Memorial Day 2016


On this solemn day we reprint our post from Memorial Day 2013.

Memorial Day 2013: “Go Tell The Spartans…”

At the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., a Spartan king and 300 of his personal bodyguards sacrificed their lives to delay the advance of a massive Persian army and to cover the retreat of more than 3,000 of their non-Spartan allies.  As reported by the historian Herodotus, that heroic effort led to an epitaph at the battle site which translates as:

“Stranger, go tell the Spartans that here we are buried, obedient to their orders.”

That heroism, sense of duty and sacrifice first recorded so long ago helped save Greece, the threshold of democracy, from conquest.  And it is typical of so many soldiers who have given their lives for their countries, many of them young Americans like the soldier whose story was first told in a letter to the editor of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate for Memorial Day 2000 by Park Ridge resident Joseph C. “Jay” Hirst – himself a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star recipient as a Ranger in Vietnam.  That story is reprinted here with Jay’s permission:

*           *           *

It seems that about every other year, I am compelled to submit a letter regarding Memorial Day and what it means to this Vietnam veteran.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a young man named Ken Wedman, who served his country all too well so long ago. With your indulgence, let me tell you of another, John Wasilow, who also deserves our thanks and remembrance every Memorial Day.

John was from South Carolina. Couldn’t understand most of what he had to say, and John had problems finding a niche in the squad.

Tried him out as a radio operator, his accent doomed that effort. Tried him as a rifleman, but he couldn’t shoot straight. Figured what he couldn’t hit with a rifle, he could with a grenade launcher. Made John a grenadier.

John humped that launcher, his ruck and about 50 grenades all over II Corps without ever a complaint. “Ironman” became his nickname.

On a late November night, at the beginning of the monsoons, in Binh Dinh province, Ironman saved my life.

Moving along a narrow bank near the Bong Son River (just below silhouette framing), the NVA opened up on my squad. While we caught a lucky break that the slope of the bank provided cover from the small-arms fire, it was going to be only a matter of minutes before the grenades or, worse yet, mortars came in.

My RTO was calling for air support when suddenly, from my right, grenades are flying out at an incredible rate.


With the resulting slacking of NVA fire, we moved rapidly to the wood line 200 feet away. I looked back to see Wasilow running to, and setting up, a new position toward our rear. Didn’t think much more about it at the time.

We held at the woods, with two missing men, and called in air support. A gunship that responded put the NVA forces at more than 60, and a Mike Strike Force Company from across the river caught them. The KIA count was 16 NVA.

But, John was dead.

His initial rate of fire from a weapon less than desirable in a close-range firefight had lifted the NVA fire enough to allow the squad an escape from certain disaster with the additional loss of only one wounded “booner” (infantryman). Wasilow had been hit at least four times, yet his bandoleer was empty.  He died after firing his last grenade.

John could have laid wounded and may have survived.  He didn’t have to get up wounded and put himself at peril again as the squad sought safety, but he did.

Ironman was aptly named.

We did all the paperwork to nominate Wasilow for the DSC. To this date, I don’t know if it happened.

Like I said, John didn’t have to do what he did. But he did, and I am alive today because of it.

Memorial Day is his day, Kenny’s day, and the day of all the veterans like these two. I remember them almost every day. Because of them, I have a son, the love of a wife, and a life. You can begin, I hope, to see and understand my gratitude.

The least we Americans can do is give them their day, their deserved honor, and our heartfelt thanks. God knows I do.

*           *           *

To truly “celebrate” Memorial Day, one stop every American should make before firing up the grill or cracking open the cooler is at a cemetery.  Any cemetery will do – just look for the little American flags, planted each Memorial Day by various veterans’ organizations out of their own sense of honor and duty, which mark the graves of veterans.

Take a moment to note the service of each of those veterans whose graves you come across.

Take a little more time and, with a little luck and a quick calculation, you’ll probably find at least one grave of an American soldier actually killed in action.  When you do, remember Abraham Lincoln’s stirring invocation – at Gettysburg in 1863 – of  “these honored dead” who “gave the last full measure of devotion” so that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

And then offer a heartfelt “thanks” for their ultimate sacrifice.

Robert J. Trizna

Editor and publisher

To read or post a comment, click on title.

City Attorney Is Blowing Smoke On Public Evaluation Of City Mgr.


Those Park Ridge residents who oppose the principles of H.I.T.A. (“Honesty, Integrity, Transparency, Accountability”) espoused by our late Mayor Dave Schmidt got an early Christmas present a couple of weeks ago when relatively new City Attorney Julie Tappendorf proclaimed the City’s unique contribution to open government – the open-session performance evaluation of the city manager – violated the Illinois Personnel Records Review Act (the “PRRA”).

You can watch and listen to her sparse explanation of why that is by checking out the 05.16.16 meeting video, starting at the 1:36:10 mark and continuing for about 9 minutes.

Tappendorf pointed to a 2010 amendment to the PRRA which provides that “disclosure of performance evaluations under the Freedom of Information Act shall be prohibited.” You can read not only that provision (highlighted in yellow) but the entire PRRA by clicking here.

Tappendorf is no bumbler: she knows municipal law, including its various permutations like the PRRA and the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”). But she makes her living exclusively by representing governmental bodies and by telling the public officials who run those bodies – both elected/appointed and bureaucrats –what they want to hear. Those officials generally are as enthusiastic about transparency as vampires are about sunshine. So the best way for her (and most/all other government-centric attorneys) to stay on good paper with those officials is to find ways to help them hide, and hide what they’re doing, from their constituents who pay the freight; i.e., the taxpayers.

When Park Ridge, with its iconoclastic City Council, was added to AG’s stable of governmental clients last year, it must have dawned on Tappendorf and her partners that they might have problems justifying our Council’s several year old process of reviewing the city manager’s performance in open session – with the individual aldermanic evaluations published on the City’s website so that each of those aldermen could be held as accountable for how HE evaluated the city manager as the city manager was being held for HIS performance – to their other government clients whom they’ve encouraged for years to run into closed sessions and hide such reviews from their constituents.

That meant Tappendorf couldn’t continue to let the City Council operate in the sunshine. The solution: steal our sunshine.

And not just by scaring our acting mayor and his six fellow aldermen into not publishing their evaluations on the City’s website with warnings about lawsuits, fines and the heartbreak of psoriasis. She also tried to stampede them into conducting the actual evaluation discussion itself in closed sessions, going so far as to suggest that the consequences of what the City Council has already done might be so dire that they shouldn’t even be talked about in open session where the unwashed public might actually hear the reasoning behind her opinions.

That reasoning could prove mighty interesting given that Tappendorf appears to be extending Section 11 of the PRRA – which was enacted back in 2010 and is expressly limited to FOIA requests – to City Council meetings held under the provisions of IOMA which permit but do not require ANY closed session discussions.

And although Section 11 has been in effect for more than five years now, we could not find one Illinois court decision interpreting or enforcing that Section consistent with Tappendorf’s opinion and advice; nor could we find any Illinois Attorney General opinion supporting Tappendorf. In the world of law and litigation, attorney opinions and arguments without the support of such authority are regularly disregarded by the courts, and should be.

That might explain Tappendorf’s desire to hide her reasoning in closed session, where the only alderman who might have the legal chops to challenge her opinions and advice is Ald. Nick Milissis, an attorney. But with Milissis’ expertise concentrated primarily in national security and terrorism matters, he likely would not be able to go toe-to-toe with Tappendorf on a matter such as this.

So far the only support we’ve heard for Tappendorf’s advocacy of a return to Star Chamber government, at least when it comes to evaluating the City’s CEO and highest-paid official, comes from known disciples of the pre-Mayor Dave “old style” of Park Ridge government, where the elected officials who weren’t content to simply bury their heads in the sand did their best to thwart transparency, scrutiny and accountability not only for themselves but also for their bureaucrat buddies drawing good salaries and accruing even better pensions on the taxpayers’ dime.

You can tell those supporters by their description of the open-session evaluation of the city manager as horrific, embarrassing, cruel, unthinkable, and a form of public humiliation.

Of course, that’s the same mindset that considers a lack of transparency and accountability by public employees, and annual raises unrelated to performance, as an acceptable form of entitlement. And that’s the same mindset that has prevailed, and continues to prevail, at the Star Chambers that pass for school boards at School Districts 64 and 207.

Tappendorf’s predecessor, former city attorney Everette “Buzz” Hill, described our City Council as “a unique outfit” with “an antipathy toward closed sessions” which Hill conceded might very well be “a real healthy antipathy” despite its being unlike anything he had observed in any of the various governmental bodies for whom he provided legal services. You can read more about Hill’s comments in our 02.02.15 post. While we disagreed with Hill on more than one occasion, that kind of acknowledgment by a long time public-sector attorney was itself unprecedented.

And accurate.

If this Council truly believes in H.I.T.A., and if its antipathy to closed sessions and unnecessary secrecy is as sincere as it is “unique” and “healthy,” it should demand that Tappendorf provide a memo (publishable on the City’s website) in which she sets out her complete argument – with supporting Illinois case decisions, if any exist – demonstrating that Section 11 of the PRRA: (a) legally prohibits the City’s voluntary publication of the city manager’s evaluations by each alderman, unrelated to any FOIA obligation or request; and (b) legally prohibits the Council’s open-session evaluation of the city manager even though such a discussion is permissible under IOMA.

And to avoid having to revisit this issue every year, or biannually with the seating of each new council, this City Council should require the next city manager appointee to sign an employment contract in which he/she expressly agrees to an open-session evaluation at the Council’s discretion. Any city manager candidate who subscribes to H.I.T.A. should have no problem doing so; and any candidate who doesn’t subscribe to H.I.T.A. doesn’t deserve the job.

To borrow a phrase from George Orwell: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

And telling it publicly rather than inside the closed-session Star Chamber is a “unique” and “healthy” revolutionary act.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Hamilton’s Tenure A Teaching Experience…For Those Who Want To Learn


The sudden resignation of City Manager Shawn Hamilton last week brings to a close a worthwhile experiment that produced mixed results.

The experiment? Hiring a city manager with limited public-sector experience.

Back in July 2012, a majority of the then-city council approved mayor Dave Schmidt’s appointment of Hamilton after the previous city manager – Jim Hock, a career bureaucrat – was sacked for unsatisfactory performance. Hock was a replacement for yet another career bureaucrat, Tim Schuenke, who should have been sacked for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which was helping former mayors Wietecha, Marous and Frimark mastermind the Uptown TIF debacle.

Schuenke, however, was allowed to retire in 2008 with a healthy Illinois guaranteed pension. And he promptly moved back to Wisconsin where he could keep his Illinois pension benefits flowing while pulling down another six-figure salary as the City Administrator of Delafield, WI, until his second retirement (and second government pension?) in 2012.

The buffoonery and outright malfeasance of Hamilton’s predecessors is exactly why we welcomed him, noting in our 08.01.12 post that he was “a high risk, high reward selection” because he had less than a year of public sector experience – as Grundy County Administrator with only a $14 million budget – after working in banking and management consulting.

In fairness, Hamilton did some good things for the City.

He brought some needed youth and energy into the office after his two older predecessors pretty much sucked the life out of it. And he was willing to work for a smaller salary than they did, which was still a bump-up from his Grundy County paycheck as he continued to live in, and commute from, a lower-cost Coal City.

Hamilton also had some success in addressing the myriad problems he inherited from his predecessors, not the least of which was refinancing parts of the Uptown TIF. And after Mayor Dave and the Council set him off in the right direction, he helped move the City into a better overall financial position (so that, e.g., the City no longer had to borrow from the sewer fund to make payroll) while keeping tax increases – which had been held at artificially low levels by the aforementioned Wietecha, Marous and Frimark, even as infrastructure was being neglected – tolerable.

Unfortunately, his performance never reached the level of consistent excellence needed by this community and demanded by our City Council in addressing such difficult situations like flooding. And he did not appear willing to take ownership of, and provide the necessary leadership on, projects like the Storm Water Utility, the alternate water supply initiative, and strategic planning – leaving those to the Council to battle.

In a public sector where every job seems to be treated as an entitlement without accountability, finding a new city manager measurably better than Hamilton may be no easy task, especially if the rumors are true that, within the career bureaucrat community, Park Ridge is considered a “tough” assignment because our aldermen are not mindless rubber-stampers who treat every City employee as a Lake Woebegone trifecta: strong, good-looking and above average. That alone can be the kiss of death when recruiting career bureaucrats who expect kudos and annual raises just for showing up on a regular basis and avoiding indictment.

What does that mean for getting a quality city manager? For starters it might mean a salary near the $200,000/year mark.

When Schuenke left in 2008, he was pulling down $180,000 plus a few perks. Hock’s all-in package (including perks) totaled around $200,000. And that clown car known as the School Board of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 paid rookie Supt. Laurie Heinz more than $200,000, plus perks, for an undistinguished first year (2014-15) of a three-year contract – before hiding in several secretive closed session “reviews” around this time last year before emerging to announce both a one-year extension to Heinz’s contract and even more money in her pay envelope.

At a salary of around $160,000 and fewer perks than his predecessors, Hamilton actually was a bargain, even if only for 3.5 years.

Given Hamilton’s predecessors’ compensation and the fact that Heinz oversees a budget of roughly the same $70 million-plus as the City’s while serving less than 5,000 students to the city manager’s 37,000+ resident customer base, a city manager salary in the vicinity of $200,000 might be a rough midpoint between what Heinz is getting and what Hamilton got last year. And the taxpayers can count on this City Council being much more demanding of any $200,000/year city manager than the $250,000/year-plus Heinz’s milquetoast bosses on the D-64 Board could ever be.

Although the Hamilton experiment was far from a complete success, it did demonstrate that somebody with a private sector background and just a year of public-sector experience can pretty much do as well/poorly as career bureaucrats, if not better.

Merci et bon chance, Mr. Hamilton.

And bon chance to the new Acting City Manager, Joe Gilmore, whose upgrade from City Finance Director was unanimously approved at last night’s Council meeting.

To read or post comments, click on title.

Can Carla Owen Stop The Slide At D-207?


Carla Owen recently was elected as the new School Board president at Maine Township H.S. District 207.

Owen takes over from Margaret McGrath, who held that office for the past three years during which Maine South High School, the flagship of the D-207 fleet and once one of the top handful of Illinois high schools, has fallen to a most recent 45th in U.S. News & World’s annual rankings – behind even the likes of Elk Grove Village and Wheeling.

As we pointed out in our 04.22.16 post, that’s down 16 notches from its 2012 ranking, right before Ms. McGrath got the big chair on the D-207 Board. And she and this Board reacted to that news with deafening silence.

But even more troubling than the decline in rankings is the assertion, also by U.S. News, is Maine South’s 40.8% “College Readiness” figure.

Let’s be clear, however: That slide in the rankings should not be blamed entirely on Ms. McGrath’s leadership or her board’s stewardship.

Academic achievement and rankings involve many factors, with teaching quality and administrative competence first and foremost. After all, if teachers and administrators are being paid – quite handsomely at D-207, especially when salary and pension are added together (and even when they’re not) – to provide quality education, these declining rankings and college readiness figures suggest that those “educators” aren’t getting the job done.

And let’s not forget the students and their parents. If a majority of a student body is a confederacy of dunces, it’s unlikely to yield top academic performance – especially if their parents also are dunces and/or undemanding and under-engaged.

But we’re not ready to blame rampant dunce-ness, either of students or parents.

Which is why we must look to the teachers and administrators who never acknowledge that everything is ever less than than seashells and balloons at Maine South, if not at the District’s other schools.

When educational performance keeps sliding while the cost of that education keeps rising, however, it’s up to the School Board – the taxpayers’ elected representatives – n0t just to ask the teachers and administrators “Why?” but also to demand honest, understandable and unequivocal answers to that question. And to hold those teachers and administrators accountable for their failures.

That’s where Ms. McGrath and her boards, including the current one, failed.

Hopefully, Ms. Owen – an attorney who should know how to ask tough questions and how to see through evasive answers – will have more success than her predecessor, also an attorney but who, along with her fellow board members over the past three years, seemed more concerned with going along to get along with both the teachers and the administrators.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

As reported in the May 4 edition of the Park Ridge Journal & Topics (“Owen Succeeds McGrath As Maine Township High School Dist. 207 Board President”), at least two Board members seem focused on more frolic and diversions than on the basic learning that might realistically bump-up that 40.8% college readiness figure.

Per the Journal story, Board member Jin Lee and and Supt. Ken Wallace are working on an initiative to match up one or more D-207 schools with a school in Korea “to learn to share experiences, to learn cultures” which, if successful – by whatever measure they might make up – could be expanded to Europe, Africa, or South America. And Board member Mary Childers thinks that’s swell because of the District’s multicultural student body.

How typical of educators – and rubber-stamp Board members – to ignore ranking slide and the fact that more than half of their students/clients/customers aren’t college-ready when they graduate

But, hey, look on the bright side.

Rankings and college readiness might not improve, but at least D-207 students could learn how to make kimchi .

To read or post comments, click on title.

First Generation Of Chromebooks Prove Tarnished


It was just two years ago that Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 rolled out its new Chromebook-based curriculum to great fanfare and applause, almost all of which was generated by the D-64 Board and Administration.

We wrote about it in our 07.21.14 post and our 08/26/14 post.

The Chromebooks were going to be the latest “magic bullet” for raising the District’s stagnant-to-sliding academic performance – as demonstrated by those pesky standardized test that provide those annoying objectively-measurable test results. Or maybe they were only intended to be $778,000 worth of new shiny objects to divert attention away from those test scores and related rankings.

Anybody who dared question the power and accuracy of this latest “magic bullet” was ridiculed as old fashioned, an unenlightened naysayer, and/or anti-child. That’s the strategy of choice by the “professional” education establishment, although just typing those words makes us laugh.

So far, however, we’ve neither seen nor heard about any improvement in academic performance. And if one entertains the possibility that the performance of Maine South students is affected by the educational quality of its D-64 feeder schools, the slide in Maine South’s performance becomes a tad ominous.

So we have to shake our head over a recent Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article reported (“All Chromebooks to be replaced in District 64, officials say,” May 2) how all of the District’s 2,782 “Generation 1” Chromebooks are going to be replaced, reportedly free of charge, with “Generation 2” Chromebooks by the manufacturer, Dell. The reason: more than half of them underwent repairs just this year alone, including a 25% breakdown rate for the computers’ logic boards.

The H-A article places the District’s cost of those repairs at $103,000 worth of parts and labor. So far, there’s no word from D-64 as to whether Dell will reimburse the District for those costs.

Two years ago the chief D-64 propagandist, Bernadette Tramm – still on the job today, sad to say – and a coterie of her sub-spinners were assuring anyone who would listen that those Generation 1 Chromebooks would have a four-year life cycle. Less than two full years later, however, Mary Jane Warden, the District’s director of innovation and instructional technology, and Finance Czarina Luann Kolstad are singing a very different tune.

“Expecting a product like a Chromebook to last a full four years of wear and tear may be too ambitious to sustain.”

What a difference two years makes.

We can’t figure out how Warden and the District’s other tech gurus didn’t see this coming two years ago because, according to Warden’s and Kolstad’s memo to the D-64 Board, “the Chromebooks are so new to the market, [and] there has been no history of product reliability or performance that we can put full confidence in.” But two years ago there was even less of a history.

Not surprisingly, that didn’t stop Warden from recommending the purchase of, or our School Board members and administrators from spending $778,000 of the taxpayers’ money on, 2,782 of the untried and unreliable critters.

And now they’re going to replace the Generation 1 Chromebook with Generation 2 Chromebooks, even though – according to Warden – Dell has not explained why the Generation 1s failed.

“I’m confident going forward we’ll have a better product,” she told the school board.

Just as confident as she was two years ago.

To read or post comments, click on title.


New D-64 Survey Doesn’t Pass Jon Stewart’s B.S. Test


Over the weekend we were working on a post about Park Ridge-Niles School District 64’s replacement of all its 2,782 Chromebooks after more than half of them underwent repairs just this year alone, according to an article in last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“All Chromebooks to be replaced in District 64, officials say,” May 2).

But then we received an over-the-transom gift: a forwarded e-mail from D-64 Supt. Laurie Heinz announcing “a new style of online forum called Thoughtexchange.

With apologies to The Who: Meet the new cooked survey, same as the old cooked survey.

That caused us to look at the Report for tonight’s Board Meeting, where we discovered even more propaganda about this new Thoughtexchange survey in Appendix 4 – starting with all the usual buzzwords and phrases designed to excite and mesmerize the usual simpletons, like “very innovative new format,” “online outreach tool,” “various stakeholder groups,” “360-degree online dialogue” (Wouldn’t that be talking in circles?), “very engaging,” “fresh approach” and “engage them in the process,” all of which we’ve highlighted in yellow for your convenience.

According to Heinz and the District’s propaganda minister, Bernadette Tramm, the Thoughtexchange process got an “enthusiastic response” from Heinz’s handpicked “Community Relations Council.” And we would expect no less of the CRC, which we wrote about in our 10.08.15 post. In fairness, not every one of those CRC members are stooges or shills for Heinz, but you can be sure that one of the reasons Heinz picked them in the first place was that she subscribes to the “We don’t want nobody that nobody sent” Chicago-style of politics – as do most bureaucrats in this corrupt state.

And the reason Chicago-style bureaucrats pick stooges and shills is that they tend not to have the ability and/or the desire to detect all the “bullsh*t” – as Jon Stewart so keenly and eloquently elucidated it in his final monologue (see the video here, read the transcript here) last August – that is regularly dispensed by the likes of the D-64 Board and Administration. Or to actually possess the courage to say something even if they did detect it.

Notwithstanding all of Heinz’s and Tramm’s buzzwords and phrases in Appendix 4, we’ve highlighted the real b.s. in orange, starting with calling the result of this goat rodeo “a satisfaction survey that can be used primarily with staff and parents.” [Emphasis added.]

That’s because this survey is being designed to pander to the basest concerns and desires of the folks with the most to gain from manipulating the process to justify spending even more money with no better results: “staff,” who already appear to be overpaid based on D-64’s lackluster (if not declining) performance – as measured by standardized testing, not intramural havel-gazing – yet are in the process of negotiating for more, more, more; and “parents” for whom money is no object so long as they can get away with paying only around 25 cents on the dollar in RE taxes for the D-64 $14-15,000 education for their first kid, and ZERO for every additional kid.

That’s one big reason why “[a]ll parents and staff will receive direct email invitations to participate” in this survey “through May and into early June.” That way, D-64 can hope to receive as many of those special-interest responses as possible (and as few of the regular taxpayer responses as possible) before the District announces the latest sweetheart contract it has been negotiating in secret with the teachers union – a report about which is listed on tonight’s meeting agenda as one of two items scheduled for a special two-hour secretive closed session, starting at 5:30.

Will dinner be served…at taxpayer expense?

And don’t think it’s any coincidence that neither Heinz’s e-mail nor Appendix 4 lists any of the “3 open-ended questions about our schools and District” the Thoughtexchange survey allegedly will be asking, even though those questions must already have been vetted by the Board (or at least we would hope so, although we can’t find any evidence of it) and are locked and loaded if the plan is to collect all the responses “through May and early June.” By not listing the questions, it’s a lot tougher for our flummoxed local media (or any pesky bloggers and taxpayers) to shoot holes in them before the answers start rolling in.

So we’ll offer three open-ended questions of our own, just for grins:

  1. Why has D-64’s standardized testing performance been stagnant-to-declining compared to other districts with similar economic profiles and per-student spending?

  2. How will D-64 schools help Park Ridge taxpayers maintain and increase their property values in the face of those stagnant-to-declining comparables while RE taxes keep increasing?

  3. Why does the D-64 Board keep rewarding administrators and staff with more money for stagnant-to-declining student performance?

Don’t expect those questions, or anything like them, being asked by Thoughtexchange.

And as best as we can tell from perusing the website, what we can expect is another typical collection of easily-manipulable anonymous data points collected through a process that might not even be immune to the kind of “ballot-box stuffing” – multiple responses by the same people – that characterize all those half-baked SurveyMonkey surveys and Change.Org. petitions so many of our local elected officials and bureaucrats prefer for their finger-to-the-wind management decisions.

The sad truth is that this isn’t even intended to be a legitimate “community” survey focusing on what two-thirds (or more) of Park Ridge households who DON’T have kids in D-64 schools think about D-64. It’s a charade and a  propaganda exercise by a dishonest Administration conspiring with a bumbling School Board to cover up the District’s pitiful lack of educational, managerial and financial competence.

And, worst of all, it cheats both the taxpayers AND the students.

To read or post comments, click on title.

No-Bid Hot Lunch Program Yet Another D-64 Diversion


One thing the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board and Administration have proved themselves quite adept at is distracting attention away from the District’s lackluster (compared to other upper-income communities) academic performance and directing that attention at semi-meaningless issues.

This current side show is a school-run hot lunch program for the District’s five elementary schools.

As reported in last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“District 64 board rejects hot lunch program for elementary schools,” April 28), Supt. Laurie Heinz and Finance Czarina Luann Kolstad want to institute a hot lunch program in all five K-5 schools similar to what is currently in place at Emerson and Lincoln middle schools.

Despite some decent Googling, we could not find any hits for local newspaper articles reporting on why and how Emerson and Lincoln middle schools got their hot lunch programs. But by reading through a bunch of School Board meeting minutes we discovered (in the April 5, 2010 minutes) that Arbor Management, Inc. was “selected in June 2009.” Unfortunately, the District’s meeting minutes on its website don’t go back to 2009, so we can’t tell if that selection process was the result of competitive bidding or some sweetheart no-bid deal.

The March 18, 2013 minutes indicate that the original contract was for five years and would have expired during the 2013-14 school year. We also discovered a vendor report for that same school year showing that D-64 paid Arbor $538,647.

Not too shabby for what may have been a no-bid contract.

But after Arbor picked up around $2.5 million over those five years of its contract, did our representatives on the D-64 Board even think about putting the contract out to bid again?

Shirley, you jest!

At the March 24, 2014 meeting the Tony Borrelli-led Board unanimously extended the Arbor contract on the consent agenda, without even any discussion – unless the discussion went on in one of D-64’s trademark secretive closed sessions.

And they did the very same thing at the February 23, 2015 meeting.

So when we heard that Heinz and the Czarina now want to give Arbor an additional no-bid $1 million/year deal for the elementary schools, while spending $90,000 to facilitate Arbor’s servicing of those schools, we started wondering about just who might know whom.

Because this sounds like a chapter right out of the kinky Barbara Byrd Bennett/CPS playbook.

Heinz’s and Kolstad’s recommendation allegedly was based on a March 2015 survey of over 1,000 respondents, 65% of whom supported such a program even though that survey – in typical local government style – made no mention of what the per-meal cost would be. That’s like asking somebody whether they want a new Mercedes (“YES!”) without telling them it will cost them $100,000 (“Um…er…maybe not right now, thanks.”).

Not surprisingly, the survey results, and especially the 373 comments that go with it, highlight the shortcomings of this kind of “don’t tell ’em the cost” proposal, as well as the unrealistic expectations of too many parents who want somebody else to make their kids’ lunch but also want the program to operate like a restaurant (e.g., “A daily lunch program that is available regardless of if you signed up ahead of time would make my life so much easier”), albeit a health-food restaurant (“Organic, low carb and include steamed or raw veggies and fruit”; “Dye free and no high fructose corn syrups, etc.”).

Of course, many parents also want that cost to be “reasonable” without saying exactly what “reasonable” means to them. But judging from all the whining that regularly occurs every time some of these folks have to pay a modest fee in connection with their kids’ $14,000 “free” educations, “reasonable” is likely to be defined by “How much of the cost can we push onto our fellow taxpayers?”

Amazingly, however, the Heinz/Kolstad proposal was rejected by Board president Tony Borrelli and his usually complicit rubber-stamp Board, reportedly because of the cost of the program to the District, staffing concerns and concerns about food waste.

That’s puzzling, considering that the cost of the program shouldn’t be a factor if the participating parents pay the fully-loaded costs of the program, including ALL costs attributable to staffing, utilities, etc. And why should the costs be a concern in light of the Finance Czarina’s projections of an annual program surplus of about $69,000?

Could it be because even these rubber-stamp Board members realize that the Czarina’s projections of an average lunch costing $3.75 and 50% participation at each school are total bull-shinola?

Or all those Board members except Bob Johnson, apparently, who voted for it while arguing that school-provided hot lunches “could result in better nutrition than what they’re bringing to school today.” Because, of course, schools that can’t seem to educate their students on par with other comparable districts have nothing better to do than also take on the parents’ nutritional duties.

Park Ridge isn’t Englewood or Lawndale, where even a pedestrian school meal might be the only decent food those students get each day. If a D-64 parent can’t slap some bologna between two slices of bread – or lovingly lay a grilled salmon filet with dill sauce into a ciabatta roll – and stick it in a bag with some chips and an apple, that’s the parent’s problem.

It shouldn’t become the District’s or the District’s taxpayers’ problem just because Heinz is looking to curry favor with parents while ringing up some kind of faux-accomplishment to excuse her failure to move the needle on student performance and justify another contract extension and raise like she got last year.

Negotiated in secretive closed sessions, Borrelli-Board style, of course.

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