Advise and Consent is also the duty of our elected school board

Yesterday’s post concerned the “Advise and Consent” of the city council. Today’s post will deal with the school board’s lack of decision making opportunities with superintendent Sheffield in charge.

The situation with the school district is somewhat different than the city, in that the superintendent is not elected, as is the mayor. So, if the board is bypassed by the administration, which has happened in the recent months, there is no representative of the people involved in decision making processes that spend our tax dollars.

In one such example, with the legal advice of school counsel, the superintendent formed a committee of individuals to review the 2012 budget and since it was not a direct ad-hoc committee appointed by the school board, and has no members of the board of education as participants, the meetings are not subject to the Open Meetings Act.

I attended the committee’s second meeting, held in the board room in the Administration Building a few weeks ago, to see what I could contribute with my 15 years experience in municipal financing, but was respectfully asked to leave by finance director Cedric Lewis and school counsel Lori Hoadley because the meeting was closed, except to Sheffield’s cabinet and committee members. So neither the public, nor the board, nor informed citizens are allowed to attend a budget discussion that ultimately spends over $400M of our tax dollars!

Other issues that have bypassed board scrutiny, involved millions spent on textbooks and portable computers for every teacher, without the advise and consent of the board of education, through a grant process that apparently didn’t require the board’s approval.  What if our representatives had wanted to use the grant to reduce some of the $41M deficit this year, or spend the money in other ways that meet the grant conditions.  We elected them to do that, didn’t we?

Also, there is the recent removal of the district’s discipline counsel, Tom Bueschel, through a bid process that didn’t include a major news source to publish the request for bid. When the issue came before the board, most of the board members were not aware of the change and the discipline counsel was not recently told that a bid process to remove him from his job had even taken place, according to board members with whom I have spoken.

Finally, Harlem, Byron, and Winnebago school districts are joining the Belvidere school district in the Rock Valley College “Running Start” program for advanced and mature students, but not the Rockford school district. The board didn’t vote on that decision either, with the superintendent making a unilateral decision, that it was too costly. Decisions that are being made by the superintendent in the Rockford school district, using our tax dollars obviously do not require a vote, as long as a majority of the board does not contest the process.

The city council is beginning to assert its legislative role in the decision making process. It’s about time the Board of Education started doing the same thing, or let someone else do the job.



  1. I agree with you Ted. And unless the school board actually starts doing its job, a lot of members are probably going to be replaced in the next election.

    Then again, based on the board’s track record, they probably don’t believe that that possibility exists.

    Gonna be an interesting school year, but we already knew that.

  2. John Penn

    David Kelly, Jeanne Westholder. Robert Evans, and Alice saudergas all come up for reelection.

    Replacing at least 3 of these board members could allow the board a unity necessary to provide a check and balance to Dr. Sheffield and her administration. Ideally the first 3 listed.

    Dr. Sheffield is currently pushing things through fast, possibly because she understands her puppet board may be coming to an end.

    I would suggest residents watch out for a push to take control of schools from the board before the elections, to close and reopen an abundance schools as charters (under the guise of being failing schools).

    While Dr. Sheffield appears to outwardly oppose charter schools, her actions and past employment speak differently.

    Things appear to be happening…now.

  3. John Penn

    In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned the alignment between Mayor Morrissey and Dr. Sheffield.

    Another example of this alignment is the August 2008 Mayor’s presentation to the Rockford Chamber of Commerce. Morrissey recognized John Anderson for introducing business leaders to the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

    This is the same John Anderson that is one of only seven members on the budget committee Ted Biondo was not allowed to attend. Why would such a small committee include charter school advocates like John Anderson if the true goal is to strengthen Rockford schools. The meetings and there attendee list remain secretive. Why???

    I do not necessarily have a problem with Charter schools, but based on the unwillingness of Dr. Sheffield and Larry Morrissey to collaborate and work with the general public…who is getting these FOR PROFIT charter school businesses in Rockford? Where are the checks and balances. The key word is profit. If you believe that they stand for education before the ability to make a dollar, I would be amazed.

    If residents do not stand up and demand local control of our school system, Morrissey and Sheffield’s friends and family could soon control the education of our children.

  4. Right on! It’s time for new leadership on this board. It amazes me that someone with virtually no experience or track record of success can make so many unilateral decisions without answering to the board. I don’t know one person that has any confidence in her leadership right now.
    It’s been said that school districts are a reflection of the board and the board is a reflection of the community. Maybe we get what we deserve. So many are critical of the board, but nobody is stepping up to run for a seat. Often, board seats go uncontested or may have only 2 people running. Apathy has brought us to where we are today. I respect that fact that you put your money where your mouth is and served this community on the 205 board. But, you are misguided on the 2.0 policy?

  5. I must admit we see alot of slight -of-hand when dealing with the B of E. When it comes to curriculum issues as well, the main players don’t seem to be kept informed Just the other night my son came home from one of the high school and told me that the class his mother and I had talked him into taking is not going to be taught this year and that he couldn’t change his schedule because it was too late in the year. When I asked him why, he said that the school district had decided that since their test scores were low, they had to change the course content and it was now going to be a yearlong ACT prep class. Well, I have to admit I was confused because my son had already taken the ACT and his mother and I really wanted him to take this class, Math Applications, because the course description in the district published catalog said it would teach him about bank accounts and income taxes and other real life math. Now on top of that, even though it was the 4th or 5th week of school, his teachers still did not know what they would be teaching, they were waiting for the district to write the curriculum. Seems to me that if they were going to change the curriculum, they should have done it over the summer and that since they changed the class to be something else, my son should be allowed to opt out and change his schedule. My larger concern is what will come next. Will the district decide that next year instead of French, or Music, or Art, your kid is going to have to sit all year in a test prep class? He also was told that they weren’t going to have to read any books in Literature class, since there are no books on the ACT test, just short paragraphs. Why have school at all, let’s just get him that big ACT prep book at the mall when he is 5 and let him work his way up. Is that what school is all about these days, teaching the test? No, in the retail business, it is called Bait and Switch.

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