Saturday, November 26, 2005

Why son refused to stand

The article below appeared in the Courier News. This is yet another example of how schools are more apt to teach their political/social agenda's instead of giving students a really sound education foundation. It is great to teach students about other cultures but in America we have the right to refuse to stand if we so choose. Bravo to this father for standing up to his son's rights.

Why son refused to stand

I am the father of the young man who did not stand for the singing of the Mexican national anthem during a cultural awareness program at Larkin High School.

I have been constantly asked to explain the details of the event, and it is in response to these individuals that I offer the following facts.

Some of the students, my son included, were compelled to attend this assembly. The Mexican national anthem was printed on fliers and handed out to the attending students. The Mexican flag was marched in and placed on a podium by itself. The attendees were then asked to stand and sing the Mexican national anthem.

My son was not alone in his refusal to stand. Statements given to me by other youths and parents put the number of refusals at close to 20.

Larkin staff members immediately confronted the seated youth. Some of the students were threatened with in-school suspension; most of the seated students were intimidated into standing.

My son explained to the angry teacher who confronted him that he did not see a U.S. flag on the podium and he did not believe they were going to sing our national anthem. This teacher stated, "They have to stand for our national anthem, so you have to stand for theirs."

My son stated in response, "Yeah, but they're in our country."

The teacher called my son a punk and sent him to the office. The administrator in the office supported the teacher's demand and told my son that he could have made a more intelligent decision. My son was not formally disciplined. The teacher who confronted my son defended her actions to her students during class the following week.

I called Larkin principal Richard Webb to express my disappointment and concern. I described the manner in which my son had been treated. I was told that my son should have stood and that the school stood by its right to have this assembly in its chosen form.

I then exercised my right as a citizen and addressed the school board.

The press was present at the board meeting and media awareness snowballed from that point forward. Some of my statements to the board included, "I am disappointed that those responsible for creating an assembly intended to educate and sensitize Americans also felt free to act insensitively with regard to our culture. It is permissible to present another country's anthem alongside ours and receive standing respect. It is not reasonable to expect or demand that Americans stand and display respect for another flag and country in absence of the American anthem or flag."

I also asked the board to consider two positive actions. "First, encourage Larkin High School administrators to not underscore one culture to the exclusion of others. This ill-conceived mandatory assembly did nothing but widen the current schism. Second, I would ask the board to lay down some principles for future assemblies. While it is good educational practice to teach about other cultures, it is not an acceptable practice to require mandatory response to the patriotic elements of those cultures."

I was appalled by Webb's printed statement. Apologizing only for the "unfortunate spotlight" placed on the school does not acknowledge the process that brought the spotlight. Lack of proper oversight created an assembly that offended a large number of people. Teachers behaving badly guaranteed parental follow-through. Administrative silence and denial has perpetuated their arrogant image.

Trivializing the incident and belittling those it concerned has only confirmed Webb's lack of grounding with the community.

Since Dec. 8, 2004, educational institutions receiving federal funding are required to hold an educational program pertaining to the United States Constitution on Sept. 17 of each year. This year, Sept. 17 fell on a Saturday.

Our high school apparently chose on Sept. 16 not to hold an assembly on the Constitution of the United States, but to educate our youth on the patriotic elements of another country.

- Bedard is an Elgin resident.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Give ’em a million, save a billion.

This is from our friend Bill in Mundelein. This one speaks for itself.

Yes, Illinois needs pension reform
Give ’em a million, save a billion.

That is my answer to Darwin Heide’s letter urging all of us to call Springfield and let them know how upset we are that they are not raising our taxes by $320 billion (or $8 billion a year for the next 40 years) to make millionaires out of public employees when they retire at age 55. It would be funny if it weren’t so outrageous. Only the teacher unions and their minions would think that taxing non-schoolteachers into bankruptcy (or more likely into a low-tax state) is fair and reasonable.

My new slogan “Give ’em a million and save a billion” comes from a simple mathematical fact. The average teacher in Illinois who retires after 34 years retires with a pension worth well in excess of a million dollars cash. So if we taxpayers just give them a check for $1 million when they retire (whatever happened to a gold watch?) we will save tens or hundreds of billions over the next 40 years.

This is easy to figure out just go to any mutual fund site such as and have them calculate an annuity for you indexed for inflation starting at age 55. When you do that you see that a beginning pension of $40,000/year requires an up-front payment of $1 million. Thus the $103,000 pension for the highest paid teacher in 2004, a driver’s ed teacher from Leyden High School is worth about $2.5 million cash up front. So giving him $1 million would save us $1.5 million and still make him a millionaire. He is not alone — the 100th highest paid teacher would have a pension cash-value of about $2 million. Suffice it to say that there are no teachers in the six-county metro area retiring at age 55 after 34 years that are retiring on pensions less than $1.25 million. Most of them are close to the $2 million mark. If they are administrators the $3 million mark is not unusual.

And the teachers’ 8-percent contribution over 34 years compounded at 6 percent adds up to about 15 percent of their pension. The other 85 percent comes right out of the taxpayers’ pocket. Which also means we taxpayers as employers are contributing about 40 percent of the teacher’s salary to their pension plan. How’s that compare to your company’s 401(k) contribution?

And the driver’s ed teacher is not the worst example. Bill Clinton’s presidential pension is about $162,000 per year. Here in Illinois we have 29 former public employees with pensions greater than the president’s.

So, yes, Mr. Heide we do need pension reform in Illinois. We need to have an upper limit on public pensions that relate in some way to the average pension non-public employee’s receive. Otherwise in 40 years there will he no one left in Illinois except retired public employees. Who is going to pick up the tab then?

William N. Zettler


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

No tax-rate increase on this year's D-50 referendum

Well done District 50 school board. Thank you for choosing not to divide our community anymore. This is a welcome sign to the citizens of Harvard. Let us hope the assured lower taxes will encourage buyers for the numerous homes up for sale in Harvard. Let us also hope the city council will work on improving the appearence of Ayer Street to encourage economic resurgence in Harvard.

From The Northwest Herald

No tax-rate increase on this year's D-50 referendum

HARVARD – For the first time in several years, District 50 voters will not be asked to approve a tax-rate increase this spring.

School board members on Monday night voted not to put the district's eighth referendum on the April ballot. The board also opted against moving forward with cuts planned for the 2006-07 school year, which would have included the junior high student council; junior high yearbook; the fall musical; and high school soccer, track, and golf.

The board's decision was met with applause by members of the small audience.

"I think it's great," said parent Laura Lucy, who has two children attending Harvard High School. "They've been defeated how many times? I think everyone's a little tired of it."

District leaders cited a balanced budget as part of the reason behind their choice. The district announced in September it had a $19.75 million budget showing that education-fund revenues will exceed spending by about $200,000.

"We're moving ahead in the black," board member Jae Fielding said. "I firmly believe in the next couple of years the same thing is going to happen."

In addition to taking a break from the polls, at least for now, district officials may look into bringing back some programs that previously were cut. Included in the district's most recent cuts were junior high jazz band, freshman sports at Harvard High School and the high school Scholastic Bowl.

"We cut a lot of things to balance the budget," Superintendent Randy Gross said. "We've stopped the bleeding."

Still, board members acknowledged the balanced budget came at a high price.

"There has been a cost to get to where we are," District 50 School Board President Ken Book said.

Although Fielding deemed the board's decision a "win-win for everybody," he issued a warning when it came to bringing back programs.

"I think we need to be very careful as we investigate things," he said.

But for parents such as Lucy, the fact that there will be no referendum this spring is a good sign.

"I'm very glad," she said. "I think it says they're listening to the people."

What it means

Touting a balanced budget, District 50 leaders have decided not to hold a referendum in April. In addition, cuts previously planned for the 2006-07 school year will not take place.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Another School Corruption Probe

Yet another reason to continue to vote no on school referenda. Corruption must be ruled out before more tax dollars are unwisely spent. Below you will find two articles on school corruption

Grand jury demands records from all Suffolk school districts


November 18, 2005

A Suffolk grand jury investigating school corruption has ordered every district in the county to turn over thousands of documents, including audits and budgets, administrator salaries and perks, and more than 100 annual state reports on spending and programs.

The county's 70 school districts earlier this week began receiving the grand jury subpoenas, which seek four years' worth of records detailing virtually every aspect of the districts' operations. The districts have until the end of the month to comply.

Robert Clifford, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, declined to comment yesterday.

After a year of school financial scandals across Long Island that so far have resulted in the arrests of 16 people, Spota in September empaneled a special grand jury to investigate fiscal mismanagement in school districts. The panel is also probing Medicaid fraud.

The volume of records being sought stunned some local school officials yesterday, particularly coming only a few months after the federal Department of Education and the Justice Department asked every Long Island school district for computerized spending records dating back five years.

"I think people are, at this point, sort of feeling 'what's next?'" said Gary Bixhorn, the chief operating officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES, the regional cooperative serving local school districts.

The grand jury's subpoena is staggering in scope: Besides budget and audit reports from 2001-02 to 2004-05, the panel seeks enrollment figures and every report that districts must file under Section 2117 of the state Education Law for the same period.

That state law covers more than 100 different annual reports that detail everything from construction spending and transportation costs to drop-out prevention programs and bilingual services.

"We'll be more than happy to supply what they've asked for ... and after that, it's in their hands," James Sullivan, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in South Huntington, said in a phone message he left for a reporter yesterday.

Christopher Gallagher, chairman of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, said he and his colleagues understand they are under increased scrutiny.

"They are interested in the information and we have nothing to hide," said Gallagher, also superintendent in Southold.

State, local and federal officials have been intensely focusing on Long Island school spending since an $11.2-million embezzlement scandal exploded in the Roslyn district in February 2004. The state comptroller's office is auditing more than 20 local districts, and a new state law requires all school board members to undergo financial training.

"Everything is like, 'let's turn it up a notch,' " said Vinnie Cullen, partner in the auditing firm of Coughlin, Foundatos, Cullen & Danowski of Port Jefferson Station, which works for more than 70 Long Island districts. "You get a letter from the external auditor, that's no good. Then, you get a letter from the state comptroller, that's worse. Then you get a letter from a grand jury - and that's an even bigger deal.

"It seems like every time you turn the corner, here it is again," Cullen said. "But ultimately, all these people watching, it's a good thing."

Third Sauk Village school official arrested.

By Kati Phillips
Daily Southtown

A third Sauk Village school official was arrested Sunday, just two days before jailed Supt. Thomas Ryan is expected to plead guilty to fleecing the second-poorest school district in Cook County, sources close to the investigation say.

Buildings and grounds supervisor Edward Bernacki, 46, of Mokena, turned himself in to authorities at 11 a.m. at Circuit Court in Maywood.

He will appear in court today to face charges of official misconduct, bribery and class X felony theft, the latter punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Bernacki is accused of stealing more than $100,000 from Community Consolidated School District 168 via a no-bid lighting contract, ghost work and double billing.

There was "work he was paid for that he didn't do, and some work that was never done or done by other employees," said Assistant State's Attorney Sandra Navarro.

Bernacki's arrest appears to be the final one in a months-long investigation into misconduct, bid-rigging and theft at District 168 that was prompted, in part, by revelations in a Daily Southtown investigation published last spring.

Other officials charged

First charged was then-school board president and grandmother Louise Morales, who was indicted in August on 17 counts of theft, misapplication of funds and official misconduct. She pleaded not guilty.

Next came Ryan, acknowledged by prosecutors as a ringleader who demanded kickbacks from employees who knew of his financial schemes.

Held without bail since August because prosecutors believe he posed a threat to witnesses, Ryan is expected to plead guilty Tuesday, sources said.

Ryan is charged with theft of more than $100,000, intimidation, communication with a witness, harassment of a witness, obstruction of justice, bribery and official misconduct.

Though terms of the plea deal have not been released, sources say it includes his resignation from District 168 and the nullification of his contract, worth a potential $1.6 million over five years.

Ryan recruited Bernacki in 1991 to be head custodian at District 168. Both had worked at Posen-Robbins School District 143-1/2.

Vendor dropped after audit

A business partner and friend to the superintendent, Bernacki made the third-highest salary at District 168 and pulled in thousands of dollars a year apparently performing side jobs after hours.

Since 2000, Bernacki's base salary increased from $60,320 to $74,844, according to district documents. His company, E&M Associates, billed the district anywhere from $1,005 to $81,297 a school year for extra maintenance work since 1995, invoices show.

E&M Associates was dropped from the vendor list last school year after a routine audit for 2003-04 showed a $72,000 lighting contract was steered toward Bernacki and his company without going to bid as required by law.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Dist. 158 faculty members file lawsuit

Six District 158 employees are suing the embattled District 158. Take a look at their salaries at Family Taxpayers Network website. It is amazing to see that Jane Kantor was making 57,711 for 9 months of work in 2004 and had a 49% income increase over 3 years and it is still not enough. You can view her salary increases on the Family Taxpayers Network website.

Dist. 158 faculty members file lawsuit
By Charles Keeshan
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2005

A group of faculty members is suing Huntley School District 158, claiming the district reneged on a deal for them to work five additional days at the end of the last school year and start of this one.

The lawsuit, filed this month in McHenry County court, asks a judge to order the district to pay the seven staff members for the additional days, whether they worked or not, and fund their attorney fees and court costs.

The lawsuit does not indicate how much that might cost the district, but a teacher’s contract included with the filing listed pay for additional days at as much as $336 per day.

Listed as plaintiffs are Karen Renaldi, Cindy Fuhrer, Jane Johnson, Pamela Jorgensen, Jane Kantor, Annette Miller and Karen Miller.

At issue is the board’s decision in May to cancel plans for faculty members to work five extra days at the close of the 2004-05 school year and five more at the start of the 2005-06 year. The lawsuit alleges the district, under state law, was required to give the plaintiffs at least 60 days notice of those plans, but did not.

District officials, however, say they were within their legal rights when canceling the extra work days.

“We just happen to disagree on how they’re interpreting case law,” school board President Mike Skala said.

Robert Lyons, an attorney with the Illinois Educational Association representing the plaintiffs, did not return a call for comment Friday.

The case is scheduled to appear in court for the first time March 22 in front of Judge Michael Sullivan.

Lawsuit: More tax errors in Kane County

Yet another reason why we should continue to vote "no" on referenda. Growth and appreciation allow for an increase in tax dollars and therefore referenda essentially are very rarely needed. The problems occur when boards out spend the rate of inflation and dole out lucrative contracts like candy. How many of your tax dollars are in the hands of irresponsible boards instead of in your child's college fund or your retirement account?

Lawsuit: More tax errors in Kane County
By Jeffrey Gaunt and Emily Krone
Daily Herald Staff Writers
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2005

When Kane County officials decide to weigh in on whether they misapplied state tax law when calculating area tax bills, they’ll have plenty to discuss.

Not only did county officials wrongly figure tax rates for St. Charles School District 303 and Batavia School District 101, a tax-rate objection filed in 2004 claims the county also erred when calculating rates for the city of Batavia, and the city’s park and library districts.

“No final resolution has been reached,” said James Rooney, a Chicago attorney who filed the tax-rate objections.

Kane County State’s Attorney John Barsanti said he will take a stand on the objections at a Tuesday news conference but won’t comment until then.

All of the objections have to do with miscalculations of the tax rate. But the cases have to do with different applications of the law.

In the case of the library district, as with the two school districts, Rooney argues the county tax extender incorrectly calculated a voter-approved tax increase — giving the library district too much money.

In the Batavia school district, the misapplication cost taxpayers $6 million. In St. Charles, it could have cost taxpayers $17.5 million, but district officials opted not to take the extra cash.

In the library district, however, the miscalculation only amounts to roughly $65,000, based on figures used in the tax objection.

Similarly, the objection filed against the park district’s tax rate only amounts to tens of thousands — not millions — of dollars.

In that case, however, the argument is slightly different.

Under state law, the county tax extender should leave out any debt when first calculating annual changes in the tax rate. Doing so inflates the tax rate and costs taxpayers money.

That’s exactly what happened with the park district, the objection states.

And that’s also what happened with the city of Batavia, where after noticing the problem, the city’s finance director says she was able to convince county officials to correct it.

In that case, taxpayers paid more than $300,000 more than they should have, city officials said. This year, officials said, the $300,000 was paid in credits to tax bills.