School board

The Daily Herald asks about Boards going back to school?

Good article. It emphasizes that the consequences for a school district of ignorant school board members can be dire:

Schock said he attended a recent event where a school board member said he had been on the board eight years and still didn’t know a thing about school finance.

“People don’t get on school boards to be a watchdog,” he said.

But school districts and taxpayers across the suburbs have paid the price when boards lacked the knowledge to act as watchdogs.



District 211 school board member Bill Lloyd shows his leadership skills in a post titled the total picture.

Every person that has been fortunate enough to serve as a board member has seen and experienced first hand the Herculean efforts needed to keep the school district not only running but running and producing at a high level. They have also experienced the commitment that district employees have toward the students and families they serve. All of District 211’s employees are very deserving of gratitude and thanks.

Dora Wolf, a District 211 school board member from 1997-2001, found this blog yesterday and left a comment on this post from March 27.

Those of you who just read the newest posts wouldn’t have seen it so I am taking the liberty of re-posting it here on the front page. It concerns no-bid contracts. (I have made minor adjustments to punctuation for ease of reading.)

As a member of District 211 board 97-01 I encountered a reluctance by the district to put all its work out to bid. In fact, when the lab addition to Fremd HS was planned only one plan was put forth to the board and this was within weeks before the work was to start.

When another member of the board–Mary Wrobleski–and I made a motion to receive more than one “bid” the president of the board (Ms. Swezerski) dismissed the motion on the very next meeting by saying that it was an illegal motion.

Here is the twisted logic that they used to do that:

They said the attorney opined that if the district has a satisfactory relationship for professional services ie legal, architect, contractor that the law does not require that the item be put out to bid and therefore the law says that the particular project not be bid to more than the contractor that the district had used for the past 20 years.

Since they had a satisfactory relationship, a motion to approve was raised, the board voted and the project went forward.

Other members of the board at that time are still sitting on the board: Davis, Strauss and Klimkowitz.

The Superintendent at the time was Dr. Chapman, who is now a newly elected District 15 board member.

Additionally Ms Strauss is the person who handles legislative items for the board.

Has anyone heard her explanation of the proposed bill and has that board agreed publicly on what position to take?

Attending a board meeting for district 211 is the worst experience a human being could have because it looks like a lot happens but an audience member leaves feeling like it was held in a foreign language, it is designed that way so noone knows what is happening. That often includes the board members.

Here, we seem to have yet another example of the District 211 school board paying an attorney to re-assure the board that it’s just fine and dandy not to get competitive bids.

This leaves us once again with that perplexing question: Does the District 211 board not want to save money?

You know, regardless of whether in any given situation the school board can pay an attorney (with your money) to come up with some kind of rationalization for why it doesn’t have to bother finding the best price, why don’t they want to find the best price?

Seriously…what’s up with that, anyway?

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!

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.


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?

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