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Schory's Story on 'Enrollmentgate' Worth Reading

Kane County Chronicle report reveals a lot of details and background about the inflated 2007 referendum enrollment numbers, as well as who did what. So do the projection numbers themselves.

Whether you're a School Board member or a TaxFACTS "disciple," you have to appreciate the work Brenda Schory put into today's (June 13, 2012) Kane County Chronicle story on the "" issue.

Schory outlined the background, interviewed probably a dozen of the people involved in the pre-2007 enrollment-projection process and went through stacks of Freedom of Information Act-gathered materials to create a fuller picture and understanding of the issue, as well as what's at stake.

The issue, of course, is that the enrollment projections distributed to the public prior to the 2007 referendum were much higher than those of a professional consultant hired by the district.

The referendum passed by 100 votes out of the 4,910 ballots cast, OK'd the building of two new schools and other improvements and is the cause of millions of dollars in lingering debt.

Schory's story presents many more details, but the Reader's Digest Condensed version is that the "most aggressive" (Series C) report by consultant John Kasarda projected the district enrollment at 6,670 by 2012—while the numbers given to the public projected 7,472.

Not surprisingly, each person Schory interviewed said they had no idea who pulled the trigger to release the higher enrollment projections to the public, except to say "it wasn't me."

Much of that is understandable. I have trouble remembering my name on some days, let alone the details of a referendum campaign that took place five or more years ago.

And this does appear to be one of those cases where there were so many people involved—from volunteer referendum committees to school liaisons to board members to school officials—that no one person pressed the "send" button.

That said, everyone agrees the numbers were inflated—put out for consumption and derived, not by a professional consultant, but by some unexplained amalgamation. And someone had to pick those numbers, whether they were logically calculated or pulled from a hat.

The projections themselves seem to indicate the latter.

The first three years of the projections presented to the public show enrollment increases of 291, 344 and 395—which were much higher than the trend of actual enrollment growth from the previous three years: 131, 103 and 131. So someone, somehow, simply decided the trend was moot and growth would quickly double, then triple.

After that point, that same person or persons decided that enrollment simply would go up by exactly 196 students in each of the final three years of these projections: 2009-10, through 2011-12. That seems to indicate—fairly convincingly—that the projection numbers presented to the public were chosen arbitrarily.

Someone selected those numbers. And whomever it was should step up and say so—and apologize—so that the "Enrollmentgate" issue can be put to rest.

 

  Year   Kasarda
  Series C  

  Projected
  to voters 

  2006     5854   5,854     2007   6,071   6,145   2008    6,254   6,489   2009   6,396   6,884   2010   6,548   7,080   2011   6,670   7,276   2012   6,742   7,472

 


geneva girl June 14, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Kate, I think you need to search for truth. Most of what you're saying here is NOT the truth. I was at that "little church hall forum" and most of what you are saying in your rant was not even discussed. In fact, most of the meeting you were in the hallway arguing with some guy who isn't even a tax Fact member. I don't even think he lives in Geneva. Stop embarrassing yourself, please
Peter Urdemales June 14, 2012 at 11:56 PM
What do the teachers and the local union have to do with this? Did they have any say in the growth predictions? No evidence includes teachers anywhere in the details of growth predictions, it's unfair to lump them in.
Lance Mitchell June 14, 2012 at 11:57 PM
In my opinion this is a very sensable approach.
Mitotero June 15, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Kate: I totally agree with your post. These posts do give us, the taxpayers, an idea of what the 2 different camps are proposing. I think we will have more knowledgeable voters next election. I am continually amazed at how much resentment this issue is creating. I was upset a decade ago when a major developer grossly underestimated the number of students who would reside in his development. My guess is the board was trying to avoid a reoccurrence of this undercount. The numbers presented by the board are almost exactly Kasada's numbers, plus the estimated students from the Shodeen and the Lafox developments as enumerated in the school board meeting minutes from September 25, 2006. I do not know if this is a coincidence, or if they were manually added. The calls for apologies and/or resignations seem rather silly. The facts and circumstances are very different today, so let's move on. Full disclosure, I voted against the referendum, so I was not mislead by the numbers. If anyone is watching the national election, there are lies and full blown distortions being hurled by both sides daily. Not that it is ok, but just pointing out that election "facts" are usually puffed to fit the communicators' position. I trust our current board, and will be very frightened if we have a board take over by cost cutters.
Kate Bochte June 15, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Add to the above list of actions some are proposing to the Geneva Public School District the closing of schools. In his letter in today's Republican, Robert Hohmann suggests redeploying the best teachers "to other schools that absorbed the students from the closed facilities". I am sure all of these ideas will be in full public view come election time.for all parents and residents to see and judge.
jim June 15, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Settle down Peter.Please Reread my statement . When I referred to the union and administration I referred to the new Board in the fall.I also stated we are wasting time trying to place blame for the inflated numbers.
Peter Urdemales June 15, 2012 at 01:20 AM
That was an honest question, actually. Thank you for your reply. So, I'm confused by something you're saying though. Aren't the union and the school board different groups? I guess I don't understand why you paired them together.
Kate Bochte June 15, 2012 at 01:28 AM
"geneva girl", I have a policy not to engage with morons who make false allegations or personal attacks while wearing a mask of anonymity. I stand by my statement. Watch the tape. Lance, I have examples of my own that paint a different picture. The schools and teachers are by no means perfect. But the beauty of this district that sets it apart from most is the partnership between the schools, the parents, and the community. Parents or guardians should always be a child's primary teacher and fiercest advocate. I encourage people to get a close look at our schools today before they throw stones. What I was doing in the church hallway during the forum was inviting Bruno The Outsider to actually visit the schools and administrators he is attacking from afar. As far as people with fixed incomes, believe me, I sympathize. First of all, their property is holding its value better than in most areas and better than if we take a wrecking ball to our school system out of anger and fear. Secondly, the state is not paying its bills and transferring that burden to local entities. Illinois needs reforms like Wisconsin's which eased financial burdens on school districts. I a conservative Republican. I believe in low taxes but I dont believe in bullying, witch hunts, and misplaced blame. There is no evidence the board lied to get its way. Even if a culprit was found, what then? A hanging in the public square? This is all poison and Geneva deserves better.
Karen Moore June 15, 2012 at 02:05 AM
I’m sorry to hear all the disagreements; I think Geneva is just looking for clarity. If this helps, I stumbled across some old Daily Herald articles that may provide clarity. There are quite a few of them out there regarding the referendum, and enrollment figures/targets. It seems like Rebecca Allard was heavily involved in projections. My guess is the administration needs to sign off on stuff like that. Just search by Geneva referendum or enrollment. Happy reading! http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/1094304/geneva_school_enrollment_right_on_target/ http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/235110/geneva_schools_grow_by_103/ http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/640852/geneva_schools_review_enrollment/ http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/652918/geneva_school_officials_make_pitch_for_more_space/ http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/909843/full_speed_ahead_in_geneva_dist_304/
Bob McQuillan June 15, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Based on comments made at school board meetings, at their little church hall forum, and on these pages, this group wants faculty, administrative, and support staff slashed. They want to eliminate all courses not considered core or the 3 Rs. They want to jack up the participation and lab fees for students and student/ athletes which would force kids from lower- income families to sit out. They want cheap, inexperience, and even unqualified and volunteer labor for all school-related positions. Here is the video from the "little church hall forum", you be the judge of what GenevaTaxFACTS wants to do. http://www.genevataxfacts.org/School-Board-Meetings/06-04-2012.html
G.Ryan June 15, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Thank you Cindy. When you speak up you are called a "bully". Thanks for you accurate observations.
Sandra Ellis June 15, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Karen Moore, that was excellent research -- great independent fact searching! According to the Chronicle story, Rebecca Allard, who now works for Park Ridge Community Consolidated District 64 was singled out by Dr. Kasarda for recognition in his November 2006 report as she "assembled much of the information upon which this demographic study is based". Ms. Allard said "she could not say who approved the decisions to put enrollment numbers higher than the Kasarda report in the referendum materials....I absolutely deny ever being a part of falsifying numbers." Even though the 2006 Kasarda report RECOMMENDED following the B projection of a total of 345 students for the next 5 years, she told Mill creek residents in September 2006 that "“If we don’t build this school what we will see is increased class sizes throughout the district”? So she was following her own high numbers, provided them to Dr. Kasarda, then "someone" decided to ignore Dr. Kasarda's recommendation and use high numbers for the April 2007 referendum? The articles are interesting as they reflect the "hype" that accompanied this referendum. I urge everyone to read page 18-20 of Dr. Kasarda's report at the link I have posted. We can't undo this but next, is how to fix this? Can the administration make the necessary cuts to bring tax relief? Instruction costs have increased 20% in the same timeframe, can we freeze them for a while? The School Board directs the administration; will they insist on reductions?
Kyle June 15, 2012 at 03:31 AM
I shudder to think what this board is doing with our money behind the closed doors of the Union 'negotiations'.
G.Ryan June 15, 2012 at 06:24 AM
Thanks so much Karen for your timely efforts in researching back 5 years ago. Funny, you can gather this but the Board cannot find their research or for that matter... recollection. It is interesting reading as Sandra Ellis indicates. Thanks again.
Dwight Swartwood June 15, 2012 at 05:08 PM
We taxpayers, voters and non voters alike have some part on this mess as well. All parents, and most Geneva taxpayers, wanted the best school experience possible for Geneva kids. We elected people who had big egos but no financial (BOTTOM LINE) skills. And boy did they build. They built the most expensive schools possible and staffed them with overabundant and overpaid administration. The fact that the growth forecasts were overzealous is not the big problem in the long run. At some point the Geneva schools will probably be right-sized. The biggie was that the cost per square foot spent was outrageously high. And, the overage of administration staff was icing on the cake. We need a new slate of School Directors, we sure do. And we taxpayers need to understand that a highly effective school system does not mean we have the most costly system. Geneva's school facility cost per student, and their annual operating cost per student are way above national averages. We need goals to increase school effectiveness, while at the same time, decreasing building costs and annual operating costs. Finally, we do not want a School Board that is shrouded in secrecy, and we taxpayers need to "peal the onion" until every school cost and issue is understood by all.
Thomas June 16, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Dwight, Could you provide the source or possibly a link to where you found the information that Geneva's "school facility cost per student" and "operating cost per student" are "way above" the national averages? I know the state issues Illinois School Report Cards https://www.geneva304.org/Report_cards/documents/2011GHSReportCard.pdf which shows "Instructional Expenditure per Student" and "Operating Expenditure per Student" and compares them with the state averages. Neither of which are "way above" even the state averages. Instructional Expenditure per student is actually below the state average. So I am curious where you find national averages and do they take into account the cost of living differences between the different regions of the country. For example the cost of living in California is significantly higher than a North Carolina and others. Would love to find out your source, that would be very informative.
John R June 17, 2012 at 02:26 AM
It's nice to see a few new names speaking up. I my opinion there probably is no answer that the school board can give that will satisfy the taxFacts folks. As a few of the core group have posted that nothing short of a mass resignation would suffice. It's not about answers it's about getting control of the board. But I have to say that in my opinion the board has completely mishandled this issue. I think they believe it will go away. But the taxFacts folks have made it clear that they are not going to let this die. Many of them are retired and have a lot of time that they can spend on posting and going to the meetings. This administration and board needs to hire a consultant or speak with some attorneys to figure out how they can manage thos particular issue and the ongoing barrage which is and will continue from the taxfacters. After this issue there will be others that they will generate. Coultrapgate is coming, ITgate is around the corner and the pending budgetgate is sure to generate attention. This has been going on for years. It's hateful and ugly and I hope it stops. District 304 is so important to our community for a number of reasons. It's a shame. :(
Bob McQuillan June 17, 2012 at 04:16 AM
GenevaTaxFACTS isn't responsible for the problems over the enrollment numbers, the 2006-07 board members and administration are the responsible parties. Because of statements made at the March 17, 2012 retreat meeting by the superintendent and a former board president, I asked a very simple question. The videotape of the meeting shows the superintendent saying that they have always used Dr. Kasarda's series B projections and then the board member states that she is happy to hear they didn't use the most aggressive numbers. Listen to the tape by going to section 4.3; which is 3 hours and 12 minutes into the meeting http://www.genevataxfacts.org/School-Board-Meetings/03-17-2012.html The board & administration owns this problem and I'm tired of GenevaTaxFACTS being blamed for "hateful and ugly" actions. The GenevaTaxFACTS group is different than the school board, we are a group of individuals that speak for ourselves. I don't control anything that any other taxpayer says, nor should I. The board acts, votes and speaks as a group and then complain that they are being personally attacked. That is not true. The board, as a group, is being asked questions on their actions, which every Geneva resident has the right to do. No individual school board member is being attacked and for them to claim so only takes the focus off the real issue - they have not answered the original question of why the numbers they claimed where Dr. Kasarda's series B were not. Listen to the tape.
Terry Flanagan June 17, 2012 at 04:41 AM
This is not about TaxFacts. It's not about the school board. It's not about the quality or value of our schools. It is about a discrepancy between enrollment figures provided by a consultant and enrollment figures used to support the referendum. We have no definitive answer for how the referendum figures were chosen. Nor do we have any confirmation as whether or not the figures were intended to be used or if they were considered accurate by an authoritative source. The problem is that there is no one to stand by the figures used. There should be public records, minutes of meetings, resolutions, something that provides some history of how this decision was made and approved. If we cannot accurately track the decision-making process then we are in danger of losing control of it and we will be stuck with decisions no one can explain, much less defend. The board needs to review the situation and define policy that will prevent similar problems from occurring in the future.
Jeff Ward June 17, 2012 at 10:51 AM
Bob, If you're tire of being blamed for "hateful and ugly" actions then there's a really simple solution... Jeff
Geneva Non-parent June 17, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Maybe the biggest lesson to come out of this is to only accept advice / recommendations from professional experts who are paid (and can the be held accountable) for their services. Had that happened, there would be a clear record and no "gotcha" error that fuels accusations of "fraud" and consipiracy. How ironic is it that the Tax"FACTS" group has suggested on many occasions that there should be more volunteer advisory groups that could create similar situations?
John R June 17, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Gentlemen, I clearly stated that I believe the board and administration has mishandled this issue. They have been under seige now for at least two years or so. I went back in the minutes to 2010 and it was getting so bad that then president of the board stilth had to warn the audience that heckling and cat calling was not going to be tolerated. I think they have had it. They have been beat down meeting after meeting after meeting. And we only see a small part of it. We don't get the phone calls, emails, etc... We don't sit through the meetings and take the beatings. It's really sad because these are good people. They are socially and fiscally responsible. They are budget hawks and as a registered democrat I never thought I'd be rooting for a group of staunch conservatives. But there you have it. Wheather it's intentional or not the result has and will be diminished participation from the community as a whole. Three and possible four of the members who's terms are coming up in April will not ibe running for the board. They have had it! We will be lucky if we have a choice come April. But rest assured taxFacts will have candidates at the ready. It's no secret. This administration and board desperately need professional consultation. Very few public bodies will or have had to deal with this type of assault and barrage. It's not going to stop and they need to get there message out. Out of characters, John Rice
John R June 17, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Furthermore, Board Pres Gross needs to get control of his meeting. there is no reason to allow your board to be brow beat into submission. I realize he's trying to play nice and tries to make a light joke here and there but I think he needs to start using that gavel and taking control. My wife commented that there was no way Mayor Burns would tolerate what's been going on. Even Mr. McQuillan takes full control of his meetings. There is a code of conduct that is supposed to be followed at these meetings. If that code is breached then the individual should be asked to excuse him or her self from the meeting. If they don't comply then the police should be called to assist. No more outburst to get a spine and no more reading open letters attacking a specific group or individual. Ok that's enough for the today. I'm going to enjoy my fathers day with my son and wife. Happy fathers day to all you Dads. Happy grilling :) Rice
Colin C. June 17, 2012 at 01:12 PM
John, Thank you for your post. We lived in a community in NY that faced a similar situation. My wife and I served on the school district "Facilities Utilization Committee" and my wife on the Board of Ed. Unless you have been there you have no idea how complex and difficult it can be to plan for future growth. Projections from experts, cities, developers, and on and on are as contradictory and ephemeral as next year's stock market predictions. We spent years at it and just as well have made our decision by throwing a dart at the chart. There was a self appointed group called TAX-PAC that scrutinized every Board decision, criticized every move, and always had the "right answer"----in hindsight. I agree that the Geneva Board of Ed has not handled the explanation and public fallout of this situation well. My wife can tell you from experience that when a Board is under this kind of attack being absolutely open can get you into much more trouble than being silent. In Illinois our volunteer Board members can be sued as individuals for decisions that they make and any member of the public can bring a civil suit for any reason that they wish, valid or not. The cost of defending oneself is the same, guilty or innocent. As any attorney will tell you, when faced with that prospect, keep your mouth shut! We are facing a tax problem. Attacking the Board will make it worse. Working together in the spirit of a community willing to make compromises might help.
Rod Nelson June 17, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Cost per pupil virtually always climbs when enrollment stops growing and begins to fall. The majority of this effect is due to the inability to scale back capacity quickly enough coupled with the "aging in place" of faculty and administration with no hiring of lower cost young faculty. Unlike an airline or Lucent, school distracts cannot slash with a broadsword. Geneva had by far the highest cost per pupil in Kane County in the mid 80's but quickly fell back into the middle of the pack when enrollment spurted.
John R June 17, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Thanks Colin nice To see your post's. You come across as very reasoned and sensible. Your experience from out east gives a bit of insight. Thank you for sharing. To me it's all such a non issue. Coultrap needed to be replaced its a mess and was probably way over due. Without Fabyan our elementary schools would be bursting at the seams. Some of the neighborhoods out west are not yet fully developed. Shodeen is starting up development on one of his unfinished projects. I don't know how it will impact enrollment but my guess is that in a few years we're going to be very happy that the referendum passed and we built and upgraded our schools. All of this is about nothing more than finding sticks to beat this board. It's about grinding an ax with a democratically elected board. The core of taxFacts group Isn't even on speaking terms with most of the current board. It appears from the forum that taxFacts is getting counsel and guidance from the heartland institute. The heartland institute have school districts squarely in there sights. Dist 304 hire some professional help so that you can address these issues. Rice
Bob McQuillan June 18, 2012 at 12:16 AM
John wants the board and administration to hire professional help. Is that in addition to PMA & William Blair Company that already are hired? Those two "consultants" are part of the reason we have non-callable 9% bonds. Isn't the board supposed to represent the taxpayers? Shouldn't we be able to answer questions? The solution is that someone on the current board needs to stand up and say no to the administration when they propose more increases in next year's budget. As to who advises GenevaTaxFACTS, Heartland institute has never contacted us nor have we contacted them. I didn't met the guest speaker at our town hall meeting until that night. I knew that he works with "For the Good of Illinois" and I support that group's efforts. I didn't know what he was going to say other than it was going to be about what is happening across the state. As to my relationship with current board members, how do you know who I do and do not speak to? Did you know that I sent an e-mail to the board president the day after the town hall thanking him for attending and offering to sit down and discuss anything that was discussed? Communication goes two ways, they have my contact information. John, it might be best if you listen to both sides of a situation before you make assumptions and then share that as truth. No individual or group is under siege. Also, the majority of GenevaTaxFACTS people are not retired. We couldn't if we wanted to, we have high property taxes to pay.
Thomas June 18, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Actually the idea of the having all of the current school board resign because of false information being given several years ago to get something approved at great taxpayer expense is intriguing. Could we also apply this same concept to Congress for approving the multi-trillion dollar Iraq War under the premise that Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction"? The possibilities are endless.
Colin C. June 18, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Thomas, I love that idea. We might even take it a step further and ask any government representative or official who makes a mistake, or belongs to a body that once made a mistake, to resign. What a great way to encourage dedicated people to volunteer to serve our community! Of cf course we might also simply eliminate the body that we disagree with. Hey, no more school board, no more problem, except who represents the community in deciding how our schools are run? Well, that's easy. Eliminate the public school system completely! Let everyone home school! That ends all of the tax burdens once and for all and gives every family complete control over the education of their children. And no more having to second guess the school board. After all, that worked pretty well a couple of hundred years ago, why not today? As you said, the possibilities are endless. Or, on the other hand we might just accept the fact that our population has not grown as rapidly as it might have done and we are facing a problem that will require thoughtful consideration, creative thinking, compromise, and some shared, mutual sacrifice to resolve. Looking back and demanding all of the facts on exactly how this happened so that we can blame someone might make some people feel better but will not help us get to where we need to be. In fact, I think, at this point that effort may just impede the progress that we need to be making.
G.Ryan June 18, 2012 at 03:20 PM
It will also identify the system is broken. If the Board gets away with not being held accountable for their behavior why should they implement any policies or voting for that matter? Why have them? Is it not their purpose to be the utilization and checks and balances for us taxpayers so this type of incidence does not occur? Furthermore, is it not their responsiblity to disclose all evidence to the public specifically when opting for a referendum? Perhaps you are missing the point here. They wanted to pass this referendum no matter what or how the transaction came about. They had the PACs behind them to benefit from it.

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