Saturday, July 22, 2006

District 158 investigates $10,000 theft

Jeffery Gaunt of the Daily Herald
is the best education reporter in Northern Illinois. Once again he hits it out of the ballpark with the article below. The article below should make it clear to all readers that Larry Snow is the only District 158 board member who has the interests of the taxpayers and taxpayers' dollars in mind. But will anything change? Will apathy allow the other board members to remain seated and continue to be reckless with taxpayer dollars?

As school spending increases so does the number of people who benefit from the school spending gravy train. Administrators, teachers, janitors, busdrivers, support staff, legislators, retirees on the education pension dole, architects, realtors, contractors, newspaper owners, lawyers, accountants, public relation firms, auditors, consultants, suppliers of everything from milk to bleachers to school furniture, etc., etc., etc. We will reach a point where more people's pockets will be filled with school dollars than those that don't receive school spending dollars. This monster will be so big that referenda pushers and tax eaters will be able to easily pass any tax increase unless everyone from students, parents, retirees and voters get involved. It is time to stop re-electing legislators who except teachers union, union and money from anyone involved in benefiting from public school monies.

What do we get from all this spending? Poor graduation rates, poor performance on standardized tests, billions of dollars being spent on remedial education because the K-12 system failed to prepare students for college, America falling behind second and third world countries in science and math, students who have been through the K-12 system who are functionally illiterate, etc, etc.

District 158 investigates $10,000 theft
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Saturday, July 22, 2006

A former Huntley District 158 financial employee is under investigation for bilking the district out of as much as $10,000.

District officials contacted Algonquin and Huntley police on July 10, after an internal investigation revealed a staff member might have stolen money from the district.

Officials also said they were strongly advised by police not to discuss the details of the case during the investigation.

"This is a really sensitive issue," Superintendent John Burkey said. "We will be forthcoming. But we also have to protect the investigation."

Burkey said the employee is not now working in the district.

He said he couldn't comment on how much money might have been stolen, but a source close to the investigation said the amount likely is between $8,000 and $10,000.

Once the investigation is complete, police said they will turn all of the information over to the McHenry County state's attorney's office.

"I would expect in a few weeks," Algonquin Deputy Police Chief Ed Urban said. "I wouldn't expect it to take longer than that."

The investigation is the latest in a series of problems that have plagued the district's fiscal office in the past
several years.

The department's top two officers stepped down last year after the office came under fire for releasing false and misleading information regarding a 55-cent tax-rate increase.

When new chief financial officer Stan Hall came on board later last year, he discovered a series of missteps under the previous administration, including a $13 million loan that went largely unused and which cost the district $230,000 in interest.

State auditors later determined district officials falsely filled out several state aid claim forms. One led to the collection of an extra $666,000 in transportation aid, which the district is repaying. Another over-reported the number of students attending class and brought in as much as $325,000, which the district also must return.

The audits found the district owed the state $2.1 million.

Earlier this year, an independent auditor said the district lacked internal financial controls that would prevent employees from mishandling money - intentionally or unintentionally.

Completion of that audit was delayed because of problems with the district's accounting practices. The auditor and district officials still are unable to account for a difference of $16,000 to $20,000 between the district's ledgers and bank statements.

"The fiscal office had serious problems over a year ago," said Burkey, who started as superintendent July 1. "We all know that. I believe there has been significant progress in the last 12 months. However, I do believe there is still progress that has to be made."

The school board has balked at repeated calls from board member Larry Snow to hire a forensic auditor to investigate whether district employees have engaged in illegal activity.

School board President Mike Skala said Friday that despite news of the latest criminal investigation, he wasn't sure whether the board would change its tune - or even broach the topic in public.

"I don't think it's a dead issue by any means," Skala said. "I would like to bring it up in the future, and if it gets shot down again, it gets shot down."

But he said he would likely ask board members what they thought individually, rather than waste time discussing the matter in public, or asking administrators to work on it, if the majority of the board didn't support the idea.

Skala said that, like Snow, he supports an audit. But he prefers a special audit over a forensic audit, meaning the focus would be on where the money was spent, rather than possible impropriety.

In the meantime, he said the district's fiscal office is improving.

"There are checks and balances in place now where they might not have been previously," he said. "Not that it's going to be perfect right now. It's going to take awhile. You can't just do everything overnight."

Friday, July 21, 2006

School district official quits amid corruption allegations

The article below was sent to us by our friends at Parent Don't think stuff like this is happening in your district think again.

James Fleming, California Superintendent, Resigns Amidst Charges

School district official quits amid corruption allegations

SANTA ANA, Calif. The embattled superintendent of Orange County's
Capistrano Unified School District says he's resigning after 15 years
on the job.

James Fleming's announcement comes amid accusations that he targeted
parents attempting to recall the school board he reports to.

Allegations recently surfaced that the county registrar improperly
allowed district officials to review the names of people who signed
recall petitions.

Fleming acknowledged the existence of spreadsheets listing parents,
teachers and others who received recall e-mails for the first time

He said the lists were part of an effort to determine whether someone
had hacked into the district's computer system.

The head of a group that was seeking the district trustees' recall
called Fleming's departure "a great milestone."

But district officials lauded Fleming. They say his tenure was marked
by achievement advances and a near doubling of district enrollment.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

School Reformers Interested in Defamation Lawsuit

John Biver of the Family Taxpayers Foundation has another great post on the FTF site. This article points out why so many people do not speak out. But this is exactly the reason why people should speak out. School employees have become very powerful. Referendum's will pass if people especially parents and students do not speak out about the deplorable behavior of most school employees and many in the press.

School Reformers Interested in Defamation Lawsuit

By John Biver

An interesting case working its way through the court system has implications for school reformers. You may have read about Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Thomas’ libel lawsuit against the Geneva-based Kane County Chronicle (Click here for an AP article and here for a Sun-Times article). Government watchdogs who have been the subject of similar newspaper treatment are paying attention.

At issue in the Thomas case is a newspaper column that claimed Thomas had changed his position in a disciplinary hearing after alleged quid pro quo support was given to a judicial candidate that Thomas favored.

The Associated Press reports that the Kane County Chronicle is standing by its columnist. The AP also quotes Thomas as saying, “The one thing the law doesn’t protect is lying, and that’s what this was.”

What makes this case interesting for school reformers is a recent column by Jennifer Martikean in the Northwest Herald bashing D158 School Board Member Larry Snow for automated phone calls he had nothing to do with.
In her column, Martikean portrays Larry Snow in a false light, creating the impression that he cooked up a nefarious plot to hide a campaign expenditure.

To view the rest of the article click here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Jersey County citizens law suit moves forward

The following was posted by Joyce Morrison on the Illinois Review website.

Jersey County citizens law suit moves forward

Taxpayers in Jersey County were victorious this morning when a ruling was given by the presiding judge before a packed court room for a "leave to file complaint." The request was filed by a citizens group against the illegal sale of school bonds by Jersey Community School District No. 100 and this ruling will permit the lawsuit to proceed.

This was music in the ears of Jeff Ferguson and his large group of followers. Ferguson has over 800 pages of documentation he has collected over the past three years indicating the two new schools, which were built against the wishes of the taxpayers, were also built by the illegal sale of bonds.

The attorney for the Jersey County Coalition for Public Awareness, stated that, " in 1999, School District 100 submitted a proposition to issue general revenue bonds for the building of a new high school which the voters rejected." The suit claims the school board and administration illegally sold Health and Safety bonds when they built two new schools in the district.

The attorney representing the school district in defense of the suit told the judge "the contractors are expected to be paid and the capital being discussed in this law suit is enormous."

The Jersey Community School District No. 100 was financially secure until the past 3 or 4 years and now they have been forced to cut programs and are facing millions of dollars indebtedness. School board member, Terri Kallal, with facts and figures in hand, has been the only school board member in the district trying to stop the spending frenzy.

Jersey County is not the only county facing this situation. School districts throughout Illinois are financially drained because of the building of new schools and the abuse of powers taken by their local school board and administration. Going to court against a school district is not an easy task but hopefully more districts will begin to defend their taxpayers and stop the corruption in the education system.

In conversation, one taxpayer compared the illegal building of schools to a theft. "A thief must pay the consequences. When boards illegally use my money, this is theft from my pocket just as sure as they had forcefully taken it from me."

On September 21, the summary judgment will be held where testimonies from both sides will be heard.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Underground History of American Education

For those who like to read a book on-line here is an education book for you. The book is Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto. Below is an excerpt of the book. Thanks to our friends at the Fair Tax Groups and Neal Boortz for the heads up on this book and link.

"You aren’t compelled to loan your car to anyone who wants it, but you are compelled to surrender your school-age child to strangers who process children for a livelihood, even though one in every nine schoolchildren is terrified of physical harm happening to them in school, terrified with good cause; about thirty-three are murdered there every year. From 1992 through 1999, 262 children were murdered in school in the United States. Your great-great-grandmother didn’t have to surrender her children. What happened?

If I demanded you give up your television to an anonymous, itinerant repairman who needed work you’d think I was crazy; if I came with a policeman who forced you to pay that repairman even after he broke your set, you would be outraged. Why are you so docile when you give up your child to a government agent called a schoolteacher?"

To read more go to Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A Call to All - The state of Illinois public education is poor.

The following article appears on the Illinois Policy Institutes website.

A Call to All

The state of Illinois public education is poor.  Some schools excel, no doubt.  But writ large, the public education system is failing parents, students, and educators.  This does not have to be so - there exist reforms that can immediately improve the education system in Illinois.  But first, Illinois needs reformers.

Far beyond a capital development plan, far beyond decreased class sizes, a paradigm shift in the approach to public education is essential.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in rural Illinois.  The state’s most squalid schools are in urban areas, and on average rural schools outperform urban schools.  Rural students read better, and they perform better in math.  But beyond Cook County and the Metro East areas, the districts struggling most to even graduate high school seniors are overwhelmingly rural in number.

Of rural high school graduates, fewer attend college than their urban counterparts.  And even then, they remain in college for less time.  This pattern, more than any other phenomenon, is destroying the economy of rural Illinois.

While reform has been slow in coming to rural Illinois schools, so has research.  In this matter, however, Illinois is not alone in the dark.  Nationwide, there is a dearth of rural education data.  We know that the status quo is failing rural America, but there are few figures to suggest what can be done.  A report commissioned by the United States Department of Education put it plainly: “there is almost no rural education research that is rigorous enough to guide important decision making with the necessary level of certainty. For all practical purposes, the knowledge base about important rural education issues is nonexistent.”  And so, it is left to reformers to hypothesize as to which measures can best improve the lot of parents and students trapped in a failing school system. 

In this spirit, the Illinois Policy Institute will, in the coming days, weeks, and months, issue a series of policy briefs outlining a number of choice-based reforms that aim to bring immediate, positive change to rural Illinois schools.

However, the reform of rural Illinois schools cannot come through the work of a single organization.  State and federal lawmakers, local governments - especially school districts – must all look beyond the prevailing, convenient wisdom and look closely at innovative approaches that literally ‘re-form’ the delivery of public education. 

To view the rest of the article go to the Illinois Policy Institutes website.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Student sues Nevada school for silencing God reference

The story below is a follow-up to an early post .
This story appeared in the Chicago Tribune first published by the Associated Press.

Student sues Nevada school for silencing God reference

By Ryan Nakashima
Associated Press
Published July 15, 2006

LAS VEGAS -- A high school valedictorian whose microphone was cut off as she gave an address referring to Jesus Christ has filed a lawsuit against school officials, claiming her rights to religious freedom and free speech were trampled.

Brittany McComb, 18, said she was giving her June 15 commencement address to some 400 graduates of Foothill High School and their family members when the mike was unplugged.

"God's love is so great that he gave his only son up," she said before the microphone went dead. She continued without amplification, " an excruciating death on a cross so his blood would cover all our shortcomings and provide for us a way to heaven in accepting this grace."

McComb's lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Nevada, names the principal, assistant principal and the employee of the school in Henderson who allegedly pulled the plug.

McComb said she was warned that her speech would be cut off if she did not follow an approved script that deleted references to Christ and invitations for others to join the faith. But she memorized the deleted parts and said them anyway.

"In my heart I couldn't say the edited version because it wasn't what I wanted to say," she told The Associated Press. "I wanted to say why I was successful . . . . It involved Jesus Christ for me, period."

The lawsuit asks the court to declare that school officials deprived McComb of her rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments, according to The Rutherford Institute, a conservative legal group that is backing the lawsuit.

Clark County School District spokesman Dave Sheehan said district lawyers had not seen the lawsuit and were unable to comment on it.

School district lawyer Bill Hoffman said previously that the school was following 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rulings that have obligated districts to censor student speeches for proselytizing.

Allen Lichtenstein, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said the school appropriately followed the appeals court's decisions.

"Proselytizing is improper in school-sponsored speech at valedictorian graduations," he said.

John Whitehead, president of the Charlottesville, Va.-based Rutherford Institute, said this case differed from others involving the vetting of valedictorian speeches because the microphone plug was pulled as McComb veered into unapproved text. Students in other cases had accepted editing of religious content, he said.