Just by chance, I heard about the Lake Forest School District 67 Board of Education Special Meeting the day of the meeting on Feb. 13.
I was dismayed over the small turnout, which should have been a standing room only event, given that the special meeting was to announce the name of the new superintendent and his employment contract to replace retiring Superintendent Harry Griffith.
Instead, the Feb. 13 meeting had all the appearance of a hurriedly arranged and basically unannounced West Campus meeting, which helped to fortify my pre-existing perception of the search process as lacking the openness and transparency promised initially to residents of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.
Not even the presentation by District 67 board member Rich Schuler, in which he detailed the search process used from start to finish in the selection of Michael Simeck, could quell concerns which still linger on.
My concerns are not with the Executive Search Firm, but with the community input and feed back which took place during the two-year search period. Was the community input and feedback really taken seriously in the selection of Simeck or was it just all for show?
After reading numerous news accounts of Simeck's hire on Feb. 14, curiosity got the best of me. All of the accounts contained little more than what was released to the press by the Lake Forest Schools. I wanted to know more about Simeck other than his glowing bio and statements presented at the Feb. 13 meeting.
Research led me to an article by Jack Lessenberry published on March 11, 2011, "Education Cuts Based on a Hunch." In the Lessenberry's article, Simeck expressed deep concerns that Michigan's governor, Rick Snyder, with his proposed FY 2012 budget, would result in deep cuts to education and a sudden budget deficit of $4.9 million in his district. http://domemagazine.com/lessenberry/jl031111
What Michael Simeck feared did happen. The 2012 budget signed by MSnyder on June 21, 2011, called for $1.5 billion in budget cuts in fiscal year 2012 with a 2 percent cut in education. http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/06/gov_rick_snyder_signs_2012_bud.html Another
A 2010 incident likewise speaks of the satisfaction Simeck seemed to be experiencing in his Berkley shared superintendent position, and explains why Simeck was reported as being ecstatic when selected out of 99 other candidates for a similar position at Lake Forest Districts 67 and 115.
After all, the superintendent position in Lake Forest is a plum and extremely lucrative job. Lake Forest also had a high school building that Simeck could only have dreamed of in the past! Even so, as lavish and showy as the Lake Forest High School and its facilities are, a fancy building is no sign that the students are going to gain more knowledge.
It was in 2010 that Simeck attempted to pass what may have been the largest bond ever during a time of recession.
Citizens took advantage of the public comment period at a monthly meeting of the Berkley school board to vent their displeasure with a ballot proposal, which was ultimately voted down.
The proposal would have authorized the board to issue bonds totaling approximately $167 million, to be paid for with the proceeds of an additional 4.27 mill tax levy.
Simeck was accused of handpicking members of a bond committee that would be willing to work as advocates, instead of finding community members, which he denied. At the time it was suggested that Simeck was seeking another position.
Part 2 will post Saturday (Feb. 25): Simeck job hunts even before reaching out to Lake Forest.