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QuickStory: New Voices Come to School Board's Defense, Criticize TaxFACTS

Monday night's School District 304 board meeting has a new wrinkle, as public speakers show support for board members, counterpoint to TaxFACTS citizens group.

Geneva School Board members continued their relative silence, but Geneva TaxFACTS members weren't the only voices at Monday night's School Board meeting.

For the past several months, the public-comment portions of board meetings frequently have been dominated by questions or criticism from members of the citizens group or others concerned about school spending and the so-called "" issue.

The man-bites-dog aspect of Monday's meeting were the unusual number of pro-board, anti-TaxFACTS comments.

Debbie Hanson told the board she asked to be removed from TaxFACTS' e-mail list, in part because there is too much of an "us" and "them" attitude or mindset.

Hanson said she has no problem with criticism and scrutiny of the School Board, but "it should not be a witch hunt ... but rather about problem-solving."

Hanson said she is a School District employee in the category of "support staff."

"I bring home less every year," she said. "Is TaxFACTS aware of this? (The salaries of) everyone but the teachers have been frozen. We have been cutting for five years. (Yet,) what I listen to in the meetings and read in the newspapers is that nothing has been done to reduce expenses.

"There is no 'Them,' " she added. "Once we get past that, maybe we can start doing some good."

John Rice said he and his family did not move to Geneva for the shops on Third Street but for the quality of the . "You guys have taken some pretty hard hits in the past few weeks," he said. "But we're lucky to have a board as qualified as you guys." 

"If you start trying to take these draconian cuts, you’re not going to make up that money by charging more at football games … you’re going to have to cut programs. I’m not looking for comments, (but) I did want to step up because I think it’s important members of the community speak their minds."

Kate Bochte talked about a friend who is a teacher.

"She feels beaten up—not by the board but by critics of the board," she said, adding that the result could be that the best teachers will choose to leave Geneva. "We cannot afford to lose good teachers like this, and they do not deserve to be beaten up by these critics any more than the School District and support staff need to be beaten up by critics."

Ron Stevenson suggested that the board consider changing its meeting structure to be a little more like that of the , where aldermen debate issues and the public is invited to express opinions in open discussion prior to a vote.

The School Board invites public comments in an early part of the meeting and again later in the meeting, often after action has been taken. Public comments are limited to five minutes.

"(City Council members) consider the input before they make a final decision," he said. "People feel like they have a chance to be heard. Here, we don’t feel we have a chance to be heard."

Jeff Ward June 12, 2012 at 07:28 PM
G. Thank you for your willingness to go so far to prove my point! Jeff
G.Ryan June 12, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Ocean Ghost please acknowledge your real name? Did you attend the TownHall meeting last week? Buy a less expensive home? Why doesn't the Board of Spenders and the School Debters stop their spending addiction and compromise to budget cuts to live within their means? Now there is a solution. The Board of Spenders represent the taxpayers? Where is the respect to us? This is why the majority of us are angry because they do not do their jobs respectively. They no longer have our trust. What is done is done? No, it is not done there is still no conclusion of the enrollment numbers and we the taxpayers deserve that respect. Just think if the Board members resign like they should we can all move forward to solve this DEBT issue with people we can trust.
Martina Natoma June 12, 2012 at 10:11 PM
For those who believe that the quality of their child's education directly correlates to the total cost of that education, the newness of the buildings, the luxurious pensions, the guaranteed annual pay raise, the nine month work load, and the tenure system, your analysis is obtuse and flawed... it is supported, not by fact, but only by those who stand to gain financially, the teachers, administration, and contractors. Ms. Hanson, if you had been paying attention, as opposed to 'resigning' from the Taxfacts email list you would know that Taxfacts HAS proposed a logical plan. • The plan calls for reasonable reductions in the tax levy for the next three years to partially offset the intense cost of funding our new schools. • This plan will certainly have little to no effect ANY true educator's ability to show up for work, speak to their students, and in short, 'educate' them, but it will educators and administration the opportunity for shared sacrifice. Geneva teachers have not been a part of the downturn in the economy, certainly not since the Geneva teachers have received very nice raises over the past 3 year contract.
Martina Natoma June 12, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Quote: Ms. Hanson SAYS... "there is too much of an "us" and "them" attitude or mindset" Reply: Ms. Hanson, We're interested in hearing a concrete proposal from you, to reduce our excessive School District 304 taxation, while preserving quality education. (You must know however that the District has been taking the very maximum allowable tax dollars every year, as the School Board follows "tax-to-the-max" as a matter of policy. If you want more money personally, unfortunately you'll have to talk to your friends on the Board, the administration, or take a second job, because District 304 is already billing the Geneva taxpayers the maximum amount allowed by law).
Geneva Non-parent June 12, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Ms. Natoma, Perhaps you can share with us your formula for determining thed ecucators' and administrators' salaries to guarantee "shared sacrifice" and will fairly become a "part of the downturn in the economy." I believe that Ms. Hanson indicated that her pay has been frozen for several years.
Martina Natoma June 12, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Ms. Hanson... Teacher's feel beaten up? Really? Maybe they will recuperate during their 2.5 month summer vacation. I'll suggest the obvious...maybe they should do what any disgruntled employee does, move on, and find happiness elsewhere. There is a very, very long line of educated, enthusiastic and qualified candidates who would be more than happy to take their place, at a reduced pay rate (what is known as market value).
Thomas June 12, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Miss Natoma, I believe the sentiment that was trying to be expressed in the statement "teachers feeling beaten up" was not referring to feeling beaten up by their jobs, but rather being bombarded with comments like yours and others who feel the constant need to devalue the profession in order to justify not paying for it. If anything having extra time in the summer to follow the threads on the patch and letters to sound off and the endless rants against teaching I am sure only makes matters worse.
G.Ryan June 12, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Rants Thomas? Just view the enclosed photo of a rant as Ms. Hanson raises her hand. Devaluing the profession in order to justify not paying for it? Mr. Thomas we OVERPAY for it. And it is time that it gets overhauled to a "fairness" where we all can afford it.
Thomas June 12, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Wow G.(possibly George?) Ryan, And here I thought your caps lock only got stuck on the word DEBT. Nice to see you can change it up a bit. And thank you for confirming my previous post. :)
G.Ryan June 12, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Sorry, Mr. Thomas but I am not George Ryan who is in jail but guess that is where your mindset is. It is so sad to live in a community that is so divided and cannot come to some common ground. But guess what with all the Board of Spenders(Board of Edu.) and School District Debters there will not be any community because we will either go bankrupt, foreclose or leave in the future . And yes, I am not the only taxpayer out there that feels this way about the spending dynasty. You think this is a laughing matter but it is not.
Bea A. Sitisinn June 13, 2012 at 01:07 AM
We have had no children in the Geneva school system for over 19 years. We are lucky to be retired, have a modest brick home paid for and have our health. We are, however, concerned about school taxes, because they are the bulk of our property taxes. We would be a fools not to be. We are also concerned that in the next 10 years, we will have paid well over $100,000 in property taxes, and we live on a fixed income. That's our reality. How sad to think about leaving a home we built and love and the town our children grew up in. We know there are plenty of very qualified, intelligent people in this town and there is a solution. I always think, if we can put someone on the moon, why is everything else so difficult.
Mitotero June 13, 2012 at 01:52 AM
I am glad more people are speaking out to support the board and the teachers. It is tiresome to see the posts about teachers being overpaid, and that they work short hours for part of the year. Without good teachers our schools would not be very good. Teaching is an important profession, and we should not treat them as cheap labor, with the lowest pay our primary objective. All aspects of the school budget should be closely reviewed, but stating that the teachers are overpaid seems extreme. Replacing our teachers with willing, lower paid applicants, seems like a step toward lowering our school system quality. We may save short term dollars, but pay for it in the long run.
G.Ryan June 13, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Bea,,thank you kindly for your post. It is people like yourself that make this crusade worth it. Your generation is the forgotten generation in this process. But the District and Board don't care because if they did they would stop the spending and find a solution to lower our taxes. But it is all "about the kids." It's the "me and I" generation.Your generation was the thrifty ones that saved always for a rainy day because you knew the rain would come. We never had "debt" like this before and your generation would never hear of it as you knew what sacrifice was and you lived it. I am called a "bully" because I question why so much debt and why not make this the priority. This is what we are up against. We need to continue to hold those accountable for their fiscal actions and will always have our Geneva seniors in mind. May God Bless you always and bless that special place you call "home."
Martina Natoma June 13, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Dear Geneva Non-parent, The long answer.... The GEA was fortunate to sign a new contract, just as the economy was heading south. That contract is expiring right now. Over the last three years, the teachers received step and lane increases (automatic pay increases just for showing up, and increases for additional degrees), as well as base pay increases, entirely out of line with the private sector (who is paying them). Check out www.taxfacts.org, I believe that there is an analysis of those increases available. Going forward, I would like to see the labor market determine the actual pay rate for teachers, administration, and staff. Pay and benefits should not be determined by the Teachers Union and board members, who themselves are elected by the Teachers Union members. Certainly we would have very high standards, and for some we would pay top dollar (Fermi Lab scientists for example), but for others, where there is a long line of eager, bright, energetic people applying for the position, there would be a savings. --- continued...
Martina Natoma June 13, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Additionally, at the upper levels there would be no reason for automatic pay increases just for showing up, via the step and lane process. There is no good reason to be paying Librarians 126,00.00+, Language Arts teachers and Social Studies teachers, 120,000.00 +, Music teachers 124,000.00 and on and on. I'm sure these people are qualified, but the market for labor should determine their pay. In fact I doubt that we need to pay a quarter of a million dollars a year for a top flight superintendent. Overall, we could hire more teachers, have smaller classrooms, but hire more effectively, based not on union power, but on management objectives. ===== The short answer... I would like to see no pay increase for 3 years, elimination of tenure, and modification of step and lane. Here is the latest (3/20/2012) CBO analysis. http://www.cbo.gov/publication/42923
Martina Natoma June 13, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Thomas. I would never "devalue" (your words) the teaching profession. Everyone in my family is in education! We have several doctors, a veterinarian, school administrators, even a Harvard lawyer in our family. We are all about education. Teachers Unions have themselves devalued the public's opinion of teachers. Wisconsin and Chicago Unions being prime examples. Even Democrat Mayor Rahm Immanuel his to Continually remind Union Leaders that Education REALLY is for the Children! Does that mean he devalues teachers?
Martina Natoma June 13, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Mitotero... "It is tiresome to see the posts about teachers being overpaid" 1) How would you go about determining 'proper' or accurate pay rate for an teacher or administrator of a public school district? 2) How do you think independent schools accomplish this task. 3) How do those rates compare, one with the other, and how do their outcomes compare. In fact, pay rates are more properly determined by hiring the right person, for the right task at the market rate, as determined by the supply of individuals with that particular skill set. No one (except union leaders using scare tactics) are talking about lowering standards, in fact, standards could certainly be raised considerably, if we did not have unions blocking the door.
Kate Bochte June 13, 2012 at 03:11 AM
These are some of the cheesiest comments I have ever read. Is Bea A. Sitisinn (be a citizen) the alter ego of one of those 'taxfax' men in disguise by any chance? And now they are communicating with each other? Strange, indeed. Stop trying to pull a fast one on the voters, guys. Most Genevans just aren't that stupid.
Dave June 13, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Martina, I ask you - what is more important than our children? And since car accidents are a leading cause of death among young people, what is more important than a drivers ed teacher? If we begrudge our Drivers Ed teachers their six figure salaries, I think it's a sad statement about our priorities.
Dave June 13, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Yep, you have to be a whole lot slicker to pull the wool over the eyes of most Genevans...ask the school board how it's done
Kate Bochte June 13, 2012 at 03:49 AM
For the record, Bea A. Sitisinn joined the Geneva Patch on May 7, 2012, the day before Bob McQuillan submitted his rambling "What is your exit strategy?". Of course, the mysterious Mrs. Sitisinn was there to give Bob two thumbs up. In one of 'her' Patch comments, little 'ol Aunt Bea granted McQuillan and taxfax 'her' blessings by offering, "... But I think this community is full of intelligent individuals that could help the board along the way". Bob couldn't have said it better himself.
Debbie Hanson June 13, 2012 at 04:13 AM
G.Ryan if you were at the meeting, you would know that I did not rant in my comments. I tend to speak with my hands as I am of Italian heritage...actually, I'm only half Italian which accounts for only one of my hands being raised in the picture.
Kate Bochte June 13, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Martina Natoma, give me a call tomorrow and we can do lunch. Let's invite Aunt Bea and Paul Bryant to join us. Who else on these comment boards voicing support for taxfax are phonies? It seems the membership of taxfax is so small - and shrinking - that they have to make up identities so that their hair-brained ideas will appear more mainstream. And they accuse the school board of deception? This taxfax nonsense is pathetic, and yes, sick!
Bob McQuillan June 13, 2012 at 04:32 AM
I have never posted on ANY comment board without using my own name and those that think I would know absolutely nothing about me and what I stand for. I have not posted on this thread because nothing good will come out of it. But when someone implies that I am hiding behind a fake name I'm going to defend myself. Shooting the messenger shows that some people don't understand the hundreds of hours that have been spent by various individuals to educate Geneva on what the future will bring. I understand the value of a good education and good teachers. No one is suggesting that the quality of education in Geneva needs to change. Trying to scare people by saying things that are false is a sure way to lose your objective. Those that believe the majority of Geneva taxpayers can continue to endure the cost of running a school district that continues to spend more every year are not living in the real world. Taxpayers have a choice continue to watch your taxes increase every year or decide enough is enough and get involved. The ironic thing is that those who realize we have a problem are trying to save the quality education Geneva offers. Those refusing to admit there is a problem and promote a business as usual spending policy will eventually destroy the Geneva School District. Good night Geneva Patch fans sleep well.
G.Ryan June 13, 2012 at 04:50 AM
If you think she is Aunt Bea then maybe we are living in Mayberry RFD-(Referendum Forced Down our throats)!! Once again falsifications and prejudgements which never represent the Truth or Facts.
jim June 13, 2012 at 10:30 PM
A few meetings ago one of the Board members (Mat Henry) stated he may have to work another 20 years do to the high tax rate we pay in 304.My impression was the rest of us shouldn't complain because he was willing to make the sacrifice.Well Mr. Henry,Im 74 years old and living on a fixed income , I don't have another 20 years , My life is winding down and its to bad my wife and I must move from a city we had planned on making our final home. Hope you enjoy the bed your helping to make later down the road.
Ignatius Reilly June 15, 2012 at 03:17 AM
These lazy teachers and their summers off are the main reason for thisi whole problem. Pay freeze? How about pay cut. They should make no more than a McDonald's fry cook. Just the other day I saw a Geneva teacher in a new car, with a sunroof and leather seats! Really!? Do they provide the same service to our society as lawyers, lobbyists, hedge fund managers, and political consultants? Those are the real heroes. They deserve our respect.
Kyle June 15, 2012 at 03:32 AM
^Haha, enjoy your summer off 'Ignatius'
John R June 17, 2012 at 02:52 AM
@ Jeff and Justin thank you for the kind words. @ lance I'm sorry you had to move. But I do believe that people are still moving to this community because of the school district. I've been randomly looking at property taxes and the tsunami wasn't really all that horrible. But if you no longer have kids in school it does sort of stink to have to pay so much. You should have moved to the east side our taxes are still reasonable. Others need to speak up at the board meetings. The taxFacts folks have been making comments for years. They are very comfortable at the podium. Get up there and give it a whirl. I'm not going to say it was a pleasant experience but I did survive. John Rice
Lifelong Citizen July 06, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Not everyone who chooses to live in Geneva is here for the school system. I would attend school board meetings in support of taxfacts if I wasn't working 18 hour days to pay my property tax bill, which primarily funds the public schools, in which I do not enroll children.

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