Letter to the Editor: The District 115 School Board Needs a New Culture

Writer criticizes lack of transparency.

The war of words that has taken place this week on Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Patch articles is a perfect example of why Lake Forest High School District 115 needs not just new board members, but a whole new culture. The sniping which ensued after Nancy Thorner published an opinion piece calling into question the ever-increasing costs at the High School demonstrates clearly what so many have been complaining about, that the District 115 School Board lacks transparency, openness and accountability.

Without openness and transparency the local taxpayers simply do not receive enough information to feel comfortable that the Board is being a good steward of the assets entrusted to them. As a result, many local taxpayers have lost trust in the actions and decision making undertaken by this board. And Board member Burgener, has resorted to publically trashing Ms. Thorner, citing her presentations before the Board as “often foolish and misinformed rantings.” Wow. This is conduct unbecoming the position to which he was elected and to which he seeks reelection.

If the board had had a culture that was more embracing of openness and complete transparency in all it does, people wouldn’t be asking these questions, among many others. . .

§  How much was really spent on the recent high school renovations? Was it $54 million or $62 million?

§  How and why was an additional $8 million debt issue kept quiet and what exactly was the money spent on?

§  Why does the District now need another $5 million capital investment for items that it seems should have been part of the renovation completed just a few years ago.

§  How could $50+ million construction contract be awarded to a company owned and operated by the family of a current board member ?

§  How could the District’s banking relationship be moved to an institution where the Superintendent was a board member of that institution?

§  What exactly was the offer by the Diamond Anniversary Campaign to the School Board and why did the School Board turn it down?

When people are asking these kinds of questions, it’s easy to see why there is such a lack of trust in the existing School Board.

On April 9th our community has a tremendous opportunity to elect District 115 board members who can take the culture of our School Board in a new, more positive direction. To overcome the existing insular culture of group-think, the qualities that we should be looking for in new board members are independent thinking, ethics, openness and respect for the opinions of all the constituencies in the community. We all need to get familiar with each of the candidates so that we can assess them against these criteria.

For your reference I include links below to the Patch articles from this week which contain the back and forth commentary between the various parties.

January 14 – Citizen Scrutiny Long Past Due in Lake Forest District 115

January 18 – Letter to The Editor – LFHS School Board Member Criticizes Patch Story

January 22 – Nancy Thorner Responds To Uphold Her Reputation as a Concerned Citizen

January 23 – A Response To Hopefully End All And to Extend an Olive Branch

January 23 – A Factual Summary of the Diamond Anniversary Campaign Gift Proposal


Michael Beacham

Lake Forest

Robert T January 25, 2013 at 05:31 PM
What a great missive! Thanks for laying this out as the voters need to see it! Board member Burgener was one of Griffiths "atta boy bunch" and they need to go!
Karen January 26, 2013 at 12:51 AM
Michael, why don't you run for District 115 Board member? You would be great!


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