April 2007


Lennie at the new website devoted to learning more about no-bid contracts and the Illinois Energy Consortium is regularly updating that site with information about which school districts (besides D211) didn’t use a competitive bidding process.

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 Sorry about the delay. Checking my visitor stats, 120 of you have already been here no doubt looking for the latest and you probably already now know that two challengers won.

The incumbents who won are Debra Strauss and Lynn Davis. The challengers who won are George Brandt and Susan Kenley-Rupnow. Kenley-Rupnow was the top vote-getter.

The way I see it: When an incumbent loses and a challenger is the top voter-getter, voters are starting to look for change.

The Daily Herald says:

District 211 victors face challenges.

The latest round of contention between the administration and teachers union is over a recent energy contract the district agreed to.

The union said the contract with the Illinois Energy Consortium should be rescinded, claiming it violates Illinois School Code.

Of course, there are plenty of folks in the District who aren’t particularly pro-union or connected to the union who are asking the same questions.

I’m thinking that Bill Lloyd might be feeling a little less lonely this morning. He writes:

Election Day 1: The Future Begins.

District 15 results are chronicled here with quite a big old dose of Daily Herald snark.

At the new website devoted to keeping an eye on the Illinois Energy Consortium and its no-bid business model, please read the FAQs.

Is this what we want in District 211?

District 211 has paid and is continuing to pay an expensive legal firm to defend its “right” to spend your money on electricty and natural gas without getting competitive bids. You can see the fruits of that legal expenditure here, along with the smashing replies of the plaintiff.

What on God’s green earth could the school board have been thinking?

Finally, I invite you to absorb the eloquent brief filed by Tarsitano last week in response to the legal brief (the one you paid for) of District 211.

The opening paragraph:

This is a case about no-bid vendor contracts. These vendor contracts involve an expenditure of at least $9.5 million of taxpayer funds. They contain no prices, pricing methodology or price escalation protection. These vendor contracts literally obligate the defendant school district to pay whatever amount the vendor in its sole discretion decides to charge. Tarsitano requests a declaration that the District’s no-bid vendor contracts are unlawful as having not been publicly bid under the School Code. The District’s response is to ask this Court to create and extend statutory protection from competition for one of its vendors.

Yes, we live in a school district where your school board and your school board superintendent are using your tax dollars to pay attorneys to argue a case before a judge which, if they win, will mean that your school board will be able to buy electricity and natural gas without having to get competitive bids.

Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.

Lots of email this morning…

Here’s a first-person account of last Thursday’s District 211 school board meeting sent to me by Claudia Bailey, one of the candidates for District 211 school board.

She writes:

The April 12th Board meeting began with an awards ceremony; then the students and their parents immediately left. So the audience went from 200 people to a few dozen people for the actual board meeting. After speakers and as the night progressed, maybe 10 people remained in the audience, before the board broke for closed session.

There were certain things that happened at the board meeting that left a big impression on me. First, where was Martha? Sixteen years on the 211 board, and she was not at her last board meeting. At the end, I guess you really don’t care what happens at 211.

Secondly, the district lawyer; did she really come freely or was she asked to come? She expressed herself in a deadpan way, and she immediately left when the speeches were through. Not a great performance.

Thirdly, Dr. Thornton, when you are at the table with the school board, you are working. You do not grandstand during a forum that is meant for citizens to speak to the board. There was not a huge crowd to listen to you. If you want a crowd maybe you should have another referendum, people came then.

My last impression was not a good one. There were two department chairs that attacked everything the teacher’s union said. According to the male department chair, everything about class sizes was fine, and so on and so forth. But why did they look more like members of a funeral procession, then part of a megawatt school district? There were no feelings in the comments or nice/happy expressions from the female department chair. I’m sorry.

Thank you, Claudia!

I asked for input on any campaign activity you all had run into and lo and behold, I got an email this morning with a fairly complete report on the Quinn-Varnek-Neal campaign signs being taken down, apparently in an organized fashion, over the weekend.

This link is to a first-hand report in words and pictures from someone who must be close to the Quinn-Varnek-Neal campaign, but I don’t know who wrote it.

If you wrote it and you’re reading this, and you don’t want it posted, email me and I’ll take it down.

Here it is.

We are blessed to have one of the seven board members who is ready, willing and able to call it like he sees it.

My favorite part of Mr. Lloyd’s report:

Mr. Cortez and Mr. Braglia, as union leadership, presented concerns about class size and scheduling, needed funding not getting into the classroom while the district experiences significant cash surpluses, open communication as well as the energy issue. Now in my time on the Board, I have seen that whenever the Union addresses the Board we are unable to just let them say what they need to say, listen and perhaps consider following up DIRECTLY with them off line. Instead, we lose control of the meeting and allow the administration and their designated supporters to counterpoint whatever the union says in effect turning the Board meeting into a public debate.

Also:

Next, at taxpayers expense, the Board’s attorney got up and spoke about the IEC case in essence presenting their courtroom defense at the Board meeting.

Unbelievable how much time and money and mental effort this administration has spent defending a poor decision.

In a post about Tuesday’s elections, valiant District 211 school board member Bill Lloyd asks if we have the courage to embrace change.

On the other hand we have the opportunity to succumb to fear of change and fall back on the old and tired passive model of school governance – a model that relegates the school board to the role of a rote approver of administration requests. It was this model that pushed both District 211 and District 15 to the brink of financial ruin and insolvency.

Bill’s post gives the inside story on the connections between candidates and slates.

I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Who are you voting for? And why? The comments box is open, or you can email me.

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