And When They Get Behind Closed Doors…Then They’ll Let Their Hair Hang Down (Updated)


Beginning at 6:00 p.m. tonight the Board of the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 will interview 8 applicants to fill the seat recently vacated by former Board member Terry Cameron.

The original field consisted of 12 applicants, although D-64 has not explained why or how that field was reduced to the final 8: Vicki Loise, Kristin Gruss, Jennifer Kuzminski, Kimberly Miller, Patrick Moon, Holly Schneider, Katherine Ranalli, and Robert Johnson.  Their names are, literally, all we know about them, even though the interviews are only 4 hours from kick-off.


Because despite all sorts of claims to the contrary, D-64 remains the closest thing to a secret society among any of our four local governmental bodies – thanks in large part to its minister of disinformation and propaganda, Bernadette Tramm, and a complicit School Board that seems to equate anything less than a total information blackout with crystal-clear, well-lit transparency.

How did we find out the names of these finalists? Not from the D-64 website but from a story that was published in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate at 11:40 this morning – “District 64 School Board conducting open meeting to select new member” – barely more than six hours in advance of the meeting at which those 8 finalists will be interviewed in what D-64 is billing as a “public” hearing.

Except that the only “public” part of it will be the applicant interviews themselves.

Once those are over, the six remaining Board members will disappear into…wait for it…closed session “to deliberate and possibly select the new board member,” according to the H-A article.  Secret deliberations are the way D-64 has always rolled.

That’s where the horse-trading and deal-making will go on, well beyond the eyes and ears of the taxpayers and the press who should be entitled to see and hear, either in person or on videotape, every last word of those deliberations – because the person getting Cameron’s old seat will be getting a free pass from the kind of public scrutiny an actual candidate for that office, including Cameron, endures during the course of a normal political campaign. The press and those taxpayers also should get to hear all the reasons for and against each candidate, and get to know which reasons came from which of the six board members.

But D-64 is Chinatown, Jake.  It doesn’t operate out in the open.

In fact, D-64 so revels in its culture of secrecy that, as of 2:00 p.m. today, we still couldn’t find any of the applications for those 8 finalists – or the 4 applicants who mysteriously dropped (or were dropped) out of the running – either on the D-64 website or on the H-A website. So much for any members of the public or the press being able to show up at 164 South Prospect at 6:00 p.m. with even the barest minimum of information from those applications or from the applicants’ answers to three questions which reportedly were sent to them on July 1 and were due back to the District by 6:00 p.m. on July 5, right smack in the middle of the 3-day 4th of July holiday weekend.

The questions:

1. What do you perceive to be the most pressing challenge that District 64 faces and what ideas or strengths would you bring to the Board, if appointed?

2. Additionally, what do you feel is a particular strength of the District and why?

3. Should you be selected, how have you or will you prepare for this position?

Frankly, we’re not impressed with the breadth or the depth of these questions, which seem like they were thrown together between a trip to the grocery store and the beginning of a World Cup game.  We also have to wonder how much more insight into the candidates’ knowledge, views and philosophy of public education can be gained in the scheduled 15-minute interviews, given the shallowness of these initial inquiries and the cumulative 500-word limitation on the answers to all three questions.

But in the end we suspect that, like so many of the ostensibly “public” things D-64 does, those interviews will be more for show than for dough.  The really important stuff will take place where those taxpayers who contribute one-third of their property taxes each year to D-64 won’t get to see or hear it.

Behind closed doors.

UPDATE (07.09.14) D-64 reports that its Board has selected Robert Johnson of Park Ridge to fill the Terry Cameron vacancy.

Johnson has an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School.  He is a senior vice president at Northern Trust who manages relationships with non-profit organizations, including universities, foundations and endowments.  He is the father of an Emerson 8th grader and two D-64 graduates, and previously served on the elected board of a Chicago parochial school.

More information can be found at:

To read or post comments, click on title.

12 comments so far

This process is the best, talk about tallest midgets.

I can only hope for Pat Moon:

EDITOR’S NOTE: And what proof do you have that this is the same person as the D-64 Board applicant? There are 8 “Patrick Moon”s listed in Illinois, including 5 in the greater Chicagoland metropolitan area – 1 in Park Ridge, 1 in Morton Grove, 1 in Chicago, 1 in Bloomingdale and 1 in St. Charles.

What is that old saying from Boss Tweed about the power of those who count the votes? I can see why they would prefer to hide out of public view when they are brokering their deals. Solely for prurient curiosity I would love to be a fly on the wall during those discussions.

You were a big Borrelli backer and endorsed him, but I don’t see any real changes from the way things have always been done. As you wrote, its still Chinatown, Jake.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We can’t really disagree, although in Borrelli’s defense he doesn’t have anything close to a majority of Board members who appear to share the policies and practices Borrelli claims to support. And if we were betting people, we’d still bet that Heyde and Zimmerman run that Board more than Borrelli does.

Is it safe to assume that none of the final 8 are District 64 student-fee scofflaws?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Probably, although we previously wrote about Kathy Ranalli’s beefing about paying student fees in our Jan. 21, 2014 post:

So none of the voting or interviews will be a part of public record?

How does it work with 8 candidates? Are there 1st or 2nd rounds?

This is whats terrible about the school board: You have union hacks and taxpayer dollar user/leeches joining forces against taxpayers to suck every last dollar out of us.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pay attention! As we wrote in the post: “[T]he only “public” part of it will be the applicant interviews themselves.”

None of the “deliberations” that occurred in closed session will be part of a “public record” – unless the D-64 Board chooses to make the tape recording and minutes of that closed session “public.”

And the vast majority of taxpayers just sit there and let themselves get bled, just like lambs let themselves be led to the slaughter.

I just went back and read your post from 1-21-14 (you provided the link in response to Anon yesterday at 3:04 p.m.). It will be a bad sign if Ms. Ranalli joins the D64 board.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s one less thing you need to worry about, FWT: The School Board picked Robert Johnson, a U of C (Booth) MBA and senior vice president at Northern Trust who manages relationships with non-profit organizations, including universities, foundations and endowments.

You can read the D-64 press release here:

7:34 taxpayer users/leeches? Is that your term for parents as students in D64? Sounds like the only thing that would make you happy is to abolish the public school system. Good luck with that.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Based on the numbers we’ve seen and heard, of the approximately 14,000 households in D-64 less than 3,000 have children enrolled in D-64 schools. How long do you think those other 9,000 housholds will keep on tolerating escalating taxes providing increasingly sweetheart compensation and benefits for teachers and administrators in the face of stagnant or declining performance?

Interesting news about Robert Johnson. His résumé of advising educational institutions and having children in the district means he will understand how things work, what are the pressure points, etc. My fear is that he will join the chorus of “we can always spend more money” but maybe he’s also sensitive to taxpayers’ concerns. As we have learned with Drs. Paterno and Borrelli, the only thing that matters is what he does while actually on the board. It’s possible to be fiscally responsible AND achieve quality standards, but this district has consistently avoided both goals.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because its voters keep on electing and re-electing Board members who are intimidated by the “educational professionals” – the administrators and teachers – and who, if they have kids in the District’s schools, may themselves have bought into the not-uncommon perception that retribution against their kids can/will be meted out by members of D-64’s “professional” classes if the parents try to play hard-ball.

10:15, what do you mean, how long will people tolerate supporting schools that they don’t “use?” Are you suggesting a revolt of some sort? I get that selfish and narrow minded types may resent “paying” for something they think doesn’t benefit them but that’s the way the system works. And having an educated populace does benefit everyone, whether you and your ilk care to admit it or not.

EDITOR’S NOTE: When the last D-64 “Strong Schools” referendum was passed in 2007, the District told the voters that it would not seek another referendum for 10 years, meaning 2017. Since 2007 the rankings of D-64 schools compared to other districts have stagnated or declined, based on the ISATs; and the ranking of Maine South, for which D-64 serves as the primary feeder system, has consistently declined – even as the tax burdens of both districts have increased and the teachers’/administrators’ compensation has increased substantially.

Do you really think those kinds of factors are going to enhance D-64’s ability to pass that 2017 referendum?

And what makes you think a majority of the “educated populace” you mention is home grown?

Sorry if this comment makes me sound ignorant of the process, but when you say “voters keep electing and reelecting Board members,” are you talking about the voters in the general population? Aside from showing up at meetings (which I agree is a good idea), what can the average resident do to play a more active role in the school district?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yep, the voters who for the past couple of decades have been electing school board members far more capable of ratchetting up the compensation of teachers and administrators than of ratchetting up the performance and rankings of the district’s schools.

What can you do besides show up at meetings? Inform yourself by reading Board packets and meeting minutes. Demand performance instead of accept propaganda. Run for the school board, or work on the campaign of candidates who will demand performance and not accept propaganda – especially if you don’t have kids in the districts and don’t have to worry about your kids suffering any of the retribution, real or imaginary, which we’ve heard many parents say they fear.

A couple of related comments, inspired by news from the pages of local D64 house organ the Herald-Advocate:

First, in the write-up about Robert Johnson joining the school board, it’s noted that all but one of the candidates “are parents of former, current or soon-to-be District 64 students” and the other “did have significant connection” to the school system, according to Dr. Borrelli. Is that supposed to be a qualification for being on the Board? What about my $8,000 a year in property taxes paid to D-64 — is that not a “significant connection”? What if I had applied? Here’s the article:

Second, it seems the previous D-64 superintendent, Dr. Philip Bender, landed the same job up in Crystal Lake. Congratulations. Now…are we still funding his D-64 pension, even though he is employed elsewhere?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the D-64 Board ran off and hid its “deliberations” in closed session, we’ll probably never know just how important former-of-current “D-64 parent” status in the selection process. But if the Board president is pointing that out, it probably was a signficant factor.

As for Bender’s pension, as we understand it Crystal Lake rather than D-64 will be makeing the contributions from here on out. But the actual pension benefits Bender receives will come from the Teachers Retirement System (“TRS”), a public pension plan for Illinois public school teachers and administrators to which D-64 previously contributed.

Thanks PW. Regarding criteria for board membership, I must say that I am losing confidence in Dr. Borrelli as time goes on. He seems to have drank the Kool-Aid. Regarding the pension thing, that actually seems fair. We contribute while he’s here, then Crystal Lake picks it up. I get it. The benefits are still too high, but at least we’re paying only what we should.

EDITOR’S NOTE: He has not displayed the steel spine we had hoped for. But in fairness to him – and assuming he truly believes in the principles he expressed during his campaign – he is surrounded not just by Kool-Aid drinkers but by Kool-Aid makers, both on the Board and in the administration.

The pension contribution situation is as “fair” as such a fundamentally flawed system as TRS permits.

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