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8 Essays: Why Enrollmentgate Shouldn't 'Just Go Away'

Three things need to happen before the issue of inflated enrollment projection numbers can be put to rest.

Now that has been published in the Kane County Chronicle, and with so much going on in School District 304—, , teachers' contract negotiations—there is a chance that the "Enrollmentgate" issue will quietly fade to black.

It shouldn't. Here's why.

The issue is that presented to the public prior to 2007's $80 million building-bond referendum were not the same as those submitted to the district by its professional consultant.

, pure and simple—pulled out of someone's hat and presented in charts and graphs, sanctioned by the School District and presented on its website.

It's not a little thing. It's called voter fraud, and it's an allegation that should be taken very seriously.

Many good folks have argued that it's too hard to find out what went wrong. There are many more important items on the School District's to-do list. And no one we know would do such a thing.

Well, the hard truth is, someone did.

School District 304 was caught in a lie. And when government officials are caught in a lie, three things should happen:

(1) Someone should take responsibility.

In this case, in my opinion, the buck stops at School District 304 Superintendent Dr. Kent Mutchler. Dr. Mutchler is a good person, no doubt, and he was new to the district at the time of the referendum. But he hasn't shown much leadership in dealing with this issue, and leadership is what we should expect from our school superintendent.

Whether or not Dr. Mutchler actually saw or OK'd the numbers, he should say—and frankly should have said as soon as the issue came to light: "This happened on my watch. It's my job to make sure the public gets correct information to make a voting decision—and that clearly didn't happen."

(2) Someone should apologize.

Probably Dr. Mutchler again, since he was the official in charge at the time, but it could come from the School Board, as well. The School District did make a formal response to the allegations of impropriety, but the neither the statement nor any comment I've heard included the very simple, effective, human response of saying "I'm sorry."

Probably, lawyers advised the School District not to apologize, because that indicates guilt or fault. 

(3) Determine what went wrong and how the district will ensure it doesn't happen again.

It shouldn't be up to , as he did in good faith. The board should direct the staff to find the appropriate agency to determine what happened. Start by consulting with the Kane County State's Attorney's Office, and let us know how the State's Attorney's Office responds. Most importantly, once it's determined what slipped through the cracks, tell the public the protocols you'll put in place to seal them.

 Basically, it said that the School District didn't believe the professional consultant's report, so it came up with its own numbers using a variety of sources. 

"Nothing deceptive or unlawful was done in the process of the referendum campaign," the report said.

Someone other than the School District should make that determination.

Finally, much has been made of the fact that the TaxFACTS group brought the issue to light. And that TaxFACTS has a political motive in continuing to hammer on the enrollment-projection controversy.

That might be true. But it shouldn't stop School District 304 from doing the right thing.

If you want to be the good guys, you have to act like the good guys. Take responsibility, apologize and show the community what you'll do to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Geneva Non-parent July 05, 2012 at 02:30 PM
I doubt that changing the superintendent and the persons serving on the board will change the level of trust of those currently distrusting - much in the same way that Nixon's resignation changed those distrusting the President (whomever it may be). Perhaps there should be resignations. But the argument that those resignations will restore or repair trust is disingenuous.
Becky Hruby July 05, 2012 at 03:42 PM
I wouldn't say voters don't care. I think as a whole we are uninformed. I speak for myself & know the same is true for many of my neighbors in admitting we simply don't make educating ourselves a priority. We all have busy lives & take for granted the notion that those in charge will make the best decisions. Frankly, it's impossible to be in know on every issue & fight for every worthy cause. Isn't that why we have elected officials? If only we could trust their motives were always honest! I have read all the Patch articles as of late, but honestly don't recall any of this when it happened. I appreciate the efforts of Rick & all others working to educate us & searching for a solution. Better late than never.
Bob McQuillan July 05, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Great comments on an issue that should have been addressed immediately after the question was asked. The board first response was that the question would be answered within two weeks. The next day, that decision was reversed and I received this e-mail "I have determined that any response to your question at last night’s Board meeting would not be a productive use of the District’s time. The 2006 Kasarda report you referenced is five-years old and I see no benefit to debating its contents at this time." While signed by the board president, I would bet that it was written by the administration. Mark Grosso knew from the beginning that the question should have been answered and I believe he wanted to answer it to the best of his ability. The administration, in my opinion, put a stop to any reasonable response. I'm going to surprise a lot of people when I say no school board member should resign over this issue. I truly believed that they believed Kasarda's numbers were being used. What would have been the benefit to any of them changing the numbers? If anything, they are guilty of believing they were told the truth. They trusted the administration and the administration knew they would trust them. Keep in mind that the high school expansion could not happen unless Phase I was passed. We now have a debt, enrollment & excess building capacity problem which I believe it is this board's responsibility to solve.
Bob McQuillan July 05, 2012 at 06:00 PM
The current board members were elected to do one thing, protect the assets of the taxpayers and work in their best interest. That is what needs to be done immediately. That means providing a quality education that is affordable. Every expense reviewed with the best interest of the entire community in mind. I see this board moving in that direction but they need the support of the community. The community needs to know that continued past spending is not sustainable. We have 300+ million in debt that is going to choke the average taxpayer. The administration needs to take responsibility for their past spending and vow that it will not happen again. For the administration to present a budget requesting an overall increase in spending is ridiculous. It means that they don't get what the community is going through. On Monday July 9th at 5:30 pm, the Finance Committee will be discussing two very important issues; the proposed 2012-13 Education budget and a review of the current debt. The meeting, at Coultrap, is a must attend by every taxpayer. You MUST understand what we are all facing in the next few years. The issue isn't about hiring a new kindergarten teacher, it is about rethinking how we are going to survive. If the administration or board members don't understand the seriousness of what we face, then they should resign. The game playing is over, the taxpayers are demanding solutions and we deserve them from this administration and board. July 9th at 5:30 pm
John R July 07, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I agree with Mitotero's comment.

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