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QuickStory: Grosso on 'Enrollmentgate'—'We Can't Go Back in History'

School Board President Mark Grosso acknowledges that enrollment numbers presented to the public prior to the 2007 referendum were higher than a consultant's, but seeks no investigation. "We can't go back in history," he says.

School Board President Mark Grosso addressed the "Enrollmentgate" issue at Monday night's School Board meeting, but did not invite public comment after he made his explanation.

As promised, Grosso personally looked into the enrollment numbers that the School District released to the public prior to 2007's $79 million referendum. The referendum sought public approval to build two new schools and passed by a 100-vote margin—2,495 to 2,395.

Grosso acknowledged Monday that enrollment projection numbers presented on the district website and distributed by referendum supporters in 2007 were higher than the projections presented to the district by consulting demographer John Kasarda.

Kasarda's "B" range projections for the 2011-12 school year were 6,199. The numbers presented to the public were 7,276 for the 2011 school year.

"I did speak with current board members and past board members to understand how those projections were utilized," Grosso said.

From those conversations, he discovered that some of the research included not only Kasarda's projections but estimates from the Regional Board of Education and local developers.

"It appears to me that on top of Dr. Kasarda’s most enthusiastic projections, we used some sort of multiplier," Grosso said. "I’m not sure why."

He also said the district isn't likely to find out, "without some type of full-blown investigation."

And by his comments, an investigation seems unlikely.

"We can’t go back in history," he said. "If we could, I’d have a full head of hair."

"This board has been concerned with reducing our debt—we’ve reduced it by $11 million ... And we’re committed to looking at all of our bonds as soon as they are callable," he said.

Grosso said the School District has many pressing concerns, including reducing debt, reaching a contract with the Geneva Education Association and pending Springfield legislation that would siphon more dollars from local school districts and take away any savings the district might accrue through debt reduction.

"The pension reforms they’re talking about could eat those up in a very short amount of time," Grosso said.

Grosso's comments came at the end of the board meeting, after two opportunities for public comment. Barry Bourdage, a Geneva resident and owner of Techpro, Inc., was the only member of the public who chose to speak during the comment periods.

After Grosso's comments, he requested that the board vote to allow an additional session of public comment.

"We’ve had our public comment, Mr. Bourdage," Grosso said. "We’re not going back."

Bob McQuillan of the Geneva TaxFACTS citizens group spoke over the meeting discussion to ask the board to call for another period of public comment.

"You’re out of order," Grosso said. "I kindly ask you not to speak now."

McQuillan then said, in a voice loud enough to carry to the dais, "Get some backbone."

Grosso did speak with members of the audience personally immediately after the meeting and offered to meet with others for a cup of coffee if they wanted to talk more. Other School Board members talked with audience members, as well, but briefly, because the board adjourned to executive session, which is not open to the public.

"As usual, that School Board meeting was staged," McQuillan said after the meeting. "The only thing that the School Board members can't stage is public comment, so they try to keep it as quick and short as possible, not answering any questions.

"I am appalled that Mr. Grosso said he would address the questions, (but) waited until after both sessions were over, when he knew members of the community were there," he said. "I'm more appalled that no School Board member made a motion to reopen the public comment. School Board members are elected to serve the community, and they take an oath to protect the taxpayers and the district assets."

McQuillan had brought the enrollment projection issue to the board during a public comment session at the April 9 School Board meeting.

Steven Sheehan April 25, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Dr. Kasarda has provided Geneva student enrollment projections in 3 separate reports. Let’s look at what he now says about the future enrollment for CUSD 304 from his Nov. 2011 report. For those of you playing the at-home version of EnrollmentGate™ you will want to print out your enrollment board. Go here http://www.genevataxfacts.org/images/pdfs/4-23-2012%20Enrollment.pdf and print the last page (26). To recap, in October 2005, a nationally recognized demographer told us that CUSD 304 should expect enrollment growth to follow the dark green line. Thirteen months later, Nov 2006, we asked for an updated expert opinion and he said CUSD 304 should expect growth to follow the light green line. Some unknown person(s) in the School District Administration and/or School Board determined that Kasarda’s expert opinions reflected by the green lines were not correct. The unknown person(s) created the red line projection in early 2007 and presented that growth line as the only possible scenario for voters to consider in their referendum vote. They indicated that their red line projections were “verified” by Kasarda and that the School District had a track record of accurate projections for the prior 5 years of “99% accuracy.”
Steven Sheehan April 25, 2012 at 03:01 AM
What actually transpired for enrollment growth is captured in the black line. If you follow that to the end where it turns gray, that is what Dr. Kasarda now tells us we should expect for enrollment. Statistically speaking, Kasarda’s green line and the District’s redline do not live in the same state, in fact they don’t live in the same country. I do agree that the District’s lipstick red line color is a more attractive shade than Kasarda’s expert opinion green line color, but the claim of verification by Kasarda is factually challenged. Clearly this is Mr. McQuillan’s fault — he probably hypnotized the unknown persons and entered a hidden formula into an excel spread sheet causing the multiplier effect. Are there any brooms still left at Ace Hardware and rugs still available at Carlson’s? Seems like a lot of dirt sweeping goin’ on. Oh well, at least we’re stimulating the local economy for our merchants. Think about how buff your arms will be from sweeping for the next 15 years when the debt is finally paid off.
Bruno Behrend April 25, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Look folks, though it is unspoken, a school district superintendent has one job, and that is to prepare the district for a yes vote on a referendum. Board candidates are often selected for their ability to rubber-stamp spending. Whether this spending is to pay for; # Opaquely negotiated teacher contracts that had no basis in future revenues # Administrator contracts that include perks like getting paid even if fired # Repairs at 3X the cost of comparable private commercial buildings # Unnecessary tear down and building of new school (at an inflated price/Sq.Ft) # or some combination of all of the above... You must realize this fact. The education establishment, which I call the "Government Education Complex," is a political juggernaut that has no real interest in educating America's children. It's primary interest is to expand employment, and it uses our children as a stick to beat money out of us. The misrepresented numbers referenced in this article are THE RULE, not the exception. http://blog.heartland.org/2010/12/the-government-education-complex-defined/ America pays more for education, and gets less, than any OECD nation. This larger issue must be understood. Once understood, it becomes obvious why they lie, dissemble, stone wall, and misrepresent facts. It is also the reason they become such insufferable social bullies when confronted with opposition.
Martina Natoma April 25, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Apologies Bruno for taking your excellent analysis and running with it, but wait until the government-medical-complex is further hardwired into place. Waste, inefficiency, and the loss of free market choice, will be as entrenched as in education, and American prosperity train will slow down even further. Just as in public sector education model, the chosen few will, via unions, political control, and public apathy and ignorance, diminish the quality of goods and services provided, and offer them at a very high price. Regardless of whether "it's for the children" or "medical care for the poor" the top down command and control model is the wrong path.
Bruno Behrend April 25, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Martina, This is accurate analysis, all the way down to the process of quietly creating "districts" for healthcare. The key to properly transforming (as opposed to the failed strategy of "reforming") education, is to understand the role of a "school district." Its purpose is NOT to localize education governance, but to FEDERALIZE it. We have decades of proof. We need to return to 1000s of independent education providers (schools, content providers, etc.) that are much more capable of meeting individual student needs than the expensive, top down, and bureaucratized, district system. The money should follow the child to the provider. It need not be laundered, dissipated, and wasted by 1000s of needless entities called school districts employing 10s of 1000s of needless staff positions. There are 6.3 million employees in K-12 public ed. 3.1 million are "administration and support." We could lose more than half of that 3.1 million, and it wouldn't result in one less neuron connected in one child's head.

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