They Cared!

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Over a year ago I posted “Does District 103 Mater?”  In it I rhetorically asked if the good people in Lyons Elementary School District 103 cared that the mayor of Lyons had taken over the school district.  Well they did care, because two days ago three of Mayor Getty’s hand-picked school board members were voted out – they now have a minority of seats!

I can’t tell you how the news of this election buoyed my spirits.  After watching the worst kind of self-serving and anti-individual-rights politics for the past few months, it is refreshing to find out that people still care enough about their schools to vote for those who care about children.

Democracy still works in America for those who stand up for what is right.

Stop the Waste & Be Accountable: Back to School Edition

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Graphic courtesy of http://www.hikingartist.com

It’s been awhile since we’ve checked in on the Lyons Elementary School District 103.  As you recall, Lyons’ Mayor Getty successfully funded a campaign to take over the school board.  Some items for reflection and further investigation:

Open Meetings Act Flaunted? – Is it true that interim superintendent Kyle Hastings meets with the four new board members in his office immediately before each board meeting.  The  new district attorney is in there too (at $175/ hour), so he should know if they are violating the Open Meeting Act, shouldn’t he?  Of course the “old” board members aren’t invited – probably because they know how to read an agenda and make up their own minds on important issues.  It appears that some of the “new” board members don’t even bother to look at the board meeting agenda.

Replacement Already Picked? (Part 1) – Some have noted the action item on the board agenda for a “temporary part-time superintendent secretary.”  I thought Marge was doing just fine.  The logic is to train someone (for a year?) to take Marge’s place when she retires.  Some long-time district employees have inquired about the position but were told that they would have to resign their current full-time position before they could apply for the part-time position – unreasonable at best.  So current employees are effectively shut out of the process.  Presumably, someone unfamiliar with the district has already been selected to replace Marge.  They will be paying two people to do one job – seems like the “new” board members got upset when the “old” board did the same thing last spring.

New District Office Position Needed? – The “new” board members voted in a new position – Staff Accountant.  The district didn’t seem to need one of these for the past 50 years or so.  How does this help keep a lid on spending?

Marge Is Packed Up. Ready to Go? – Marge has packed up all her personal belonging from her office.  Does this have anything to do with the previous items?  Will she be there to train the new person?

Replacement Already Picked? (Part 2) – Nobody is more important to a superintendent than her/his secretary.  So it seems odd that Marge’s replacement has already been selected.  Any superintendent worth their salt would insist on selecting their own secretary.  Could it be that the next superintendent has already been selected and approved the new secretary?  Or will Kyle continue on for a few more years as “interim” superintendent?

Expert at PlayStation and Wii? – The “new” board’s selection to replace Bryan Drozd as Tech Director has a high school degree.  Will he be able to master the sophisticated systems currently operating and successfully supervise 6 staff members?  The district has posted Jakub’s position as well, seeking an individual with a bachelors degree.

STOP THE WASTE & BE ACCOUNTABLE! Part 3 of $900

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Graphic courtesy of http://www.hikingartist.com

The new board members at Lyons Elementary School District 103 were aghast when they learned that the outgoing board members paid the the interim superintendents $800 per day and paid the superintendent under contract to stay home.  So what did the new board members do?  The word is out – they paid their interim superintendent Kyle Hastings $900 per day and continue to pay the superintendent under contract to stay home.

$900 per day is about $207,000 annually.

Taxation Without Representation

The natives are getting restless.   They’re putting on war-paint and gathering at the harbor. Soon they’ll sneak out to the ships and dump the tea overboard. Why? Taxation Without Representation!

The good people of Lyons, McCook, Stickney, Brookfield and Forest View elected Michael Bennett, Jorge Torres, Katie Broderick and Coleen Shipbaugh to the Lyons Elementary School District 103 board of education to represent their interests. They looked at their latest Cook County tax bill and saw that the school district takes the biggest bite of their taxes, so they wanted people on the school board to make good decisions on their behalf (STOP THE WASTE! BE ACCOUNTABLE!). That didn’t happen.

They didn’t make the most important decision they were elected for – to select the superintendent.   It’s clear to me that they never even met Kyle Hastings before they tried to vote him in as superintendent (prior to when they were legally seated as board members).   I’ll bet they hadn’t even read his resume before the board meeting they did vote him in.

Mayor Getty had met Kyle Hastings.  He made the decision – for all the taxpayers in Lyons, McCook, Stickney, Brookfield and Forest View. He wasn’t elected as a school board member. Taxation Without Representation!

PS – Mr. Hastings will be interim superintendent for 130 odd days.  Who will select the superintendent who will be in charge of the district for years?

Politics in Public Education Creates Fear

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I was playing golf last week with a neighborhood friend.  As we walked up to the third teebox he said half-jokingly, “You know they can play pretty rough there in Lyons.  Take me off of your list of blog recipients. I don’t want them coming after me.”  Don’t think I hadn’t already thought about the possible ramifications of criticizing Mayor Getty and his followers.

I’d heard the reports of incidents in Lyons in the past, even before Getty became mayor – have the wrong candidate’s sign on your lawn and get your inflatable Christmas decoration slashed; speak up at a public meeting and have your car vandalized; hateful anonymous comments posted on the local forum Topix; candidates’ signs stolen/defaced.

I’ve had several people email me and offer supportive comments but were afraid to do so publicly because of possible retribution.  What kind of retribution?  Their job in the district could be at stake.  One person shared a story about her family’s restaurant in a nearby community.  The restaurant was to host a fundraiser for the political opponent of that town’s mayor  – the day of the event the city inspector came and closed them down for violations that had somehow been overlooked in the previous 30 years of inspections.  The former board president shared her story of when she was mayor of Lyons (a long time ago) and she was fighting to close the strip clubs that once lined Ogden Avenue through town.  She found a dead fish wrapped in newspaper on her front porch (á la “She sleeps with the fish.”)

Do I really think someone will come out and vandalize my house (or my golfing partner’s house)?  Not really.  But when I go to the board meeting tonight I will park my car in a remote place.  I will walk out of the meeting with somebody else along side.  And I will continue to write about Mayor Getty and his four henchmen board members.

Graphic courtesy of www.hikingartist.com

How To Buy A School District – With Other People’s Money

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As previously reported Mayor Chris Getty was able to “buy” the $30 million Lyons Elementary School District 103 for $11,512.  He did this by getting five of his henchmen to run for the school board and then created the Parents for Student Excellence Political Action Committee (PAC).  He funneled money through his own two PACs to the Parents for Student Excellence, which then used the money on PR to ensure everyone in the community knew how bad the school district was and how good his henchmen would be at fixing it.  So where did the $11,512 come from?  Let’s follow the money:

The Parents for Student Excellence brought in funds from five sources:

  • Citizens for Christopher Getty – $11,317
  • United Citizens Party – $975
  • Friends of Jeffrey Tobolski – $975
  • Reliable Materials Lyons – $500
  • Stars & Stripes – $500

Citizens for Christopher Getty and United Citizens Party are both controlled by Mayor Chris Getty.  His campaign war chests were the primary source of funds for his henchmen’s election campaign.  Reliable Materials is filling the limestone quarry at the corner of First Avenue and Ogden.  They give a lot of money to Mayor Getty’s PACs on a regular basis.  Jeffrey Tobolski is the mayor of McCook, one of the communities the district serves, and is a Cook County Commissioner.  Stars & Stripes is the printer Getty uses for flyers.  Note no money came out of the pockets of Mayor Getty or any of his five henchmen.

Where did the Citizens for Christopher Getty‘s money come from?  During the first quarter they brought in $59,876 from 84 various contributors including the same Reliable Materials ($5,000), Jeffrey Tobolski ($1,000, which is double of what he usually gives Getty) and Stars and Stripes ($500).  Odelson and Sterk, the Village of Lyons’ law firm and the firm Getty’s henchmen will force the school district to use gave $1,600 in “in-kind” legal advice.  Speaking of those who work for the Village of Lyons, they give generously to Getty’s PAC, too – Frank Novotny & Assoc. gave $2,500 (the village awarded this Civil Engineering firm $805,000 in contracts in March) and Mackie Consultants (Consulting Engineering Firm for the Village gave $2,500).  Lots of other local businesses in the area also gave to Getty’s PAC.

The United Citizens Party only brought in $2,824 during this period.  Reliable Materials gave $500.  Frank Novotny & Associates paid a printing bill from Stars and Stripes of $1,624.  “Mooncotch” gave $200 and state Rep. Michael Zalewski’s PAC kicked in $500.

So that’s a lot of numbers.  Here are some takeaways:

  • Mayor/Commissioner Tobolski fully supported Mayor Getty’s takeover of the school district.
  • Odleson and Sterk’s law firm consulted with Mayor Getty (presumably on how to take over the school district) and charged off $1,600 to do it.  Once hired they will be receiving an estimated $100,000 per year in legal fees billed to the school district.
  •  Stars and Stripes donated $1,000 to two of the PACS.  They were paid $7,754 to print flyers for Getty’s candidates.
  • It’s likely many of the school district’s vendors will be donating to one or both of Getty’s PACS in the future.
  • Parents for Student Excellence had $2,569 in their PAC at the end of March – that’s a good start on a war chest for the next school board election.

Some final thoughts: Nothing documented above is illegal.  It’s the way of doing business not only in Lyons but in a lot of communities.  But it is new to the Lyons School District 103 and it’s unlikely now it will ever go away.  We read about hedge-fund managers and other gazillionaires trying to get their clutches on some of the $1.1 trillion spent on public education each year.  You don’t have to be a gazillionaire to control a school district – $11,512 was all it took to convince a majority of voters that Mayor Getty should be running the schools.  I think other mayors will take note – soon “public education” will be a little less “public” and a lot more “political.”

All figures were taken from the Illinois Board of Elections website and were rounded to the nearest dollar.