off activity for achievement. And for too long they succeeded – until the lack of progress became so obvious they could no longer deny or spin it.

That led to the scheduling of a due process hearing.

After weeks of posturing and bluster from the District’s then-head of the SPED program, and less than 12 hours before the hearing was to begin, the District offered a settlement: A full summer (several thousand dollars’ worth) of in-home SPED services to make up for the lackluster services provided during the previous school year. So a fourth grader lost his summer vacation and the taxpayers were forced to pay extra for the District’s incompetence, intransigence and duplicity. Meanwhile, the SPED teachers and administrators responsible for that travesty got to enjoy their summer and continued to draw their public paychecks without one iota of accountability.

Not surprisingly, we’ve heard a number of sadly similar stories from current D-64 SPED parents. And we’ve heard that there is an inordinate number of due process hearings that have been held over the past year or that have been requested.

Although most D-64 candidates have expressed various SPED-related ideas they would like to bring to the D-64 Board if they are elected, those ideas are going nowhere unless they can be understood, critically evaluated and approved by the new superintendent. Which means that the new superintendent must be as committed to the SPED program as he/she is to the educational programs for every other student – and that he/she is aided by a competent and equally committed District SPED director instead of another Heinz and Boyd tandem.

That’s why it’s good to see that more SPED parents have finally become publicly engaged and vocal in fighting for their kids’ rights to the appropriate public education the IDEA requires. They need to remain engaged in the SPED program itself. And they need to demand that the D-64 Board select a new superintendent who truly understands the importance of SPED not only to the parents of special needs kids but to the taxpayers and the community as a whole.

Otherwise, the District will continue to spend money fixing problems of its own making while wasting boatloads of money on lawyers fighting parents in due process hearings that could be much better spent on providing quality SPED services.

To read or post comments, click on title.

A Two-Fer Tuesday: City Water & Choosing The New Tiu

11.20.18

Today we’re giving you a two-fer: A regular-sized discussion of the City of Park Ridge’s water increase and a BONUS discussion of the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board’s replacement of recently-resigned Board member Eastman Tiu.

City Water And Sewer Rate Increase. Last week the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate reported on the Park Ridge City Council’s November 7 vote to raise its water and sewer rates effective January 1, 2019. Not surprisingly, some people are already beefing about the increase of 14 cents per 1,000 gallons of water used, as well as a smaller increase based on the size of the user’s water meter.

This post is directed at the group of beefers who are trying to resurrect that three year old brain cramp: The City buying its water from Evanston instead of Chicago, which we last wrote about in our 04.21.2015 post, our 07.13.2015 post and our 10.12.2015 post, all of which pointed out the many risks, and no guaranteed commensurate benefits, of what we called the Evanston Water Option (“EWO”).

To say that buying water from Evanston is a dumb idea is an understatement, in the first instance because just the estimated 30-year cost to the City’s taxpayers of building the Evanston water delivery infrastructure was $90 million – and that was when the City was exploring a joint EWO with Niles and Morton Grove and would only be paying a fraction of the cost. If the City were to go it alone, the cost presumably would double or even triple. And that would be for only one water transmission line, not the current redundancy of two lines that we have with Chicago.

No wonder one of the promoters of that EWO boondoggle three years ago was Kathy (Panattoni) Meade, the unofficial queen of Park Ridge freeloaders – and one of the ringmasters of the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page – whose principal life goal appears to be finding ways to stick all City/Park District/D-64 taxpayers with the lion’s share of the costs for whatever services and amenities she wants for herself and her kids.  

Fortunately, the City balked at the EWO until Niles and Morton Grove decided to do a cheaper (for them) deal with Skokie for Evanston water, in which Park Ridge could not join because the water capacity of the Evanston/Skokie/Morton Grove/Niles venture could not support a fifth participant, especially with water demands like ours.

But the cost of the infrastructure needed for a switch to Evanston water is not the entire story. Another important consideration was, and is (as we understand the deal), that the City’s per-gallon rate for Chicago water is exactly the same as what Chicago residents pay, not counting the different additional fees that both Chicago and Park Ridge charge their respective residents in connection with water and sewer service. So, at least in theory, Chicago can’t gouge Park Ridge on water costs in order to subsidize the cost of Chicago residents’ water.

That’s significantly different from the situation being played out in both the federal and state courts between Evanston and its long-time water customer, Skokie, after their latest water contract expired on December 31, 2016, and Evanston tried to double the 1,000 gallon rate. The Circuit Court lawsuit by E-Town was filed in September 2017, while the federal court lawsuit by Skokie was filed in June of this year.

As anybody who has read this blog knows, we’re all about user fees: To the extent a user fee can reasonably be calculated and allocated to individual users for the cost of any government-supplied necessity or amenity, it should be done and the result charged to those users instead of hanging more taxes on all taxpayers.

Ideally, the user fees for water and sewer provide not only an appropriate way to cover the costs to the City of providing those services to its residents but, also, a way to cover at least part of the related costs of maintaining the water and sewer infrastructure. But increased costs presumably also generate a very desirable collateral benefit: More intelligent, disciplined (and, therefore, reduced) water usage by our residents.

So we would have expected those Go Green Park Ridge folks – Amy Bartucci, Cindy Grau, Andrea Cline, et al. – to be all over Arpad Glomski’s November 14 post about the water rate increase on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page, supporting those fees with their commentary. But guess what?

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Unless you count a brief colloquy between Cindy Grau and Meade, in which they both appear to lament user fees for water and sewer, while Meade lets her freeloader flag fly by her outright mocking of the concept of people paying “their fair share.”

Apparently “green” means something more to the Go Greenies that just what is found in nature, at least when it comes to keeping the “green” in their own pockets.

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Choosing The New Tiu. Last week D-64 Board member Eastman Tiu tendered his resignation from the D-64 School Board, which has stirred quite a commotion on the Parents of D-64 Students FB page, a “closed group” FB site administered by Helen Gossel Pasley and Carol Sales. “Closed group” means that non-members can’t see the posts and comments, unlike with other community FB pages such as the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners FB page and the Park Ridge Illinois Online FB page, or with this blog.

The main event so far has been an unscheduled 10-round bout between activist Alice Dobrinsky (in the dark blue corner) and D-64 Board member Tom “Tilted Kilt” Sotos (in the plaid-with-cleavage corner) about how transparently the D-64 Board will conduct the whole selection process for Tiu’s replacement.

As tends to be the rule rather than the exception whenever Sotos engages in these bouts, he tends to be over-matched; see, e.g., his  09.19.2016 bout with resident Jayne Reardon over the Board’s refusal to disclose the secret terms of the closed-session negotiated 2016 PREA contract, in which Reardon left him so bloodied and incoherent that his corner man, Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli, stopped it after only 9 minutes – starting at the 1:03:20 mark of the meeting video and finishing with the TKO of Sotos at the 1:12:21 mark.

Without wasting valuable time describing another TKO of Sotos, this time administered by Dobrinsky, we’ll cut to the chase: The whole process of replacing Tiu should be conducted exactly the way the estimable Joan Sandrik, another resident who has previously used Sotos as a punching bag, suggested in her comment on D-64 Students:

“Post the vacancy, accept applications, schedule interviews (in an open forum), deliberate (in an open forum), make the selection (in an open forum), swear in the new board member, ba-bam. Done. There. Now what’s so difficult about that?”

Not a damned thing, unless you’re a secretive demagogue like Borrelli, or a Borrelli lackey and apologist like Sotos. Or any other Board members who reflexively run and hide in closed session whenever its arguably legal – and who can’t spell H.I.T.A. even if you spotted them both consonants and let them buy both vowels.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Has The Train That Never Should Have Left The Station Finally Been Stopped?

11.14.18

It has been more than a year since we first heard about Park Ridge-Niles School District 64’s plan to put very part-time – a total of 8 hours per week, 4 hours per each of 2 days – school resource officers (“SRO”s) in Emerson and Lincoln Middle Schools.

That SRO program was dreamed up by Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski and Niles Police Cmdr. Robert Tornabene, with the assistance of D-64 Supt. Laurie Heinz. Despite Heinz’s presentation of the program to the D-64 Board a week after a gun-related “threat” to Maine South High School was posted on social media by a Lincoln student and a Maine South student, Heinz and other D-64 officials incredibly insisted that the SRO proposal was not related to that threat.

That program was immediately embraced by Board president Tony Borrelli and Board members Larry Ryles, Tom Sotos and Mark Eggemann, and supported (albeit less enthusiastically) by vice-president Rick Biagi and members Fred Sanchez and Eastman Tiu.

We criticized that SRO program as a wrongheaded faux-solution looking for a non-existent problem in our posts of 08.31.2017, 12.29.2017 , 02.02.2018, 02.21.2018, 04.30.2018, 05.21.2018 and 06.22.2018.

But even after Biagi, Sanchez and Tiu broke ranks with their colleagues in February 2018 in response to the well-researched, well-written SRO report by the law firm of Ekl, Williams & Provenzale (under a contract with the District) that recommended against such a program in our schools, Borrelli, Sotos, Ryles and Eggemann doubled down on the program, with Heinz’s support. They, along with Kaminski and Tornabene, kept blurring the purpose of the SRO program.

Was it for security? Not really. Discipline? Not really. Counseling? Not really. Anti-bullying? Not really. Anti-vaping? Not really. Anti-sexting by minors? Not really.

Ultimately, it became clear that the program was primarily intended as a public relations initiative by Kaminski and Tornabene in the nature of the old “Officer Friendly” program, but with D-64 picking up the costs of what would start out as a “pilot” but likely grow – via pre-planned mission creep – into a more substantial and permanent presence.

So we were delighted to hear that this past Monday night one of the SRO program’s initial drivers, Board member Ryles, corrected his course and branded the SRO program a “train [that] has run off the track,” the implementation of which “has taken way more time than it’s worth”; and that he was in favor of scrapping it.

Actually, it was a boneheaded idea from the start, well before it ran off the track into quicksand. But the right decision, even for the wrong reason(s), is still the right decision. And after staking out a strong position in favor of the SROs, it took some gumption for Ryles to reverse engines. Kudos to him.

Not surprisingly, Borrelli continued to argue for the SRO program, and Eggemann joined him in voting to keep the program moving forward.

According to the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article (“ ‘This train has run off the track’: District 64 board to scrap middle school resource program,” November 13), Chief Kaminski had not returned calls seeking comment as of press time.

But we wouldn’t be surprised if Chief K, the consummate local politician, isn’t burning up the phone lines to Ryles (who was a dependable Chief K vote when he was a member of the incredible expanding Chief’s Task Force from 2010 to 2013) and to Sotos, who agreed to put a keep/kill vote at the D-64 Board’s December 10 meeting but who reportedly still favors “some sort of police presence in District 64 schools.”

How about a life-sized cutout of McGruff, the Crime Dog ?

Kaminski’s biggest challenge will be re-packaging the ridiculous 8-hour/week SRO program to make it more marketable to the many Park Ridge parents who regularly showed up at Board meetings and spoke in opposition to it, such as: Miki Tesija, Ginger Pennington, Carol Sales and Alice Dobrinsky.

Fortunately, Biagi seems locked and loaded on this issue and appears to have gained the support he needs to nuke it. Hopefully, Ryles, Sanchez and Tiu can hold their ground in the face of whatever new kandy-kolored tangerine-flake streamline baby version of the SRO program Kaminski comes up with; and, hopefully, Sotos doesn’t get mesmerized by its shininess.

But even if they succeed in putting an end to the SRO discussion, it still won’t make up for the waste of more than a year of time, effort and attention that District personnel and the D-64 Board put into it. Nor will it make up for the ill-will caused by Borrelli’s and the Board’s ham-fisted way of dealing with legitimate concerns voiced by parents and community members who understood from the start what a half-baked idea the SRO program was.

This Board got stampeded into approving multi-millions of dollars of not-really-secured vestibules by the shameless panic peddling of Heinz and the paid shills for the school security industry. And it almost got stampeded into this SRO fiasco, albeit at only a tiny fraction of the price of the vestibules. Hopefully the Board members have learned that a bovine mindset is no way to run a school district.

Now let’s see if a Board majority can, once and for all, scrap that train that never should have left the station when it meets on December 10.

To read or post comments, click on title.

D-64 Neglects SPED Students, Pushes SROs

06.22.18

After spending the first 21 days of this month doing the real-world work that keeps the editor of this blog employed, it’s finally time to write about the May 21, 2018 report by Lisa Harrod of LMT Consulting about the special education (“SPED”) program run by Park Ridge-Niles School District 64.

That report, available on the District’s website, concludes that – among other things – the District’s SPED “[p]rogramming options and the continuum of services have declined over the past two years.”

SPED students tend to be the District’s most vulnerable and needy, so a two-year decline should be disturbing and unacceptable not only to the parents of SPED students but, also, to D-64 taxpayers who are footing the bills for what should be improving rather than declining educational services, especially for SPED kids.

In addition to that finding of decline, the Harrod Report contains other findings and conclusions that should be troubling to anybody concerned with the quality of education our children are receiving, including:

“Lack of trust in district administration was a consistent theme discussed by staff and parent groups involved in the [SPED] review process.”

“There is an adversarial environment reported with many staff members hesitant to provide feedback and ideas for students in special education meetings.”

“IEPs [Individualized Education Plans/Programs] are not consistently written in a clear and comprehensive format.”

“Lack of Trust.” “[A]dversarial environment.” IEPs not “clear and comprehensive.” Those are far from glowing endorsements of the current D-64 Administration and its SPED program.

Predictably, however, Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli dismissed the finding of that decline as “nothing but semantics.” And his queen, Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz, said that the use of such a term “doesn’t sit well with [her].”

Criticism never does “sit well” with bureaucrats, or with the elected officials who are supposed to be holding them accountable but who, too often, spend most of their time and effort propping up the bureaucrats and concealing their failures. In Borrelli’s case, that includes shameless cheerleading.

At D-64, any evidence of failure and incompetence is treated as little more than a source of temporary embarrassment to be ignored, or spun and smoothed over by D-64’s chief propagandist, Bernadette Tramm, until it’s forgotten.

Which is why SPED parents are concerned not only about how their kids were not educated for the past two years and how they will be educated going forward but, also, whether their SPED kids might disproportionately suffer from the ill-conceived School Resource Officer (“SRO”) program that Heinz and the Board continue to diddle themselves silly over – to the point of holding a “special” meeting last Thursday night solely to discuss that SRO program.

Of the 14 parents addressing the Board on that program, most of them identified themselves as parents of SPED students. And all but two – Tracy Fregassi and Greg Bublitz, both D-63 teachers who live in D-64 and have kids in our schools – either opposed the SROs or had significant reservations about the role(s) of SROs in the proposed 4 hours/day, 2 days/week “pilot” program.

Having listened to the Board’s discussions of the SROs over the past months, we are dismayed that the police, the Board and the administration still sound schizophrenic as to whether the SRO program is supposed to be nothing more than an “Officer Friendly” public relations exercise, or whether it is to bring discipline and order to the District’s middle schools where it is rumored to be sorely lacking.

Kind of like that old commercial: “Certs is a candy mint; Certs is a breath mint” before concluding that Certs is really “two, two, two mints in one.”

Rather than portray SROs as merely two-dimensional Certs, however, Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski, Heinz and the Board are touting SROs as all things to all people – the better to garner support for that deeply-flawed program.

In peddling the SRO program Heinz and a Board majority of Borrelli, “Tilted Kilt Tommy” Sotos, Mark Eggemann and Larry Ryles have shown no difficulty in blithely ignoring the well-researched, well-reasoned report (Cost: $15,000) by the District’s SRO consultants, the Ekl, Williams & Provenzale law firm, that was critical not only of SRO programs generally but also the District’s half-baked pilot program in particular.

Of course, none of the supporters of the SRO pilot program have produced any comparable report in support of it. Instead they rely on warm-and-fuzzy, data-lite anecdotes – like Kaminski’s unsubstantiated claim that “there’s been positive feedback” from the SROs in the Maine Twp. high schools; and Ms. Fregassi’s equally unsubstantiated claim that the SRO’s in D-63 schools “have had nothing but a positive impact on students in District 63.”

Fortunately, Board members Rick Biagi, Fred Sanchez and Eastman Tiu have recently displayed the insight and courage to reject the go-along-to-get-along mentality of the Board majority while raising serious questions about the program.

Whether they can sway even one member of the majority from their lemming status remains to be seen. But just slowing down a boondoggle like the SRO is a refreshing change from D-64’s S.O.P.

As would be speeding up the improvement of the SPED program to make up for the last two years.

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D-64 SRO Duties And Responsibilities: When’s A Cop’s Not A Cop?

05.21.18

We apologize for the eleventh-hour nature of this post, but on the agenda for tonight’s meeting of the School Board for Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 (7:00 p.m. at Emerson Middle School) is a discussion of the “Mission Statement” and the “Intergovernmental Agreements” (the “IGA”s) for the proposed School Resource Officer (“SRO”) pilot program.

In classic Queen of Hearts fashion (“Sentence first–verdict afterward.” ), D-64 drafted the IGAs before it had approved (or even drafted?) the Mission Statement on which the IGAs were ostensibly to be based. But for a District overseen by a Board led by Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and administered by Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz, that kind of bass-ackwards approach is one of D-64’s lesser mistakes.

We’ve reviewed the drafts of those documents and have several questions, one of the more important ones of which requires a scenario such as the following: The SRO sees one Lincoln or Emerson student hand another one what looks like a bag of pot (or a handgun, if you prefer) which the recipient immediately places in his/her locker before locking it and walking away.

What can the SRO do?

As we read Paragraph 7 of the D-64/City of Park Ridge IGA, the SRO’s duties are strictly limited to those listed on Exhibit C, which expressly purports to be an “exhaustive” explanation of the SRO’s duties. Among the things it appears the SRO cannot do under Paragraph 7 and Exhibit C, however, are: (1) question either student about what the SRO saw; and (2) ask the locker-holder to open the locker – at least not unless and until the SRO first obtains the school principal’s consent and direction, “absent exigent circumstances.”

Is a bag of pot, or a handgun, sitting in a locked student locker an “exigent circumstance[ ]”? We don’t see that term defined in the IGA, so we assume it would be given its customary and ordinary meaning, which Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines as: “requiring immediate aid or action · exigent circumstances.”

And, taking it one step further, Exhibit C states that “absent exigent circumstances,” conduct such as one student’s transferring pot or a handgun to another who locks it in his /her locker, is not to be considered a “criminal law issue[ ]” but, instead, a “school discipline issue[ ] to be solely handled by School officials.”

Given Supt. Laurie Heinz’s repeated insistence that Lincoln’s and Emerson’s discipline issues are no different than those of schools in other suburban districts (per a 02.22.2018 Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article), we have to wonder just what kind of police-like conduct by the SRO – toward the pot (or the handgun) or toward the students involved with them – would the principals who kow-tow to Heinz consent to or direct.

If one wants to read Exhibit C literally – because, of course, it’s meant to be “exhaustive” in circumscribing what SROs can and cannot do – we see nothing that would authorize the SRO to actually defend students, teachers and administrators from the actions of an active-shooter student.

As if to play directly into Heinz’s “move along, nothing to see here” approach to discipline issues, as well as into Chief Kaminski’s approach to getting an extra officer or two on his Department’s payroll by having D-64’s taxpayers picking up part of the tab, check out the anti-transparency/anti-accountability provision in Exhibit C that requires the SRO to keep “an activity log documenting his/her education, resource and security activities” – BUT which the District will receive only “upon request”; and a summary of which the District “may, at its option,” share with the taxpayers.

Or not.

If this SRO program were totally legit, the SRO’s activity log would be sent to the District and published on the District’s website (with student names, if any, redacted for privacy reasons) on a weekly basis, so that parents of Lincoln and Emerson students, along with the taxpayers who are footing the bill for this seeming boondoggle, would know what the SROs are doing on an almost real-time basis.

But you can bet that kind of transparency and accountability for this half-baked (i.e., four hour/day, 2 day/week) initiative is the absolute last thing either Heinz or Kaminski want, which is why Borrelli and his Board bobbleheads won’t insist upon it; and which is why the District’s attorneys who want to remain in that role will gin-up an excuse on which Borrelli, Heinz and the Bobbleheads can fall back.

Because that’s the way things are done at D-64. And that’s why the serious business of education is taking a back seat to all this faux-security.

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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.

Florida School Shooting Should Not Panic Park Ridge

02.21.18

One of the more detestable politicians, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, infamously said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

It appears that some Park Ridge residents subscribe to Rahm’s philosophy, judging from the February 15 post by Lauren Hall on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners FB page in response to last week’s St. Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Hall’s opening salvo: “Has safety taken a higher priority yet? Perhaps the one vestibule project was too expensive but now what?”

She appears to be referring to Park Ridge-Niles School District 64, which has installed allegedly “secured vestibules” at its Washington Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools but has delayed their installation at the District’s other schools because one or more School Board members might dare to think that our schools are already reasonably secure; and that the District’s limited resources should be spent on…wait for it…education.

The nerve of them!

We suggest you read that post and the string of comments it provoked, which run the gamut from “[W]hy would test scores be a higher [priority than safety] if our kids are dead?” and “I’m not going to complain about the cost of any safety measure if it may save even one life” to “How do you protect against the kid…who carries a gun into school in his/her backpack?” and “If someone wants to commit an atrocity like [the Florida shooting] a vestibule is a false sense of security.”

After you’ve finished, ask yourself: Will a motivated shooter – which each of these school shooters is – be deterred by (a) the not-really-secured vestibules this blog has ripped on several occasions, most recently in our 07.21.2017 post, or by (b) the School Resource Officers (“SROs”) proposed for Emerson and Lincoln middle schools, which we criticized in our o8.31.2017 post? (And, BTW, that Florida high school had an SRO on duty at the time).

If your answer is “Yes,” then answer the trenchant budgetary question posed by Toni Wolf that appears fairly early in that string of comments:

“What are you willing to get rid of or reduce to pay for vestibules?”

Not surprisingly, virtually all of the commentators ignored that question.

Instead, some applauded the vestibules at Washington and Lincoln for giving the folks manning the school office a clear view of everybody who enters the school. But unless those office folks have Superman’s x-ray vision they can’t see the collapsed-stock AR-15 or the MAC-10 in the disturbed kid’s backpack. Or the AR-15 stuck down the pants of some whacked-out dad showing up for a Science Olympiad. Or the Glock with a 30-round clip (and a spare?) in the Dooney & Bourke tote of a looney mom attending a holiday program.

What might prevent those dangers? Metal detectors would help, assuming they would be manned by competent operators and would actually be used all day, every day – even on rainy ones when the line of kids going through them backs up and stretches out the door, ironically providing a prospective shooter with an inviting target in its own right. Metal detectors also wouldn’t stop a shooter from targeting kids on the playground at recess, or leaving school at day’s end.

Fortunately, despite the wailing and hand-wringing of certain Concerned Homeowners, the chances of any of our children dying (or even being wounded) by gunfire anywhere in our community are probably about the same as the chances of any of them dying from a plane slamming into Maine South, a catastrophe certain residents have been warning about since Flight 191 crashed after take-off from O’Hare in May 1979.

That’s a good thing, although apparently not good enough for the Chicken Little brigade.

One of our more revered presidents (at least in some circles), Franklin D. Roosevelt, famously said: “[T]he only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Unfortunately, too many of our residents seem almost addicted not merely to fear but to phobia – a phobia that too often seems to be assuaged only by the irresponsible wasting of the taxpayers’ money on snake oil palliatives that enrich fear-mongering security consultants like RETA Security, Inc. that has been advising D-64.

And architects like FGM who happily, and profitably, re-design our schools.

To read or post comments, click on title.

SROs May Be More Problem Than Solution

12.29.17

There was a time when the term “SRO” commonly meant “Single Room Occupancy.” As in cheap hotels, a/k/a “flophouses.” Or “Standing Room Only” at concerts and sporting events.

Nowadays, however, in suburbs like Park Ridge the term SRO means “School Resource Officer.” Or, as we noted in our August 31, 2017 post, modern-day “Officer Krupke”s from “West Side Story” – a post we encourage you to read so that we don’t have to recount the problems with the whole SRO goat rodeo we previously identified.

From the perspective of taxpayers who see a District rife with neglected buildings and a recent history of suspect educational achievement, spending the money it will take to stick a revolving core of Officer Krupkes in each of the District’s two middle schools for 8-10 hours a week makes about as much sense as the millions it is spending on not-really-secure vestibules.

None whatsoever.

But we were alerted by one of our stringers to a post on Kathy (Panattoni) Meade’s Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group Facebook page – by Ginger Pennington – raising questions about the very concept of an SRO program in the light of the suicide earlier this year of a 16-year old Naperville North honor-roll student hours after being confronted by two school deans and a Naperville Police Dept. SRO about his cellphone audiotape of himself and a female classmate having a consensual sexual encounter.

Also on his cellphone: Photos of other partially nude girls and videos, according to Associated Press accounts.

The SRO reportedly told the teen that his cellphone contained what may be illegal “child pornography” that could result in his criminal prosecution and, if convicted, the requirement of registering as a sex offender. As we understand it, that’s a pretty accurate statement of the current law. The SRO reportedly also told the teen that the matter could be kept out of court if the teen cooperated.

After a reported 20-minute interview, the teen was told to wait in the student-services office until his mother arrived. But before she arrived her son left the school, walked up a nearby parking deck ramp to the fifth level, and jumped to his death – less than 3 hours after he had been called to the dean’s office.

Tragic? Absolutely. A needlessly permanent solution to a temporary problem, as youth suicides are so often described.

The result of legally-actionable misconduct by the school administrators and/or the SRO?

Yes, say the parents of the teen in their $5 million suit against the District in DuPage County Circuit Court – in which they allege that administrators ignored Illinois law requiring them to attempt to notify a student’s parents before conducting interviews such as the one in question.

The Naperville school district reportedly disagrees, but we’re betting a settlement is achieved before the district’s actual legal duties and possible breaches thereof ever go to a jury.

How does that play into the D-64 SRO narrative and Ms. Pennington’s concerns?

We’re not exactly sure.

But it’s got to be more than a coincidence that a December 22, 2017 Park Ridge Herald-Advocate story (“Second law firm to evaluate rules for officers to be stationed at District 64 middle schools”) reports that D-64 has paid the Lisle law firm of Ekl, Williams and Provenzale $2,500 to suggest revisions to the proposed SRO intergovernmental agreement between D-64 and the Village of Niles (for the SRO at Emerson Middle School), and between D-64 and the City of Park Ridge (for the SRO at Lincoln Middle School).

That’s the same law firm, led by prominent former DuPage County prosecutor Terry Ekl – who, back in 2008, was paid $75,000 to author the “Ekl Report” about problems in the Park Ridge Police Dept. under former chief Jeff Caudill – that is representing the parents of the Naperville student in their lawsuit.

There actually may be something worthwhile in the D-64 Board’s obtaining legal advice on such a significant issue from both specialized school district attorneys (such as the Board’s regular legal counsel) and from attorneys looking to blow holes in the school district attorneys’ arguments.

But the real problem here, as we noted in our August 31, 2017 post, is the whole notion of bringing SROs – police officers sworn to enforce child pornography laws, drug and alcohol laws, and smoking/vaping laws – into schools with the expectation that they will act like school administrators rather than law enforcement officers.

What research we’ve been able to do suggests that the benefits of SROs in school districts such as ours are anecdotal, at best. Yet Supt. Laurie “I’m the Boss!” Heinz reportedly has presented the idea as a clear and unqualified win/win for the District and the Police Department. That’s problematic.

It becomes even more problematic where, as we understand it, the real reason the SROs are being brought in is because the teachers and/or administrators at those schools aren’t willing or capable of maintaining order and discipline when left to their own devices.

Instead of “Officer Krupke,” maybe D-64 should be looking for no-nonsense coaches, teachers and administrators like the legendary Paterson (NJ) principal Joe (“Lean on Me”) Clark, Kristyn (“No-Nonsense Nurturing”) Klei Borrero, Richmond (CA) coach Ken (“Coach Carter”) Carter and St. Petersburg (FL) principal Nikita Reed.

Or anybody – other than sworn law enforcement officers – who won’t be terrified and intimidated by incorrigible 13-year old suburban punks.

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