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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.

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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