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TaxFACTS Member Accuses School Board of 'Prejudice' Toward Critics

Geneva resident Rick Holinger says the School Board's attitude toward TaxFACTS is "first cousin" to the prejudice against blacks during the civil rights movement.

A Geneva resident and local newspaper columnist on Monday compared Geneva School Board members' attitude toward the TaxFACTS group to the prejudice aimed at blacks during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Rick Holinger of 335 Colonial Circle read a prepared speech that lasted a little more than five minutes, the standard time allotted for public comment at a School Board meeting.

"This is not a speech about black history," he said, "but it is about prejudice; that is, about ignorance."

Holinger told the story of when he was 15 years old and his mother said Dr. Martin Luther King was coming to Chicago "to stir up trouble." Later—after reading Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and others in college—Holinger came to realize that he and his mother knew little about the black experience and had been guilty of prejudice.

He said something similar is happening here in Geneva.

"Lately, it has become fashionable to call someone who commits himself to bettering his community an activist, loudmouth or egomaniac," he said. "And if polite society believes someone is pushing too hard or too long, he might even be accused of trying to wrest control of government."

Hollinger is a member of the Geneva TaxFACTS citizens group, a teacher at Marmion Academy, a book author and columnist for the Kane County Chronicle.

"When the board and others attack a ground-roots organization like the TaxFACTS group because it tries to get the attention of the board and the community, because it tries to encourage better transparency and to face facts, I hear my mother say, 'That Geneva TaxFACTS is trying to stir up trouble.' "

Holinger referenced comments made by School Board member Matt Henry at the Jan. 23 School Board meeting. 

"A member of the School Board delivered a speech accusing 'some' people of thinking the board existed to give away everything to the teachers and administrators. In so saying, he stereotyped all well-meaning critics of the board as extremists bent on selfishly saving money," Holinger said.

Holinger paraphrased Henry, who pointed out on Jan. 23 that School Board members have endured a lot of name-calling of late.

"It's true. I've called the board 'arrogant,' " Holinger said, "because when drowning in a slough of doubt and offered a life vest of community volunteers with financial expertise, the board overwhelmingly voted, 'No.' "

Holinger was alluding to TaxFACTS suggestions for the creation of a school-finance advisory group made up of citizens and board members.

Later in the meeting, Holinger and other residents asked the School Board to provide copies of, or access to board meeting video or audio recordings, either via MP3 audio format or on disks so that citizens could review the meetings with a fast-forward or rewind function. Presently, the board meeting videos are offered on Comcast Channel 10.

"If I failed to paraphrase Mr. Henry's presenation accurately, it is not for want of trying," Holinger said. "I also tried to transcribe the speech from the Channel 10 video, but the sound quality was horrendous, and the antique method of broadcasting these meetings makes it impossible to stop the tape and take notes."

Sandra Ellis, 209 Peyton St., said she had "worked behind the scenes" to convince the School District to make videos available in a downloadable format from the District 304 website or make video recordings available on a hard disk.

"It’s not an unreasonable request to make them on demand," she said.

Barry Bourdage suggested that the School Board post videos of the meetings on YouTube, where they could be accessed by anyone.

"This is a public forum, correct?" he said. "I’m confused about why this is such a complex task." 

Henry said after the meeting that he understood the concerns of the speakers and was trying hard not to take offense at Holinger's allegations of prejudice.

"If I thought it had merit or grounds, I'd be upset," he said. "But this is just thoughtless accusations. What are you going to do. Goodness."

School Board President Mark Grosso said techonology issues and costs made it difficult to immediately provide videos to every member of the public, but "we’ll trend toward trying to get it in a format" people can use.

Board member Kelly Nowak, who serves on the School Board's Communication Task Force, said the district is working on a solution that could be ready for presentation in a matter of weeks.

"I think we have found something, and I think we will all be pleasantly surprised," she said. "Bear with us, but we are getting there."

Jeff Ward February 28, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Michael, Not yet! And this FACTS bleep that if you have the slightest connection to anything even slightly school related then it must be a conspiracy is just that - bleep. I have consistently taken on teacher's unions, tenure, overspending and overbuilding. The fact that I know and respect teachers doesn't mean I can't think for myself. If, as it always is in FACTS' world, the slightest hint of self-interest screws the pooch, then what hope is there for any of us? Bob only wants to believe he's important. And he keeps this battle going to convince himself he is. If it ended, what would he do with all his time? Currently there are all of 19 registered users on the FACTS website. Even after insistent advertising in the comments on my columns that's the best they can do. I get more that 19 comments on a Monday column. Yes, most, but not all, of the information is good. But except for one brief moment where 300 people showed up to a board meeting - which FACTS didn't have the capacity to capitalize on - Bob hasn't accomplished a single thing. Jeff
Bob McQuillan February 28, 2012 at 10:46 PM
I knew you couldn't pass that one up. As a writer and good friend of the speaker, I would have thought you would understand what he was saying. I didn't go to Geneva Schools and don't use big words like self-aggrandizement and don't really care what it means. Based on your previous personal attacks, i bet it doesn't mean something nice! Amazing, I don't say a word at a meeting and I still get personally attacked. Jeff, I think you need to find a new whipping boy cause this one won't take your bs. Jeff, look in the mirrior, you might be surprised at what you see. As to your comparsion, thanks for the honor but I don't claim to be anyone except a local taxpayer that will not stand for an administration and school board that spends the community's money like it comes from an endless ATM machine. I doubt they spend their own money the way they spend ours. Sorry we can't all work behind the scenes and claim success in everything we think or suggest, like you do. Do you take credit for the huge salary increases that the teachers received from 2008 thru 2011? That's right, you won't lower yourself to look at the current news tab at www.genevataxfacts.org. Though we all know you couldn't help but peek, it is amazing how websites can track viewings. They can even track when a school district computer is used for 40 minutes during the work day to look at a website. Even knows who signs up for future e-mails using an insulting name. Yep, we know, and so does your boss.
M Marx February 28, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Those aren't all the FACTS Mr. McQuillan. I am well aware that Kane County has available and will provide both Republican and Democratic voting records. The complete FACT is that it does not indicate how they voted and yes, some Democrats vote as well. However, it does indicate their age range and other demographics. I have seen those records as well for past elections. I believe that I do understand the comments as made by Dr. Holinger and I stand by my thoughts on that matter.
Jeff Ward February 28, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I take that back. Bob actually has accomplished making it virtually impossible for us to work together to resolve the challenges that face us in D303. Jeff
Jeff Ward February 28, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Dude, I have never signed up for anything anonymously and I never will. And I certainly haven't signed up for anything from FACTS. Can I assume then that we're down to 18? Jeff
Justin Eggar February 28, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Jeff, Let's be fair though, of the 19+ comments you get, 9/10s of them are hate mail :p Justin
Paul Bryant February 28, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Geneva is District 304, Jeff. You bulldog of a reporter you! Make sure you read between the lines, Michael. The "Not yet!" means his wife is trying to jump on the D304 gravy train.
Steven Sheehan February 28, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Here is a suggestion, and I will send it to the Finance Advisory Committee as soon as they tell me which form to use to communicate with them. This is how Woodstock CUSD 200 presents the Budget to the taxpayers. It’s clean, historical and detailed. It includes clear explanatory narrative and nicely formatted tables, charts and graphs. Have someone call CUSD 200 and ask if they can borrow the template. Then rent a CPA for a week to crunch the numbers. Use that format going forward and we all get the benefit of transparency. Or, create an advisory committee and teach the taxpayers to communicate telepathically with them. http://www.woodstockschools.org/sites/default/files/woodstockschooldistrict200/document/BudgetFY2012FINALforWeb.pdf
Bob McQuillan February 28, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Now if M Marx would provide his real name, we could have a discussion. Still didn't answer where you got your demographic information from.
Bob McQuillan February 28, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Jeff has just jumped the shark! Read my comment, never said you signed up for anything anonymously, I said you looked at the website. Read before you write my little friend. The sign up was a school district employee who, based on the language used, should not be a school district employee anymore. Dude, I have never signed up for anything anonymously and I never will. And I certainly haven't signed up for anything from FACTS. Can I assume then that we're down to 18? Jeff
Bob McQuillan February 29, 2012 at 12:03 AM
"Bob only wants to believe he's important. And he keeps this battle going to convince himself he is. If it ended, what would he do with all his time?" I'm hoping I can Dance with the Geneva Stars. That way, the Geneva Patch will write a dozen stories about the biggest social event of the year. Oh, that's right, you have to be important to Dance with the Geneva Stars. Guess I'll never be invited. Doubt Jeff will be either. Also remember to go to www.genevataxfacts.org and join Jeff's 19 friends that get e-mails from us. See Jeff really wants me to give the actual number because there is no way he knows who has signed up or not. Lets allow him to think it is 19 because he does know all the behind the scenes information so because of that what he says must be true. I didn't forget to plug www.genevataxfacts.org on Jeff's column did I? Actually this isn't even his "column." Sorry, it is the self-aggrandizement in me. Can't wait for tomorrow's or Friday's Jeff Ward column where for the 100th time he tell FACTS how they haven't accomplished anything and he has been working with the board and there are MAJOR announcements coming because of his hard work and skills. Bleep, bleep, bleep Better watch it Jeff or Rick Nagel will get more comments than you!
M Marx February 29, 2012 at 12:15 AM
I believe I did answer. Any citizen may obtain voting records, democratic or republican through a request process with Kane County. As I said, could you provide the numbers (FACTS) of people who voter based on a cheerleader or citizen activist category.
M Marx February 29, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Wow...and I read in your blogs how you want honesty, facts, and transparency from the elected officials in this town. But, you suggest that you have not done the same with your website members. Some transparency and FACTS.
Michael February 29, 2012 at 12:35 AM
The thing with genevataxfacts.org is that you don't have to join to use it. I encourage everyone just to pay a visit and click on the district304 > contracts and salaries and read a few of the PDF's. You're not going to hear about it from the local journalists - it seems they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
Bob McQuillan February 29, 2012 at 01:16 AM
M Marx I will as soon as you follow the rules of the Geneva Patch and post under your current name. I don't play under your rules and never will. Come out from behind the curtain and have a real conversation. I'll meet you anytime, anywhere. You name the place and time and I'll be there.
Dave Erickson February 29, 2012 at 02:47 AM
No I am in no way connected to the school district or any of the teachers. I am just a happy citizen of Geneva and am dismayed about the radical fringes trying to disrupt our community in the name of keeping our elected citizens honest. They think the school board is some secret society bent on spending like a drunken sailor. My thought is that if they know how to run it better then run for the open seats and see how much respect and gratitude they receive from the next fringe group of doogooders. They may accidentally gain some respect for those that have the guts to serve.
Dave Erickson February 29, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Martina, I am not sure what your snarky comment was meant to imply but no, I am in no way connected to the school board, teachers or the school only in that I have a daughter in high school. I am just a happy Geneva citizen that wishes that the radical fringe groups that continue to throw stones at the school board walk a mile in their shoes for a change and see how much appreciation they receive for serving the community. Also, do you imply that a 2nd grade teacher does not deserve to earn that type of salary? I for one think they do. Also, if you or any of the other taxFACTS.org group think they can run the school board any better, then I advise them to run for the empty seats. Why complain and argue when they can become part of the "secret society" and make all the decisions they want. I am sick of people pointing out the problems without any solutions.
Angela Kane February 29, 2012 at 04:22 AM
Ok folks. Let's try to act like adults here. First, anyone who posts on the Patch about an issue should use their REAL name. Please, follow the rules and behave. Second, I do not understand why Bob receives such criticism for his hard work on TaxFacts. He has concerns about where our hard earned money is going, and for that he should be applauded and not berated. It's obvious that area journalists have engaged in petty personal squabbles (yes, Jeff, that means you) rather than hold their egos in check and properly check the information on both sides of the issues and objectively report their findings. Woeful negligence--journalistic objectivity is sadly lacking in today's media. Like Bob I was once an unsuccessful candidate for school board. I make no excuses for the loss but am very proud that I stepped up (like Bob did) and volunteered my time and expertise to the public. At the time I warned of the coming financial tsunami and the devastating effects of out of control taxes particularly on the elderly. At the time people were not very receptive to the message. Well, tough times are here and we should be aware of how each and every dollar is spent. So stop squabbling and let's get out the red pen and start cutting some expenses. And Bob, keep up the questions and hold every public official accountable.
Lou B. February 29, 2012 at 06:00 AM
Well said Angela.
Jeff Ward February 29, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Angela, I was going to save this for the Monday column, but first, reporters have to be objective, but opinion columnists don't. We're paid to render our opinion. People only say we're not objective when they don't agree with what we wrote. Second, there has been a method to my madness of going after Bob. I wasn't sure if he'd ever say it, but he just did when he essentially said he doesn't wand to be my whipping boy. And there you have it! The school board doesn't want to be his "whipping boy" either. Jeff
Angela Kane February 29, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Yes Jeff, I do understand your position as an "opinion columnist." (Does everone get Jeff's subtle dismissive attitude there?) Unfortunately you have, for what seems like an eternity, engaged in a personal crusade to challenge Bob on EVERYTHING. It's tiring and petty. There are ways to "render your opinion" without coming off as a crabby old coot, but Bob seems like the burr under your saddle. Maybe the next time you respond to him you should take a moment and consider what you are writing before you hit that "submit" button.
Angela Kane February 29, 2012 at 02:53 PM
And that "whipping boy" thing---when people stand for election they take that risk. If you don't want your decisions challenged then don't run for election.
Jeff Ward February 29, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Angela, Yes! I purposely and relentlessly went after Bob in the hope that he would see his own behavior in mine. I had hoped to be the mirror in which he saw himself. When he said that he wouldn't be my whipping boy, I hope he finally understands that no one on the D304 board wants to be his whipping boy either. I'm hoping that, having experienced it himself, he now understands what it's like to be constantly and consistently attacked regardless of what you do. And now, having made my point, there will be no more "attacks" on Bob. Jeff
Jeff Ward February 29, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Angela, Bob chose to be a public figure when he courted the press so he took the risk of becoming a "whipping boy." If he doesn't like it, then he can resign from FACTS. Jeff
Steven Sheehan February 29, 2012 at 03:26 PM
There are about 9000 homes on the tax rolls in Geneva. There are about 6000 CUSD 304 students (or is that still a secret). So about 1/2 - 4500 homes have a teacher/child relationships. For some bizarre reason, Bob is willing to represent a rapidly growing number of residents who are equally alarmed about our fiscal position at the school (i.e., taxes and debt), but are reluctant to be vocal about it for obvious reasons. They are in awkward position and they quietly encourage Bob to keep pushing for solutions. Yes, there are 20 people registered on GTF to participate in the Forum Posting. There is metric page available to readers. Same registration process for posting on Patch - reading is open, posting requires a registration. So far, it's me posting and my mother and a bunch of other frustrated taxpaying seniors providing the page views. But as you know - a click is a click. (Thanks Mom). I think there is common ground. More data and communication are better than less. Let's find out why Woodstock is leading the way with progressive and transparent reporting and see if we can build on their approach to communications. http://www.woodstockschools.org/sites/default/files/woodstockschooldistrict200/document/BudgetFY2012FINALforWeb.pdf
Angela Kane February 29, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Jeff--I think that Bob has stood up to your relentless petty carping rather well...which probably ticks you off even more. His leadership of TaxFacts helps us all -- even you -- by keeping an eye on school expenditures we all get better value for our hard earned money.
M Marx February 29, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Seems like there is a double standard going on here. Ms. Kane and Mr. McQuillan want all to post their full and honest names on Patch according to the rules, but don't mind if Mike, Martina, Rudy, etc. post (ie those who agree with their positions). Also, Ms. Kane is disappointed that there appears to be a personal crusade against one person, but when its against the Board of Education they asked for it in being elected? As Mr. Ward pointed out, TaxFACTS has established themselves as a special interest group on behalf of the public. Can't they expect the same? Ms Kane admonishes Mr. Ward for not checking both sides of the story. I do agree we need to focus on the facts. Could you please enlighten us as to how you check Bob's facts with those of the the School District? Could you give us a factual number of times you have asked questions of the district, their administrators, attended board meetings, or asked for verification of the Mr. McQuillan's "facts" with anyone else? As you said, getting both sides is paramount. Mr. Sheehan, could I pose the same questions to you.? What have you verified? Do you attend Board Meetings? Have you asked for corroboration of the FACTS as you see them from anyone but Mr. McQuillan? Have you shared the links to other districts directly with the school board or district if in fact your concern is for your elected officials to get it right? FACTS and Transparency are definitely needed.
Rick Anderson March 03, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Dear Mr. Nagel: I am curious, what is now the intent of publishing the addresses of people stated in your column?
Jack April 25, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Absolutely correct, Ms Kane -- the board works for the tax-payer/voters. If they fail to disclose facts and publish distortions, we have a right and a duty to "whip" them, expressions of "Opinion" by those who claim we should expect nothing better from public servants not withstanding. Given the strong feelings involved, I am pleased that 90% of the published comments have been reasonable, and reasonably well expressed. I'm happy to live in a community where that is the case. Even so, many of them indicate that we are losing sight of the main issues: the truth was purposely withheld from the voters; and, efforts to put some sunlight on the process have been actively resisted by those who should be standing up for the taxpayers. In other words: the process has been subverted; the follow-up is being stonewalled; and, large amounts of money are involved -- the most alarming of bells and the reddest of flags.
Craig Burns July 03, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Martina, He asked an honest question in a respectful manner. Why the attack? I don't claim to support or oppose this 2nd Grade teacher's salary, but did you really have to say that? Did you memorize each teacher's salary or look up teachers with the last name "Erickson" when you saw his comment? Because my last name is Burns, do you assume I am related to the mayor?

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