Bows and Arrows: A Review of Monday's School Board Meeting

There were some very good moments and some not-so-good at Monday's School Board meeting.

I think it might have been the great Joe Gillette who brought to The Beacon-News editorial page a fun feature called "Bows and Arrows."

It was an opinion piece in which The Beacon's editorial board handed out "bows" for good works, good deeds and good behavior and "arrows" for not-so-wonderful works, deeds and behaviors.

As I recall, there was a cute "bow" (as in a tied ribbon) graphic and an "arrow" (pointy projectile) graphic that went with each item.

There are a few bow-and-ribbon moments from Monday's School Board meeting that I'd like to highlight, just for the record and to make note of moments that didn't make the "QuickStory" that followed. Please envision the little "bow" graphic and "arrow" graphic before each bullet point and remember that this article falls under the heading of "opinion."

For background and context, please click on the , the , and the comments that go with them.

BOW—I think School Board President Mark Grosso deserves a lot of credit for addressing the "Enrollmentgate" issue publicly, for his sense of humor and for his calm demeanor in the face of a very difficult set of circumstances. Consider that Grosso was the only School Board member (as far as we know) who took time to examine the enrollment projections going back to pre-referendum 2007, interview board members past and present, and offer an explanation. (Grosso had a wonderful moment before launching into his enrollment discussion, saying the Monday audience was "more than I had for my sixth-grade trumpet solo.") 

ARROW—The School Board had an opportunity to listen to the concerns of TaxFACTS members and members of the general public (I know there were some non-TaxFACTS folks in the audience who just wanted to get a better understanding of the situation), and it was an opportunity lost. A motion and second to re-open the public comment session would have been appropriate and considerate.

BOW—A citizen or group of citizens has every right to question a government organization about its dissemination of information and spending policies. In fact, that's what good citizens should do. I'm presenting a BOW to the audience members who are taking an interest in local government and participating in the process.

ARROW—Many of the same folks weren't on their best behavior when they didn't get the action they expected. Shouting at the dais might relieve some anger and frustration, but it doesn't help the cause.

BOW—To the Board of Education for providing two opportunities at each meeting for public comment—and for adding a public comment period for the Finance Committee meeting, which was announced Monday night.

ARROW—To the Board of Education for holding on to the long-held notion that board meetings aren't the proper settings for public dialogue. The Geneva City Council is a good example of a public body that allows ample time and opportunity for the public to speak. The council has the authority to put time limits and shut down audience participation—but chooses not to. More often, particpation actually is encouraged at City Hall. (A future BOW.)

BOW—To School Board member Matt Henry for acknowledging the good works of in his comment time. Mary had many over the weekend and prior to that, but it was good for the School Board to acknowledge her at its meeting. "People who sat on different boards with her said the first person to raise her hand was Mary," Henry said. "She wasn’t somebody who looked to make herself important, but she looked to make the community important. I think we can all learn from her, even after her passing."

ARROW—To anyone who took issue with Henry making those comments.

BOW—To the students who took time to be recognized at the board meeting for the Tradition of Excellence Award.

ARROW—To students and parents who don't take the time to go to the School Board meeting to receive the awards. We know students are incredibly busy these days, but at the previous few meetings, more than half of the students whose names were read were not in attendance.

BOW—To School Board member Mary Stith, for excellent and smart suggestions that the School Board share information about empty seats and program capacity, and that the board consider the elimination of class rankings. "Studies have shown it (elimination of class ranking) is probably a better way to go," she said.

BOW—To Pam Cabeen and Martha Bellow, who organize the annual out-of-country world travel opportunity for French students. This year's trip is to Brittany. As Dr. Kent Mutchler points out, "It costs the district nothing, and it only takes place if there are enough students to take part in this."

BOW—To members of the Drama Boosters and Music Boosters who are raising money to help pay for new seats and carpeting for the auditorium. That type of volunteerism and activism never goes out of style.

BOW—To Principal Adam Law for his School Improvement Plan presentation Monday night. An incredible 100 percent of fifth-grade students met or exceeded standards in math. That's a WOW as well as a BOW. (Please note that ALL school-improvement plans have been excellent.)

BOW—To Scott Ney, interim director of facility operations, who was presented an award from the Illinois Association of School Business Officials for completion of its Facility Management Designation Program.

I'm stacking up more bows than arrows, which is representative of my world view, perhaps, but also is an acknowledgement that way more good takes place at a School Board meeting than bad. That goes not only for education and student achievement, but for the participation of Geneva's elected officials, administrators, teachers and citizens.

Sandra Ellis April 25, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Very fairly presented, Rick, and I appreciate your professional approach to this issue. As to actions of the public, I would invite anyone who was not there to judge for themselves how they would have felt sitting 57 minutes to hear an explanation of a major breach of trust and then learn they could not respond are ask any questions. Use this link http://genevataxfacts.org/School-Board-Meetings/04-23-2012.html to watch how it unfolded. Use Short-Cut dropdown to item 48:35 where a member of the audience respectfully requests a chance to comment after the explanation and is denied. The explanation by Mr. Grosso is at Short-Cut 57:28. This was a $80 million referendum based on mysteriously inflated figures, seven people on that board represented taxpayers who are now stuck with the consequences, and none of them were interested in hearing from the public? Does anyone feel confident about this board going forward when they refuse to look backward? Citizens have plenty of ideas for cost cutting solutions but you have to understand the problem and how it happened first? Does this board act interested?
John R April 25, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Thanks Rick for the recap I like this bow and arrow idea you should keep it going. I was at the meeting Monday, as a board supporter, and here's my take. I was also prepared to speak in support of the board during the comment section but it didn't play out like I had expected. When the meeting got to the first public comment session it was clear that Mr. Grosso wasn't going to make his statement until the end of the meeting. In fact he was asked by a TaxFact gentleman, who made the one and only comment, and Mr. Grosso confirmed that his statement would be at the Board comment session of the meeting. Which when I looked at my agenda is scheduled at the end of the meeting. At that point all the TaxFacts folks could have headed up to the podium and and requested that a third comment session be added towards the end of the meeting. Well nobody stepped up. Then the second comment session came and again nobody stepped up to suggest the addition of a third comment session. Then during the board comment session after Mr. Grosso made his statement there was a flurry of false rage and surprise. But the fact of the matter is it wasn't any surprise. Heck I even thought to myself that I'd just make my comment's at the next board meeting. This board is getting bullied you can see it in their faces and body language. I think Mr. Grosso has had it. He seems like a very reasonable guy but enough is enough. He gets a bow. John
ken loebel April 25, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Who needs a third comment section... apparently that is what this column is for. Last meeting I went to was over three hours long... give the volunteers a break... just write comments in the Patch and call it the ad hoc record... personally, I'd like to see meetings run more efficiently. The volunteers are working people who have a life - there's no need to turn a Shcool Board meeting into a marathon debate - that takes place everytime Jeff writes a column on school board issues! :)
Glenn April 26, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Personally, I'd love to see Rick write more on Patch. I'd almost forgotten what 'journalism' is.
John R April 26, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Ken, you seem very reasonable. Could you email me sometime at district304.geneva@gmail.com I'd like to discuss this issue with you. Thanks and I hope to hear from you. John
Sandra Ellis April 26, 2012 at 04:17 AM
John R: Your facts are wrong and that is why the video is posted so you can check yourself. Mr. Grosso's "explanation" never showed up on the agenda, so the public was courteously quiet during the first public comment time as no one knew when Mr. Grosso was going to speak or what he was going to say. It wasn't until the 2nd comment period that the audience smelled a rat and that is why the gentleman asked Mr. Grosso if there would be time for public comment AFTER Mr. Grosso's comments because it still wasn't clear what was going to be said. Mr. Grosso denied the request. This is how misinformation starts, Mr. John R. and I hope you review the video and correct your comment. I am now wondering if you were truly at the meeting? If you were there, why didn't you make your comment at either of the two opportunities. Or, were you too waiting to be fair as were the rest of us and hear what the explanation was?
G.Ryan April 26, 2012 at 05:59 AM
Sandra, This is a guy who is trying to build an army(by gathering people off the comment section to add them to his e-mail list) as arsenal up against Tax Facts. That is his gig. But guess what John we know the truth and have all the EVIDENCE to take to the proper authorities.
John R April 26, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Sandra, your correct the only comment came during the second comment session. Sorry about that I was pretty busy when I wrote my post and I couldn't remember for sure. But you've jogged my memory. I actually recorded part of the meeting myself so I'll review when I get a chance. II'm pretty sure mr. Grosso, at the second comment section, made it clear that he was going to make his remarks during the board comment session. I mean come on. Once the meeting started and he didn't make a statement and nothing was on the agenda it was pretty obvious his remarks were gonna be at the board comment section. Which when you looked at the agenda was after both comment times. Here's the thing. I don't believe (opinion) that your group will accept any explanation from mr. Grosso. All the comment sections were going to provide was an opportunity for your group to further badger the board. Now that you've heard his remarks, which of course you find unacceptable, you guys can hammer him at the next board meeting. And you'll have two comment times to do it. I'll be there again with or without my army. I'm entitled to my beliefs and feelings just like you and if you guys think your going to beat me into submission on these threads you are wrong. Anyone out there agree please email me at district304.geneva@gmail.com Thanks
John R April 26, 2012 at 12:32 PM
G. Ryan, As I type my 3 1/2 year old son is singing twinkle, twinkle little star and playing with stickers at the kitchen table. I find some aspects of your group counter to what will be best for my son and all children's Educational future. That is why I'm trying to build an army. So go ahead and try to beat me down. You group is pretty good at it. But I will not be deterred. District304.geneva@gmail.com for anyone who's seen enough. Thanks, John PS I'll elaborate later as I've got a train to catch.
Ted April 26, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I'd love to see John R make a public appearance - my guess is that it would be Jeff Ward wearing a sock-puppet.
John R April 26, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Thanks Ted, A couple people from your group have compared me to Jeff Ward. I've never met Jeff but the more you guys compare me to him the more I like him. I was looking for him at the board meeting but was told that he does not attend. Saw Rick Nagel but didn't get an opportunity to say hi to him. I don't know much about Jeff or Rick. Again if your post is designed to intimidate me it's not going to work. The emails are starting to trickle in and again I'd encourage anyone that have seen enough and want the bullying and harrassment of our school board to stop to email me at district304.geneva@gmail.com Thanks, John
Danny H April 26, 2012 at 03:09 PM
I'm sure the Taxfacts people will be at the next meeting to voice their continued concern regarding the enrollment projections from 5 years ago. That's the "A" in their "ABC Plan." Getting bent out of shape because the Board followed Robert's Rules of Order (and saying "Oh my God" and "Get some backbone" so all can hear) isn't helping their cause or doing anything to address the matter. I'm confident that this board will do its best to manage the district. That's what they were elected to do. If the people don't agree, then they will lose the next election. The idea that there was manipulation of the numbers for any reason is a serious accusation. The fact that the economy tanked and new housing starts in the district went to zero right after the referendum has a lot to do with the enrollment numbers. The Settlements of LaFox alone would have added a thousand kids to the district I bet. Now it's going to be a forest preserve. So what does the district do now? That's the question, and that's what they were elected to address. I know for a fact they take they're responsibilities very seriously. Suggestions otherwise are baseless, scurrilous accusations unless you have "EVIDENCE" to the contrary.
Ted April 26, 2012 at 03:16 PM
My group? Not sure what group that is. Unless you mean Geneva taxpayers who want to get the most education value for their dollar - I guess I'm part of that group.
Ted April 26, 2012 at 03:51 PM
So let me ask you, John, were you satisfied in the board's explanation Monday night that yes, they' took the consultant's numbers and then added a multiplier, not sure why" And then didn't allow public comment? Maybe you have a problem with Bob M - I've never met the man - but that's not the problem here. Do you think this board is acting as good stewards of your tax money, and do you think they have the credibility to get anything passed in the future?
Bob McQuillan April 26, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Rick did a great job with this and other articles he has written on this topic. The Patch always has a representative at the Geneva School Board and City Council meetings, which I think is fantastic. The community can read articles and watch full video any time at either the district site or at www.genevataxfact.org. Our site allows you to proceed directly to the section that most interests you. Those are all good things. As to the question at hand. I was wrong to address the board as I did at Monday's meeting. I was out of order and there is no excuse for it, I take responsibility for my actions. Though what I said was true, one of the board members should have made a motion to reopen the public comment session since the board's statement was made and the public was already there. Mr. Grosso's statement was not his own statement, it was the board's statement because, by policy, he speaks for the board. This issue is a matter of breaching the public trust. Plain and simple, that is what happened. The public was lied to by the administration and or board during the 2007 referendum. You can argue anything else you want but the public trust was breached. Now, how does this board regain that trust? In my opinion, saying you don't know where the numbers came from doesn't rebuild public trust. Ten people were involved in the 2007 enrollment projections and 3 of them still sit on the board. Another is the current superintendent. Someone knows the truth, just tell it.
John R April 26, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Ted, Yes I am satisfied with the boards explanation. As I mentioned in one of my earlier post you guys now have two public comment times, at the next board meeting, to express your rage. I was at the meeting and I to was a little surprised that Mr. Grosso set it up like he did. I don't think Mr. Grosso is going to be able to provide an answer, no matter what it is, that the TF group is going to accept. I really wish some of the previous board members would step up but they seem to be sitting this one out. But it wasn't the end of the world. In fact it might work out even better as everyone has more time to plan a course of action and to consider appropriate comments. As for me and Mr. McQuillan I don't know the man either. I've bumped pens with him a few times on these threads but that doesn't mean that he and I don't have some commonality. I suspect that our political ideology don't mesh but you know what that's OK. He's entitled to his beliefs and I'm entitled to mine. That's the wonderful thing about being an American and the freedom we have to be active in our communities. On these threads I've seen idea's floated that concern me. I've also seen a post that some of you guys are googling anyone that has a decenting opinion (intimidation). The TF group swamps these threads with post. If you disagree your pounced on. I'm not a comfortable public speaker but I'll be at the next meeting and you can see that I'm not a sock puppet. John
Ted April 26, 2012 at 06:26 PM
John, You seem to have this idea that there is this brash 'taxfacts' group that is gunning for the school board and the rest of the community is just fine with what's happening. As I said, i'm not a member of TaxFacts. I'm just a guy who lives in Geneva, pays his taxes, sends his kids to school and realizes that a quality school district is a terrific benefit to the community. I never took much interest in taxes and school boards prior to this issue with the enrollment numbers. I always thought, 'hey there's always gonna be someone griping about taxes, but if you want good schools you have to pay.' But since this referendum issue came to light - I'm starting to feel like I've been played for a fool all these years. I mean, it's one thing to make a growth estimate that doesn't pan out, but to take a paid consultant's numbers, inflate them beyond his wildest forecast and then claim they were his mid-range numbers? If it's true, that's the kind of thing you expect to hear coming out of Washington or Springfield - not from your neighbor serving on a volunteer board. I didn't want to believe it - in fact I had kind of a "say it ain't so, Joe' moment on Monday. I expected the board to explain the reason they inflated the numbers, to announce there was some sort of clerical or honest math mistake, anything...the community got nothing. And the fact that the meeting was structured in such a way to avoid any public comments on the issue - well that didn't help.
John R April 26, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Ted, Feel free to email me at district304.geneva@gmail. com We can go back and forth in emails if you like. I never have enough characters to fully express myself on these threads. By the way you and I actually agree on the development of the forest preserve into a Ravinia type music venue. But they'd have to work out a lot of issues before it could happen. I walked around those woods on Sunday and they are in dire need of some tlc. If nothing else they need to be cleaned up and maybe the ballpark could be used for concerts. Wilco is playing there this summer, I'm going, and we'll see how that goes. Noise might be an issue. My home is just north of rt. 38 and we are used to the noise from the fireworks. But I wonder what it's gonna be like with a concert. I probably wouldn't mind if I liked the band but if I don't then not in my backyard. I'm actually not a fan of the fireworks. But a concert could be some serious revenue for the city and in the spirit of generating some cash I'd probably be ok with concerts at the old ballpark. John
Ted April 26, 2012 at 07:46 PM
John - I probably won't email you. With all due respect, I feel like you're trying to assemble a group to fight TaxFacts. As an aside, I heard a quote from John McDonough about turning around the Chicago Blackhawks, He said, "the first thing I told the Hawks was, let's get out of the grudge business.' So, I don't think warring factions are going to do us any good as a community. As for the board feeling like they're being persecuted by TaxFacts, it reminds me of when I was a teenager and I was convinced the police had it in for me. Amazing how the imagined grudge against me disappeared when I stopped doing stupid things. I just feel like we need some answers - and it they aren't good ones, maybe some of the old guard needs to step down and let us move ahead together as a community
John R April 26, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Ted, That's fine I just thought I'd throw the olive branch out there and try to tone it down a bit on the threads. You are correct I am working on assembling a group who will stand up for our school board and children. Some of the idea's I've seen floated by the TF group I cannot support. I also cannot support their behavior during meetings and the continued bullying of our volunteer board members. Me fighting with the TF group is like a poodle fighting a pit bull. They are highly organized, probably strongly networked with the Kane County Tea Party and possible supported by other institutions. Bob McQ is a polished Regional VP and has recieved a couple awards championing conservative causes. I'm not so sure I'm fighting the TF group as I'm more compelled to stand up for the board and our school district. LOL I don't think you have to worry. But if by me stepping up and trying to mix it up makes the TF folks tone it down and actually try to come up with solutions then I have done some good. One thing is for sure I am going to do my best and continue to mix it up. Enough is enough. John
Bob McQuillan April 26, 2012 at 09:46 PM
John R Rest assured no one is googling you and no one is driving by your house. No one even knows your identity. Please don't judge what taxfacts is doing by attending one meeting. I have said that I was wrong in speaking out Monday night. Keep in mind though, when you ask a question, are told you will receive an answer, then the next day told that it has been decided it isn't "a good use of their time" to answer your question, you tend to think someone is hiding something, which they are. I have spent hundreds of hours the last 4 weeks researching board minutes from 2005-2007 to find the answers. There are only 3 people that could be responsible for "developing" the inflated enrollment numbers. Two still live in Geneva and the third, I believe, works for another school district. How hard is it to ask 3 people what happened, especially when one was sitting right next to you at Monday's meeting. I'll even give the seven board members from 2006-07 the benefit of the doubt that they didn't know the numbers were inflated and they never saw the 2006 report from Dr. Kasarda. Someone provided those numbers and someone wrote on the referendum material that Dr. Kasarda verified the numbers. Dr. Mutchler clearly stated on March 17, 2012 that the series B numbers were used in 2007 (watch the video). Now of the three people involved, who provided the inflated numbers? Every taxpayer has the right to know. I'm willing to sit down with anyone, anytime to discuss this issue.
John R April 27, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Danny, Well said and thank you for posting. If your compelled to speak up at the next school board meeting by all means do so. You can email me if you like at district304.geneva@gmail.com Myself and a few others will be making comments in support of our school board at the next meeting. They need to hear that the community supports them. Have a great weekend, John


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