D211 union


District 211 school board member Bill Lloyd has posted School’s out for summer and an update on District 211 business issues.

As far as negotiating salaries with the teachers union, Mr. Lloyd writes:

For those who have asked and those who may be curious, the board has chosen to continue to follow its established protocol, thus the board has opted to continue to use district administration along with the board’s attorney to handle contract negotiations on behalf of the board. There will be no board member at the negotiating table or in the room as an observer.

This should be changed, in my never-to-be-humble opinion.

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The union said the contract with the Illinois Energy Consortium should be rescinded, claiming it violates Illinois School Code.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

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.

The Trib is also on the story of last night’s union meeting to decry the IEC contract:

District 211 teachers hit energy consortium.

HOFFMAN ESTATES — Angry over the decision by northwest suburban Township High School District 211 to purchase electricity from a statewide educational energy consortium without competitive bidding, teachers union representatives called on the school board Thursday to unplug the two-year contract.

“I want them to do what’s right for the taxpayers of this district and reverse their position on this energy commitment,” John Braglia, president of the District 211 teachers union, said before a school board meeting at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates.

Where it says “before a school board meeting” might be a little confusing–some people might think it means he said it at the school board meeting in front of the school board–whereas it was said at a press conference prior to the meeting.

The article goes on:

In May 2006 the district joined hundreds of districts statewide in the Illinois Energy Consortium, an 8-year-old non-profit company created by the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois Association of School Business Officials and the Illinois Association of School Administrators to help schools get better rates for electricity and natural gas.

Allegedly, anyway.

The consortium has been criticized since it was revealed that about $4.5 million in fees unrelated to utility services was collected from school districts in the last three years. Concerned that most districts have hired the consortium without getting bids, real estate developer William Tarsitano sued District 211 alleging that the practice is illegal.

When you get right down to it, if they were so bent on helping school districts save money, why did they collect $4.5 million in fees? Wouldn’t they have wanted that money to stay with the districts? To go into the classrooms?

I missed the Board meeting. Were you there and are you willing to give me an insider’s view on it? Email me here.

The other big event yesterday was the press conference held by the District 211 teachers union to ask that District 211 rescind its contract with the Illinois Energy Consortium on the grounds that the contract is fiscally irresponsible and utilizes a no-bid business model.

Chad Brooks of the Daily Herald reports on that news conference in this morning’s paper in Union wants power contract unplugged.

Believing Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 is acting fiscally irresponsibly, the district’s teachers union, along with two school board candidates and a local legislator, demanded Thursday that the current energy contract be rescinded.

Union leader John Braglia is quoted in the article with this strong statement:

“This district has always had a long history of integrity, honor and commitment to the taxpayers and what we are seeing happening is a shift away from that commitment,” Braglia said. “That is very troubling to me.”

Superintendent Thornton gives his reasons for believing the contract is legal and Bill Tarsitano’s attorney Todd Rowden gives his reasons for believing it isn’t.

To my knowledge, this is the first time that the Daily Herald has said anything about the IEC lawsuit, first covered in the Chicago Tribune on March 5.

On the other hand, I received an interesting email yesterday from one of the non-incumbent candidates for District 211 school board. Editors from the Daily Herald met with all the candidates to determine who the Daily Herald would editorially endorse. This school board candidate reports that in her interview, she was asked whether she would vote to fire Roger Thornton.

Unless the Daily Herald automatically asks every single school board candidate in every single school board race if they’d vote to fire the superintendent in their District, that’s an intriquing question. But I think most readers of the Daily Herald would be surprised to know the editors are asking it. I plan to write the editors at the Daily Herald to see if I can get confirmation of this question from them.

Correction: A reporter from the Daily Herald writes to correct my mistaken claim that they haven’t been covering the District’s contract with the IEC. He says:

“We were the first paper to report on this last year when the contract was signed. We also wrote subsequent stories when Mr. Tarsitano filed his lawsuit, as well as when a judge ruled against the district’s motion to dismiss the case.”

My apologies for the significant error.

Thank you so much to a reader for providing me with an inside report on a key meeting held in District 211 union HQ last Thursday, April 5 to discuss what the lawsuit against District 211 for entering into a no-bid contract for electricity means to the union.

Hosted by union leader John Braglia, the meeting was attended by about 25 union reps, four members of the Illinois House, two members of the Illinois Senate and three candidates for the District 211 school board. None of the school board incumbents who are running for re-election attended.

There as invited guests were Todd Rowden and Timothy Binetti. They are the attorneys in charge of the lawsuit brought by Bill Tarsitano against D211 for its no-bid energy contract.

State Rep. Suzanne Bassi was there and, we hear, was given an earful for her advocacy of an insane piece of proposed state legislation that would exempt school districts from having to look at competitive price bids for electricity and natural gas.

State Rep. Paul D. Froehlich, a Republican from Schaumburg, was also there. Rep. Froehlich has a website here.

According to the report we’ve been given, Rep. Froehlich crisply and authoritatively interjected “this doesn’t pass the smell test” as he listened to a description of the process by which District 211 entered into the now-infamous no-bid energy contract.

Suzanne Bassi must not see it the same way, since she has refrained from publicly disassociating herself from the absurd HB 261.

We hear that a young firebrand at the meeting denounced Bassi as a “mouthpiece for the superintendents”.

We also hear that Bassi is closely associated with District 211 school board president Debra Strauss, who is fighting to retain her position of influence on the school board. Besides being the chair of the D211 school board, Strauss also chairs lobbying firm Ed-Red, which is known to be lobbying in favor of HB 261 with your tax dollars.

A reader writes:

I am somewhat new to really watching my local schools and have gotten an education fast! How much of a factor has the union been in school board elections? I found it odd that it was the union sponsoring a candidate forum instead of some group that would, at least in appearance, be more neutral – League of Women Voters or something.

Unions have every right in the world to organize and do everything they can (legally and morally) to elect candidates to school boards that will take a very favorable pro-union position when it comes to the contract between a school district and the union.

If parents, taxpayers, business owners, farmers and other community members don’t want the unions to be the only organized force in a school board election, they have to get organized themselves.

The only way to be a countervailing force against organized unions who are putting time, money and talent into school board elections is to be willing to do the same thing on behalf of school board candidates who will not take a narrowly pro-union view when it comes time to negotiations with the union.

The reader notes:

Also, it says in their minutes that they have other labor unions lined up to support the candidates that the teacher’s endorse.

Specifically, what the union minutes for March 1, 2007 say is:

Numerous Labor organizations have agreed to help elect the candidates that the Teachers Union decides to support.

I assume this means that non-teacher unions (such as local chapters of the AFL-CIO, the SEIU, and other municipal employee unions) have struck a deal with the local teacher’s union that they will encourage their members to vote for the school board candidates that our local teacher’s union endorses.

Thanks to my reader for noticing this.

If what we want to do in the District is have school board members who are focused on the good of the whole district rather than a narrow special interest, the hard work of political organizing needs to occur.

I’d also like to note that if District 211 wasn’t signing no-bid contracts for electricity, there’d be more money for teachers.

Ultimately, the responsibility for the collective bargaining agreement lies with the school board. And that means it really lies with the voters and with community members who are willing to step forward with courage and leadership.

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