For the past two years, I have been trying to make a difference in Kaneland School Board governance. I must admit this has been a learning experience and eye-opener for me. I have been a member of the Kaneland Financial Advisory Committee for two years and still don’t have a comfortable understanding of how money is managed at the School District.
Oh, I know about our local debt of $230 million to our teacher’s pension obligations (Madigan’s probable state ownership dump to local taxpayers) and $184 million to long-term debt (bonds and interest) to our creditors. These two issues unto themselves are massive concerns for all parties. I feel bad for the teachers, since they have paid in their money to the pension system, and now the politicians are saying “sorry about that.”
The part that I can’t get my arms around is the Kaneland per capita tuition cost of $11,211 for operating expense, or in measurement of total revenue to the district of $70.7 million divided by 4,648 students, enrollment is $15,204 per student and rising. A student attending Waubonsee Community College pays $2,688 in tuition and fees, $1,530 in books, and $2,790 in average transportation costs, for a total of $7,008. I am sure I am missing something, but I am not missing the fact the cost to attend Waubonsee is less than half what it costs to send your child to kindergarten at Kaneland. So, from a School Board governance perspective, I would think some efficiency of operations and spending would be in order.
I could tell you about my many public comment speeches at Kaneland School Board meetings, letters to board members, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, meetings with the Special Education director, review of bus transportation conditions, etc., that in total have not resulted in any appreciable change to the efficiency of this district. It would be fun to tell you about it, but not for this letter. What is important is that I realize the only way to make a difference toward “doing the right thing” in governing this district is to be a member of the School Board itself. Common sense does not prevail over voting rights.
I have to laugh. The very first time I come out into the arena of local school board politics, I get whacked with objections to my petitions. Wow. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from three present School Board members and the teacher’s union representative. They actually testified that the voters who signed our fiscally conservative petitions—Jerry Elliott’s (133), Dan Nagel’s (131) and Tony Valente’s (86), totaling 350 voters—needed their oversight as objectors to protect us citizens from faulty petitions (township name missing). The objectors were asked if any of you folks that did sign our petitions came forward “in regret.” No, they could not provide any names. They could not provide state election law statues that required township listing on the petitions, either.
The state election law provides freedom of elections and the opportunity for any citizen residing in the school district boundaries to be in the democratic election process, and “as many folks as want to be.”
It seems these objecting School Board members—Pavlak, Lopatin, and Witt—have an election strategy of disqualifying Elliott, Nagel and Valente, only to leave voters with the ballot names of Pavlak, Lopatin and Witt as shoe-in returning School Board members. Also, amazingly, the teacher’s union representative, Lynn McHenry, attempted to expand the union’s contract negotiation “you owe me” powers with a “marker” of support for such political tactics by gang signing as an objector, as well.
These four Kaneland School District leaders obviously planned this less-than-honorary event well in advance. They must have been aware this stunt could possibly be sacrificing their leadership reputation with the children of Kaneland and its community adults. Even more egregious is the attempt of this group to deny the citizens and voters of our community the opportunity for open elections. Totally un-American, I would say.
The entire stunt was not very smart on their part. Maybe behaviors such as this are part-in-parcel contributing to the very poor overall business performance of our School District today. The timing of this election and resulting future School Board members voting to oversee the enterprise guidance of this district is paramount. It is not a lost cause, but certainly no room for fumbles or deception.
Also, thanks to the Electoral Board—Jack Cunningham, Joe McMahon and Tom Hartwell—for defending yours and my election rights.
Sugar Grove Township