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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.

Fred Froshenheimer April 24, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Hello Pot - This is Kettle - You are black!
Nate April 24, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I wouldn't call "I'm Not Sure Why" an answer!
Bruno Behrend April 24, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Classic "shoot the messenger." Why there ain't no one here but us hardworking, innocent, public servants, and this mean person is questioning the very essence of our being by asking for transparency, honesty, and answers. Why Why...Why ... he hates children!!!! Give me a break. Virtually every school board in Illinois has a history of this level of mendacity and stonewalling. The spending interests - which go way beyond teachers unions - deflect, dissemble, and eventually get their apologists to shout down anyone who questions their Enron-esque schemes to spend money, sign opaque contracts, and churn bonds. Anyone who has dealt with districts longer than a few months knows that they don't deserve any benefit of the doubt. The school code was lobbied and paid for by the interests that use Illinois taxpayer revenue streams to pad their payroll and pensions. The bellicosity of dissidents, which can sometimes be off-putting to "can't-we-all-get-along" suburbanites, is justified. These are the people that understand the level of spending and waste, and they merely are trying to wake up a somnambulist electorate that has a history of voting "yes" on every bauble, in the mistaken delusion that "it's for the children," It isn't. It's for the bureaucracy. It's for the contractors. It's for the bond dealers. It is time to stop the bleeding, and if it takes being impolite, so be it. It's time to drive the money-changers from the temple.
Hal April 24, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Jeff Ward wrote : "I don't care if they lied - and we know this board did not" What? Jeff, you don't really have anything of value to add to this dialogue.Now go write a hate piece about the GOP or religion or something
John R April 24, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Debbie, I was also at last nights meeting and I couldn't agree more with your comment. I'd like to get a dialog going with like minded members of our community. Email me if you like to talk. I've created a gmail account and the email address is: district304.geneva@gmail.com I hope to hear from you and all other liked minded neighbors who feel that enough is a enough out of the TaxFacters. Thanks, John
John R April 24, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Marci, Ditto please email me at district304.geneva@gmail.com I'd like to speak with your or correspond via email. The real supporters of this school district need to get our voices heard. Thanks for your comment and I hope to hear from you. John
Jack April 24, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Jeff, when public servants obscure facts, somebody had better make some noise. Impolite? Too bad. What is more "impolite" than misrepresenting the facts to the people whose money you are spending?
Martina Natoma April 24, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Debbie, It is every citizens right and responsibility to delve into any aspect of public spending, particularly when there may have been laws broken, which in turn enrich crony business interests, and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. Item 4, where you pass the blame onto 'community members' who apparently were foolish enough to believe Dr. Mutchler, and the School Board figures is just phenomenally bad logic. And finally... after the board hands out 150,000.00 a year in "Retirement Enhancement" to retiring teachers to boost their average 4 year final salary, and retirement pension, (and young taxpayer obligation), you now try to redirect public angst toward the State of Illinois. Let's be proactive and restore public trust in Dr. Mutchler and current board members who were on the board in 2007, by getting to the bottom of the issue. We need to trust our public servants, accepting less, particularly the blatant stonewalling we see from the Administration and the Board, is abdication of our civic duty, and a lesson in irresponsible citizenry for our children.
Martina Natoma April 24, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Jeff, if by "tackle these challenges" you mean "investigate", I agree wholeheartedly. Truth is a good thing.
Martina Natoma April 24, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Bruno, interesting comment, but you left off an obvious benefactor of referendum passage, crony business interests. I'm sure someone has a link to the businesses who joined in to sell this referendum to the unsuspecting public, and I hope they post it here.
Mark Johnson April 24, 2012 at 07:27 PM
"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." If the School Board does not value history, then it should fire all it's social studies and history teachers.
Angela Kane April 24, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Isn't it predictable that Jeff Ward would blame Bob McQuillan? What's next--the typical liberal diatribe that he hates children, wants to starve them and is a union-buster? OH COME ONE. Geneva School Board meetings have always been the same--pompous refusals to deal with public comments and limited public response. I can sympathize with Bob's frustration. Bring up an issue and get a "thank you for your question" but not an answer. Why does he continue to bring these issues to OUR attention? So perhaps the voters won't be the same "I trust the teachers and the administration" sheep they have been for years in our town. Folks, TAX-MAGEDON is coming at us. Maybe people will wake up when their real estate bills come this spring. Maybe people will realize the "it's not going to cost any more money" BS line the districts give when they ask you to approve ANOTHER referendum is a LIE. Oh don't worry--we'll build another middle school. It won't cost us any more money because we'll just move around the staff--LIE. Oh don't worry, we'll need these new grade schools because we're going to have TONS more students--LIE. Please--we're adults out here. We can handle the truth. And by the way--to paraphrase A FEW GOOD MEN--I WANT BOB ON THAT WALL. I want him and anyone else who can take the fury of biased commentators like Jeff Ward to KEEP THE SUBJECT IN THE NEWS and keep asking questions. Thank him--stop the personal childish stuff (that means you Jeff).
Angela Kane April 24, 2012 at 07:41 PM
And Jeff--STOP. The more you write about Bob and his questions the dumber you sound. I said that before and I'll say it again--STOP. Jeff's credibility: ZERO.
Jeff Ward April 24, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Angela, Now I'm going for negative numbers! Jeff
Angela Kane April 24, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Jeff: Keep typing...you'll be in negative territory asap.
Jeff Ward April 24, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Woo hoo! I'm negative 1!
Hal April 24, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Google some of the few board supporters in this thread - the deeper you dig, the worse this thing smells.
G.Ryan April 24, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Bruno you are right on! Thank you for the truth!
G.Ryan April 24, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Angela, I have enjoyed your entry here because you have spoken the absolute truth! And thanks for taming Mr. Ward also. His obessive-compulsive disorder of Mr. McQuillan needs a treatment remedy...Quick!!! Thanks again.
John R April 24, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Jeff, I was at the meeting last night and you are spot on with your posts regarding this group. I was dissappointed and somewhat shocked at Mr. McQuillen's behavior. I thought he would conduct himself in a more professional and mature manner instead he sort of had a hissy fit. It was actually weird. I had planned on introducing myself to him but after his outburst I figured it was best to keep my distance. I'm satisfied with Mr. Grosso's statement. If I am compelled to comment on it in a public forum then I can do so at the next board meeting. Everyone in that room knew at the second comment portion that he was making his statement during the board comment period. It wasn't a secret and if I or anyone else wanted to speak at that time we could have made our way to the podium. It's really a shame......The TaxFacts group do seem to have some valid concerns. Heck they may even have some workable solutions to some of the challenges facing the district. But they just can't seem to get it together and present themselves in a serious manner. I was really hoping to see a better side of them last night but instead it was more of the same. I applaud Mr. Grosso for standing his ground and not caving in for a third comment time. I think it's getting to the point that he has decided that the bullying has got to stop. He and the rest of the board have bent over backwards to accomadate this group. Time to move on. John
Geneva Non-parent April 24, 2012 at 10:05 PM
I would think that after attending board meetings for 10 years, a person would understand that the board does not engage in discussion during the public comment portions. Wouldn’t they also know that board member comments always are at the end of the (printed and provided) agenda? Why would this be a surprise? You might not like the board’s policies or even their agenda order, but you can’t be surprised by it. As for addressing this issue at the public forum, I hope they don’t. Clearly that forum is being held to get community input for the “setting of goals and priorities for future school years.” Investigating the past may or may not be proper, but the forum is not the place for it. They also have made the format quite clear. A believe the board is showing their backbone. I hope they continue to. https://www.geneva304.org/PDF/News%20Releases/2012_4.12_Community_Feedback_Forum.pdf
Jeff Ward April 24, 2012 at 10:10 PM
John, I could not have put it better myself. You are spot on! Jeff
Lennie Jarratt April 24, 2012 at 11:45 PM
The board appears to have chosen to not present all the facts to the public in 2007, i.e. they lied to suck more money from the taxpayers. Not looking back is saying to the public "we really don't care what you think, we have your money now." The bullying does need to stop and so do the lies. It is the district who always uses these tactics to isolate, obfuscate and mislead the public. Citizens are at a distinct disadvantage in everything the district does. Have them open up all the books and data for all to see.
Dave April 25, 2012 at 02:36 AM
I seem to recall an energy company in Texas a few years ago that falsified some numbers that were supposedly verified by an outside consultant. I'm sure Skilling and Lay would've loved to say, 'hey we can't go back in history - and by the way, we're not taking questions at the shareholder's meeting'
Jack April 25, 2012 at 02:51 AM
There is no legitimacy without transparency. The issue is not civil behavior, though we can always use more of it. The issue is false information and subsequent stonewalling. We can go as far back as we need to in order to prevent this kind of misdirection from happening again.
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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