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Letter to the Editor: Reader criticizes Caucus choices.

Lake Forest High School Board member seeks to clear issues.

Now that the April election isn't so far off, civic-minded residents in Lake Bluff are reminded of the value of our governmental institutions.  We are also re-invigorated by the prospect do exercising our collective voice at the polls in ensuring good governance.  But it's difficult to meaningfully exercise our collective voice at the polls when the Lake Bluff School Caucus, which vets candidates for 115 and 65 school boards, isn't giving us representative candidates to choose from.  Enough already.


Failure #1:  As a resident of Knollwood (yes, we count too), I was disappointed to learn last Fall that the School Caucus neither endorsed nor actively recruited any candidates for the 65 board from among our little neighborhood's residents west of Route 41.  I use the term "little" somewhat loosely, as we are quite numerous out here and deserving of electoral representation.  And, it turns out, our 65 board representation will be diminished to zero come April, when the last remaining Knollwood school board member on 65 is attending his last board meeting after 8 years of faithful service.  Why didn't the School Caucus address that vacuum last year when recruiting and screening candidates?  Why didn't they do their job?  Suddenly our neighborhood's collective voice sounds fairly faint.  Enough already.


Failure # 2:  I was later shocked to learn that the School Caucus slated a group of 65 school board candidates (with one glaring exception) whose children haven't seen the inside of a Lake Bluff classroom in decades, if ever.  The majority of mid-term candidates are close to seeing their kids graduate from the district shortly.  For those district residents who have students in 65, how does that affect their collective voice? That voice has gotten pretty hard to hear.

Enough already.

Failure # 3:  Now, I've learned that Lake Bluff's slate member, isn't even a resident of Lake Bluff any longer (living in his newly deeded home south of the border).  Todd Burgener, newly vacated from his former LB home, made that fact clear in his recent letter to the editor of Gazebo News. In Mr. Burgener's letter he didn't waste any time throwing the Lake Bluff School Caucus under the proverbial bus in his own defense.  According to Mr. Burgener's confessional, he refused in advance of his candidacy to resign upon his re-location, in direct conflict with the School Caucus' by laws . . . And the Caucus blinked!  My fellow readers, think about this for a minute. Didn't the Lake Bluff residents of District 115 deserve at least SOME explanation of their rule-breaking arrangement with Mr. Burgener?  Especially when the School Caucus (according to Mr. Burgener) had full notice of his intentions prior to his submission of candidacy?  Aren't they supposed to be making decisions ON OUR BEHALF?  It thus appears that the Lake Bluff School Caucus' by laws aren't worth the paper they're written on. The Caucus is apparently eager to pick the man over the sanctity of the institution and the value of community representation.  C'mon folks - enough already!


At this point there is nothing left to do with Failures # 1 and # 2. But the Lake Bluff School Caucus still has the opportunity to do the right thing with Failure # 3.  Todd Burgener has educated us all on hype School Caucus bylaw rule whereby if an elected member of the 115 board moves from Lake Bluff to Lake Forest after the election, he must resign.  We're lucky to have a few months left before the election, just enough time for the School Caucus to undo the damage done before a special election becomes necessary.  They can and must demand his immediate withdrawal from the race, recruit another Lake Bluff candidate, and mount a successful write-in campaign to get him or her on the ballot in time for the Spring election.  If not, we risk losing our collective voice altogether, faint as it is.  Barring their decisive action, they also risk what's left of our eroded public trust in the institution of the Lake Bluff School Caucus.

Seriously, isn't that enough already?

Paul Sachs,

Knollwood

David Forlow February 26, 2013 at 10:01 PM
Mr. Sachs, Much of what you wrote is factually incorrect or ignores important details. I'm a long-time LB School Caucus volunteer. I’d be happy to buy you a cup of coffee. LB Caucus Success #1: The LB School Caucus actively sought candidates & members from all parts of Dist 65. We printed more than 1,000 flyers & spent hours distributing them throughout all parts of Dist 65. On more than one occasion we submitted announcements to the various media outlets. We have a website & Facebook page which both include contact info. I invite you to participate in the Caucus. We are very pleased with the candidates who took the time to submit application materials and to appear before our members for interviews. What distinguishes our slate is the level of professional achievement, academic excellence, classroom teaching experience and civic experience the candidates bring to the table. Two of our candidates currently teach. The fact that these candidates have been vetted by the Caucus reflects well on their qualifications. The Caucus endorsement means they already have the support of a cross-section of our community -- both parents and non-parents alike. Their willingness to submit to this credentialing process demonstrates the kind of accountability we want in our school board members. (Disappointingly, some candidates who had previously accepted considerable Caucus volunteer & financial support refused to be interviewed this election cycle). David Forlow
David Forlow February 26, 2013 at 10:02 PM
LB Caucus Success #2: If elected, our slate will provide a badly needed balance to or school board. A quick look at 16 school boards from LB Dist 65 down to Kenilworth 38 reveals that 14 of the 16 boards are comprised of a mix of members who have children in the schools and those who do not. A balance of views is good. Experience is great. If someone feels that one must have very young children to care passionately about education they haven’t attended a school event recently. Dist 65 Superintendent, Dr Sophie is off to a great start – yet she doesn’t have young children in our schools. LB Caucus Success #3: The LB Caucus is nonpartisan and our membership represents a broad cross section of our community. But when the League of Women Voters created the Caucus in the 1950’s there was no internet or emails and the Caucus rules required terms such as ‘Madame President’ be used. Times change, men have been allowed to join and the Caucus continues to evolve. Last fall a committee of Caucus members, including 2 who are attorneys, began a process of revamping bylaws to change with the times. You are correct in that Mr. Burgener was completely honest and open with the Caucus. I am highly confident he is the best candidate to represent us. David Forlow
David Forlow February 26, 2013 at 10:04 PM
Much work lies ahead: District 65 is faced with enormous challenges but there are also opportunities for improvement. No doubt, we have some remarkable teachers and bright students. However, our rankings have declined as of late and there are other clouds on the horizon. For a decade our Middle School students averaged a ranking in the top 9% in the state. Yet we dropped to the 83rd percentile in 2011 and down to the 76th percentile in 2012. Fully 330 IL middle schools now rank ahead of us. We need board members with experience and vision to turn this trend around, to look dispassionately at the facts and plot a course forward. We have $27+ million of debt on which we have only been paying interest. Required principal payments are about to kick in which will eventually raise our annual payments from $1.1 mil to $3.3 mil. The interest rate on our debt if far higher than market rates and the terms agreed to by our SB call for the rate on most of the debt to rise annually. We need to put in place a plan to address this enormous problem. Millions paid in interest are millions which otherwise could be used to improve education. David Forlow
David Forlow February 26, 2013 at 10:08 PM
Our SB promised (in writing) no tax rate increase then promptly raised rates. The SB put together a community Task Force who advised a 25% fund balance policy. Our SB ignored that advice and amassed $16+ million in cash. They still operate without a fund balance policy. Much community uproar ensued and finally the SB agreed to a tax rate reduction for the coming year. Stunningly, two current SB members are circulating letters claiming credit for this temporary reduction. Our enrollment has declined from over 1,100 students to about 840, yet just a couple years ago some board members claimed we would see “flat to rising enrollment”. In 2010 I served on a Dist 65 Facilities team. We urged the SB to put a facilities plan in place and to take advantage of declining enrollment as an opportunity to creatively use existing spaces. Yet recently all but one of our current SB pressed for a $2 mil expansion and all but one voted to pay an architect $25K+ to draw up plans. We still do not have a facilities plan in place. Most distressing has been the flat refusal by many on our SB to communicate. The flat refusal by some to reply to letters, emails and in-person pleas is distressing. I’ve personally offered cups of coffee, my home email, work email, cell, home and office numbers. Many others have done the same. After inviting one SB member to talk, I received the reply “I have no interest in anything you have to say”. We need a change. We can do better. David Forlow
David Forlow February 26, 2013 at 10:11 PM
The Lake Bluff School Caucus slate will make positive changes. They will use their experience inside and outside of the classroom to improve our schools. They will put desperately needed long-term plans in place to guide decisions. They will throw open the lines of communication and operate in an open and transparent fashion. Academics + Accountability For Dist 65 I strongly endorse: Christine Letchinger Richard Hegg John Marozsan Julie Gottshall For District 115 I strongly endorse Todd Burgener David Forlow
Paul Sachs February 28, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Dear Mr. Forlow: I am confused about your response to my letter. I devoted the majority of my time and words to address the Lake Bluff School Caucus' failure to exercise responsibility in sticking to its by laws when agreeing to vet and slate District 115 candidate Todd Burgener, which has resulted in a huge gap in the Lake Bluff community's representation on the school board (only Knollwood resident Nicki Snoblin will remain After April). I ended my letter with a recommended course of action for the Caucus: demand Mr. Burgener's withdrawal and proceed with a write-in campaign for another qualified Lake Bluff candidate (there has to be at least ONE such person, right?) to salvage the public trust in your (and I mean our) institution. The entire point of my letter was that, of all the decisions you've made, this is the ONLY ONE that can be undone. And yet you spent all but two sentences of your quite lengthy tirade complaining about the current District 65 school board. Huh? I can only count two sentences dealing with my central topic of Todd Burgener's candidacy for District 115. And in those two sentences, you didn't bother to address the by law violation itself. I think you have been drinking too much coffee. But I'm a reasonable guy, and I admit to a liking for caffeinated beverages now and then. So I'll gladly accept your offer for some coffee talk just as soon as the Lake Bluff School Caucus cleans up the mess it's made with Todd Burgener. Cheers, Paul
Gary February 28, 2013 at 08:57 PM
As I read this stuff my mind drifts off to places where others don't dare tread. Please join me in the world of ideas, possibilities, and consequences. Today's destination is a thought experiment which, if implemented, would be a living nightmare. Imagine if the computer market were run the same way the education market is run. We would have a 7 member board deciding which computer would be purchased for every home. Every home would have that computer, whether or not they needed one. If that computer didn't fit your needs, then you'd have to buy one with your own money even though you'd still have to pay for the computer the board sent to your door. That computer would be chosen, not by it's merits, but because some powerful computer company had purchased the political power to lock in their monopoly. They would use that power to elect or bully board members. Laws would be written making it all but impossible to chose a different manufacturer ... or even a different computer. Technological advancements would never happen, because research costs money, and computer company is already spending every dime it has on it's union pensions. If something went wrong with the product, you would be ignored, because they already have your money and they have no reason to listen to you at all. This compulsory computer would cost 4 times as much as a market based computer and would fit the needs of a fraction of the community. I just described our education system.
Gary February 28, 2013 at 09:22 PM
OK. Let's lighten it up a bit by imagining what would happen if we spent the same amount on computers every year that we spend on education. So every year, every single year, year after year each of us spends 75% of our property tax bill on computers of our choice. That's about $80 million per year total for Lake Bluff and Lake Forest. What would happen if it was left to the free market? Every computer company in the world would be fighting over our business. They have whole departments dedicated to finding out what the LB-LF computer buyers wanted next. Service would be incredible. Hell, they'd probably replace equipment free of charge before you even knew it was broken or obsolete. We would be introduced to the latest technology as soon as it was available. There would be no end or limit to the different computers available for every need or taste. None of would ever be told we couldn't get what we wanted. We would ALL be treated like kings and queens no matter what we asked for. Kind of like what happens when you walk in an Apple store today. Compare that to the way the teachers' union treated us last fall during the strike. Free Markets >>>>> Monopoly
Stevie Janowski February 28, 2013 at 11:36 PM
Sounds like your upset theres only one Knollwood resident? Do the math, your lucky to have that one. Knollwood parents do not care about their children's school as much compared to lake bluff parents, point in case test scores. Also the majority of kids are from Lake Bluff so wouldn't more lake bluff reps make sense? Good day, Stevie
Ted March 13, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Hi Paul. I appreciate everyone that cares about our schools and our children--all of our children--which means the kids from Knollwood, Lake Bluff, and Lake Forest. Call me when you have a chance. Ted Moorman--847-234-7891. Cheers, Ted
Carl Spackler March 29, 2013 at 06:43 PM
Do voters realize that they are not required to vote for an entire slate? We are free to select who ever we like regardless of their endorsement or slate affiliations. I get the sense that not all lake bluff voters realize that they are not obligated to vote an entire slate. Think for yourself. Vote intelligently. Do your own research. Don’t rely on someone else to tell you who to vote for. Pick and chose the best individuals. Regards Carl Spackler

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