FACTS Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Isn't it amazing how Shakespeare still applies!

Here we go again! Another non-scandal at the hands of the completely cartoonish TaxFACTS group that’s going to rock Geneva to it’s very core.

Or not!

As if we needed further proof of these folks' lack of imagination, they’re calling this particular kerfuffle, “.” And they had to go all the way back to 2006 to dig it up. Where’s John Ehrlichman when you really need him?” Apparently, some people have way too much time on their hands.

Also apparently, back in 2006, a District 304 consultant laid out what he believed to be the lowest, expected, and highest potential enrollment numbers for the next five years. But instead of using his 6,412 student 2012 estimate, District 304 used a 7,472 number when pushing the April 2007 referendum that brought us the and elementary schools.

Never one to pass up a “gotcha” opportunity, the FACTS equivalent of Rufus T. Firefly, Bob McQuillan, issued the inevitable pointy fingered “Aha!” and then demanded an explanation for this unholy discrepancy at the April 9 School Board meeting.

His wacky theory du jour is, had the voters been appropriately informed and not duped by a nefarious School Board, the 2007 referendum that passed by a scant 100 votes wouldn’t have!

My two-word response to that preposterous position would have to be, “Horse feathers!”

First, none of you bother to vote to begin with and, when you do, the criteria comes down to who you’d like to share a beer with. So suddenly somehow this whole thing hinged upon a 1,000 projected student differential?

Animal crackers!

As it was, is, and always shall be, self-interest ruled the day! The folks who believed the additional schools benefited them voted yes, while the people who no longer had children in the school system voted no. It’s that simple.

“But Jeff! Those dastardly School Board members clearly engaged in monkey business when they sold us that bill of goods!”

First, exactly what school board are we talking about? Like that Zen caution against stepping in the same river twice, of the seven current board members, only three were seated at that time. So how can we blame this board? Even the superintendent was relatively new.

Not only that, but despite the early 2007 warning signs, we still believed we were on our the way to an eternal housing market boom nirvana. So what if all those subprime mortgages were starting to unravel, that only affected those silly poor people.

With a multitude of Mill Creek homes planned and a brand new subdivision coming into LaFox, I don’t think a 7,472 student estimate was out of line. Just because you hire a consultant, that doesn’t mean you have to accept his work at face value.

Even if I did buy into FACTS' claim that, like good used-car salesmen, the 2007 board employed a bit of puffery to pass a referendum, my utterly non-flippant response would be, “No! Say it ain’t so, Bob! What! A public body gilded the lily to con the taxpayers into coughing up more cash to serve that body’s specific interest? The horror! That kind of thing almost never happens.”

Apparently no one from FACTS has ever shopped on ebay or craigslist.

C’mon! Does anyone really believe that Mitt Romney is suddenly an NRA standard bearer? And it’s always up to us, the voter, to see through this kind of consistent chicanery.

Of course, then McQuillan’s dutiful minions couldn’t help but add their 2 cents about the too-obvious ulterior motives for this heinous enrollment projection impropriety.

Oh, yeah! Being elected to the School Board is rife with perks, not the least of which is having to face down the freaking FACTS folks at every bloody meeting. Then there’s that huge salary, the benefits, the power, the prestige and it’s just one small step to the presidency. Wait a minute …

Other than the fact it’s fun and they have nothing better to do, what’s the point of rehashing some 6-year-old enrollment estimates now? It’s not as if we can dismantle those schools and send ‘em back! The time for this kind of due diligence was back in 2007.

Bringing it up now only makes the TaxFACTS group look petty, mean and small.

Geneva! We have a problem to solve. Even the sages that managed to predict the housing bust had no idea it would be this precipitous and deep. With gas prices and unforeseen affordable housing driving folks back into the inner suburbs, our efforts are better spent coming up with a reasonable District 304 debt solution—fast!

Though I agree with School Board President Mark Grosso’s argument that, especially in this case, there’s no point in discussing the past, it would be a mistake to give FACTS the upper hand in this, because that’s what they really want. Explain the enrollment discrepancy for whatever it is and move on.

Of course, FACTS will go off again because that’s what they know how to do! But just like a kidney stone, that will soon pass. If you don’t address it, then they will blather on and on and on and on and on and on … well, you get the idea.

Bob McQuillan had his chance to be a leader the day he managed to pack a board meeting with 200 Genevans, but he blew that opportunity in record time. Despite all of FACTS’ bluster, their highly vaunted website boasts a grand total of 21 registered users.

I get more comments on my worst columns. (Not that there are any.)

So, Mark! Don’t make the mistake of giving McQuillan and his shrieking minority of minions the power by playing their game. You don’t want this to turn into another night at the opera.

Jeff Ward April 22, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Steven, To be a bit flip, you mean a public body stretched the truth to make things look better so they could get what they want? My God man! The next thing you're going to say is there is no Easter Bunny! How will I break the news to Aunt Ethel! The county blows out a $40 million as they brag about a meaningless fractional bond rating increase. Prior to this budget, the City of Geneva spends money like there's no tomorrow and then the brag about saving 50 grand by refinancing a bond. County board member Cathy Hurlbut brags about her financial expertise while she bounces a check to the county. Apparently the difference between myself and everyone else here is I went into the 2007 voting booth knowing they gilded the lily and I voted no! I expect dubious information because that's what we usually got. And again! No one paid any attention to the enrollment numbers so none of this matters anyway. Jeff
John April 22, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Jeff, as the board's #1 lackey, the best you can do is say - they're elected officials, of course they lied! ? Geez, with friends like you....
John R April 22, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Relax G Bob's a big boy and is more than capable taking care of himself. I'm sure his skin is plenty thick and trust me you don't become a regional vp if you can't handle yourself. I sense he's a pretty tough guy, straight out of Philly, and I suspect he doesn't mind any of this one bit. In fact you all should welcome the scrutiny. @ Bob....yea I'll be looking for you at the meeting. Seriously if there are refinancing options then they should be pursued. But as you mentioned the bonds are non callable. I think you all should understand that when you start talking about messing with our kids education there's gonna be some push back. You close a couple schools what's that gonna do to class room size. I moved here knowing that my property tax bill was going to be high. In return my boy has a small class and access to a top notch education. Wait to see what happens when the mill creekers get wind that you want to close there school. Oh boy. I think a lot of your issues are actually with the folks who were on the board when these decisions were made. Wasn't dean kilberg the president at the time? Have you talked to any of these former board members? Anyways I really do salute all of your activism. But don't expect that your not gonna get a bit of a fight. If the closing of mill creek elementary school actually becomes a possibility, and that adversely effects classroom size, then I'll be going door to door in mill creek to generate awareness.
Jeff Ward April 22, 2012 at 10:32 PM
John, Yes! Yes! Yes! Someone finally got it! It took you all awhile. People will follow their own self-interest. Why is that so hard to comprehend? That said, I'm not so sure it was a lie. Gilding the lily yes! Lie, we'll see. Jeff
John April 22, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Blago got a raw deal, too - don't you think?
Steven Sheehan April 22, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Jeff — That is a great idea for a new Patch Poll. In casting your vote, was it done so with the expectation that your vote was informed by misleading information provided by the School District; and did you assume that the fiduciary standard to which board members are held and to which they swear "I shall respect taxpayer interests by serving as a faithful protector of the school district's assets” was optional? Let’s find out if Geneva leans naïve and trustworthy or jaded and cynical. If we all lean jaded like you, should we not begin to confront the status quo by dealing with at least the local issues? With respect to the enrollment numbers, I paid attention, so it at least mattered to me. Now it matters to everyone because we have a declining enrollment and an obscene amount of excess seat capacity. The parallel issue is the punitive way the debt was financed so that taxpayers would be obligated to payoff non-refundable premium bonds @ 9% for years to come. Allow me to close with some humor. From the answer to Q.3 of the FAQ referendum: "If your tax bill increases, it will be because the value of your property has increased." Cracks me up everytime.
Jeff Ward April 22, 2012 at 11:03 PM
John, Yes! He did! And I wrote a column for the Beacon News (it's rolled off the Net) where I said he's being punished for speaking the truth. No governor on the planet would've "given away" Obama's senate seat without getting something in return. It was "fricken golden." This kind of thing goes on every day. The political system would fall apart without that kind of bargaining. Is he a moron, you bet, but if that was a crime everyone but me would be in jail! Blago was dumb enough to speak the truth and you get 14 years for that? Having to live with his wife would be punishment enough! Jeff
Jeff Ward April 22, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Steven, Any poll would be up to my esteemed editor Rick Nagel. I have no such powers! Jeff
John April 22, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Well, it's good to get some insight into your thought process, Jeff. Engaging in any sort of meaningful debate with you is clearly an exercise in futility.
Jeff Ward April 22, 2012 at 11:09 PM
John, And you were just starting to get it too! Jeff
John April 22, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Oh, I got it alright - Rick just keeps you around for comic relief!
Jeff Ward April 22, 2012 at 11:20 PM
No! That's my wife!
Bob McQuillan April 23, 2012 at 04:01 AM
This response is addressed to Stacy. I understand what you are saying about neighborhood schools but the reality is that just because a school is in "your" neighborhood, you are not guaranteed that your children will attend that school. That is what got Geneva in the problem we face today, Shodeen in building Mill Creek advertised that there would be an elementary school in the community. But he never guaranteed that every child would attend that school. The parents assumed that was true and when it didn't happen they threatened to sue. Shodeen then sold the school district land that he couldn't build houses on at South Mill Creek Drive & Fabyan for $2,000,000 dollars. That land was not large enough, by the district's standards, to hold an elementary school but they built one there anyway. No other elementary school is built right next to a major road except in Shodeen developments (wonder why). What school your child attends depends on boundaries determined by the school district, not necessarily your neighborhood.
Bob McQuillan April 23, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Lets look at statements from previous school board meetings: 1.) Jacoby added that capacity figures can be confusing. We used to say we were building for 600 students but our program has changed and we need to ensure that we allow for flexibility of space for our programs and for extra classrooms for the times when grade levels may require additional sections. 2.) It was moved by Wilson, and seconded by Burns, that the Board of Education approve the acquisition of 11.06 acres located on the southwest corner of Fabyan Parkway and South Mill Creek Road from Shodeen, Inc., for a price of $2,000,000 plus or minus prorations, with closing to occur on or before December 31, 2005, and direct the District’s administration and attorneys to prepare a real property purchase agreement for said property for consideration and action by the Board of Education at a special meeting to be held on Thursday, December 22n 2005, a5 7:30 a.m. A roll call vote was taken. Ayes, five (5), Stith, Wilson, Burns, Moran, Selakovich. Nays, one (1), Shivers. Motion carried. This school district has NEVER discussed elementary school built for 300 students. My best guess is that all-day kindergarten will be proposed within the next year because we have "excess capacity." All-day kindergarten has been a goal of past boards.
Stacy April 23, 2012 at 07:32 AM
While I appreciate you response, I do not live in Mill Creek. In fact, my children to to Western Avenue. Our neighborhood, far more established, has had a neighborhood school since the 1960's. When we moved here, we weren't moving to a "new" area that didn't have an established community. However, since we've moved here, we now have two new school built around us. Western had too many children before Fabyan was built, and I do feel like Mill Creek children belong in Mill Creek schools. It is a good 20-45 minutes for bussing from Mill Creek to Western and vice versa. Same with Williamsburg. Since we have these "new" schools, our truly neighborhood school is considered to be the most logical for closing. However, if that is a consideration, there will be only one other elementary school that is not on the "outskirts" of town. Harrison will be the only school truly in Geneva. Williamsburg is steps away from St Charles and Mill Creek schools are effectively out of town. I don't believe anyone is looking at options that make sense. You're correct that I wasn't "promised" a neighborhood school, but we moved to an area where one has an incredible reputation and has a rich tradition and history in Geneva that is bigger than "numbers." You certainly would never consider closing a school in the heart of Geneva that is serving the community very well.
Stacy April 23, 2012 at 07:49 AM
While I don't understand a lot of the reasoning behind school board decisions, I do understand education. The fact remains that we have a high school too small for its current space. The middle schools would have made an amazing high school campus, and I don't understand why that wasn't thought through. However, woulda, coulda, shoulda really isn't going to get us anywhere. The fact is, we have debts we have to pay because the board and voters agreed on new schools regardless of the future growth predictions. We have a high school overcrowded and extra "space" in an elementary school or so. Annex off part of the high school to make it work. If it requires a little redistricting, then so be it, but closing schools is not the way to go. Young children shouldn't be on busses for and hour to 90 minutes a day and they have the right to reasonable classroom sizes, and reasonable sized schools. If you have more than 300-400 children per school, the scheduling gets tough and all of a sudden they are cheated out of learning opportunities in music, gym, library, art and other programs. Administrative staff is overburdened and each child does not get the educational opportunity they deserve, and we pay for. Frankly, by closing one school, taxes won't go down a significant amount for anyone. The children and need for teachers still exist, they don't just go away. The appeal of living in a "community" like Geneva will be lost on potential residents and current ones as well.
Bob McQuillan April 23, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Stacy You seem like a reasonable person and I understand your concern about Western Ave being the target to close, which I'm not saying has to happen. But lets look at this from an entire community viewpoint which the board has to do. Geneva is no longer bordered by Randall to the west and Kirk to the east, especially when you look at the school district boundaries. Heartland school is probably in the exact middle of the school boundaries. Also neighborhood elementary schools should be in neighborhoods where there is and will be growth. That is the problem we now face, since houses are not selling and new students aren't moving in, where is the growth now and in the future? The high school is NOT overcrowded, it was built to hold 2,000 and it is not at capacity and projections show that it will not reach capacity for many years. The two middle schools are the real problem. South was built for 1,500 students and then they moved the preschool in taking over two team centers. A second middle school was built as an exact match to the first. Now we have two middle schools both at @60% capacity. It is my understanding that years ago the residents decided they wanted the high school in town. Remember, Coultrap is completely empty. And closing or redistricting will save money both from an operational point and a staffing point. Something has to be done and I'm afraid the mindset of this administration & board is to expand at the high school for a Performing Arts Center
Angela Kane April 23, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Jeff--Please stop. "The more you talk the dumber you sound." Please get over this obsession with Bob McQuillan. It's obvious you don't like him and you have ceased to post anything that doesn't look like a catty mean retort. Please, for the sake of whatever career you have, engage brain before hitting ENTER on your computer.
Jeff Ward April 23, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Angela, I know you love me! Don't try hiding it - we all know the truth! Jeff
Angela Kane April 23, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Please stop. You're embarassing yourself. Patch is a great opportunity to engage in meaningful discourse about issues that important to all of us in this community. For your own dignity -- really -- please take the time to read what you write, take a breath, and consider what you write before you hit ENTER. It's not amusing or cute anymore. It's just sad.
John R April 23, 2012 at 03:22 PM
It's time for the other side of this issue to get organized. Close a school or two, increase class room sizes, cut teacher salaries, etc....IMHO this is not a good thing for our children or community. I'm willing to put myself out there on these issues but I am going to need some help. If you feel the same please email me. district304.geneva@gmail.com I'd like to get the other side together on these issues. Thank you, John
Bob McQuillan April 23, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Glad to see you want to get involved, hopefully the board & administration will answer the simple question that I asked two weeks ago, "Why did you say you used Dr. Kasarda's series B (most likely) projections when clearly you did not? How did the board & administration develop the projections that were listed on the district website and discussed at community forums." No one from any side has said that class sizes should rise or that teacher salaries should be cut. Any potential school closing needs to be looked at by the school board at a future date. Right now, the original question needs to be answered before anything else is discussed. The community has the right to know and the board has the responsibility to tell the truth. That was the reason the question was asked. Once it is answered, future discussions and actions will need to be taken.
Jeff Ward April 23, 2012 at 06:21 PM
John, This is your best idea yet! And how to effectively "figh the power" will be the subject of my Friday Patch column. I would encourage you to form a group that, through a consistent reasonable effort, builds grass roots support. Then leverage that support into working with, instead of against, the school board. Don't use your new effort simply as a forum for self-aggrandizement. Be solution oriented, but persistent. Try to understand that Rome wasn't built in a day and realize that some things take time. Remember that the school board consists of volunteers who literally have nothing to gain by serving. If you and your new grass roots group can do those things, then you will succeed. I've seen it work time and time again. Jeff
Darren April 23, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Great idea Jeff (John)! Now can this new group expect an honest answer from the board about why they said they used Kasarda's series B projections when it appears that they used their own inflated numbers? Or would it be too mean to put them on the spot like that? (I know our new group doesn't want to step on any toes)
John R April 23, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Thanks bob, Jeff and Darren, I'm getting a few emails so maybe I can get something going. I really feel like its high time that supporters of our school district and school board start to step up. Tonight's meeting will hopefully put this gotcha moment behind us. I would love for some of the former board members, who served at the time, to speak up. But I've got a feeling they are going to stay away. I called mill creek elementary school today and had a nice conversation. The woman I spoke with says there are plenty of kids enrolled. She invited me out to walk the halls with her to see for myself. But then she claimed that all the first graders were on a field trip. Yea right lol. I may step up to the podium tonight. Im not the most comfortable of public speakers but I think it's time for someone to say thank you to this board. It's a thankless job and they have been hammered over and over. Unfortunately I think there will be more gotcha moments and false outrage coming in the future. See you all tonight
John R April 23, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Just got off the phone with Williamsburg and Fabyan and they both have a school full of kids.
Stacy April 23, 2012 at 09:04 PM
John, I am quite happy to stand up for our schools. I don't believe we've looked at all the solutions and are far too busy placing blame, calling for school closings and firing staff. These are problems that our young children should not be facing and worrying about whether their school will close, if their favorite teacher or principal will be dismissed, is troubling. I understand that things change, economic times have changed, but no one of looking at fresh options or coming up with new ideas. Everyone just says "that's not possible," or "look at the poor decisions that have been made, its doomsday now!" I grew up in a town that without the University was quite similar to Geneva. We had a three year high school and a graduating class of 550. Leading up to that were 10 elementary schools and three junior high schools. For the most part each school had two classes in each grade with 25 students each, and they were K-6. It felt right, the same way the elementary schools are now feels "right." Maybe they overbuilt the size of two of the schools so they are half utilized. Does that mean we start shuffling kids around to spend hours a day being bussed to a school just because it is too big and we need to use up the space? I think not. Find creative ways to use that space without sacrificing our kids. If Geneva wants its community and academic integrity to suffer, then make the simple, but wrong decisions.
Stacy April 23, 2012 at 09:09 PM
John, Are you looking for a school that isn't "full" of kids? Every school will say they are full. I also believe every parent will agree that their child's schools are the perfect size. I have seen all of the elementary schools first hand and some are more "full" than others, but I don't believe that really means anything. Are you thinking we should move the one school that says is isn't "full" into other schools making them REALLY "full?" I'm not sure I understand your mot us operandi here.
John R April 23, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Hi Stacy, We are on the same page. I do not want to see any schools closed. The closing of schools is something the taxFacts group has floated. I've called the schools and they have plenty of kids. I feel like the taxFacts group has created this sense of false outrage so that they could have another stick to beat the board. We probably need all our schools. Send me an email at district304.geneva@gmail.com I'm working on getting a group together who will support this board. I'm very concerned that taxFacts has an agenda which could be very destructive to our schools. I may speak up at tonight's meeting so if you attend please say hi. I think we are of like minds on these issues. Thanks, John Ps two of us are posting as John. I'm the anti taxFact John :)
Bob McQuillan April 23, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Please listen to what GenevaTaxFACTS is saying. We have not asked for any school to be closed, any teacher to lose their job, and teacher to take a cut in pay or any child to lose their "favorite principle." We have simply asked a questions about what the administration and board said they did vs. what actually happened. Right now this is a question of trust in both the administration and board. While I know one opinion writer thinks that everyone lies on a referendum but is that really what people think about our school administration and board - I certainly did not, I believed they were honest when they said they used an expert's most expected enrollment projections. We now know that isn't true, what happened during the referendum process that the numbers were changed and who knew what was done. That referendum cost $80 million plus interest and even more when you factor in that they refinanced callable bonds into non-callable bonds at a huge 9% rate. THE COMMUNITY HAS A RIGHT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. I certainly don't teach my children to say one thing and do another to get what they want. I don't think you do that either. Lets get the right answer to the question and then deal with any issues after we know what happened. Administrators and board members have to take responsibility for what they said and did. There decision is use their own projection numbers has had consequences that this community will bear for many. many years.


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