OPINION: Welcome to Greendale
This week, the Village of Greendale held a “soft opening” for its Historic Welcome Center on Broad Street (more on that soon). The School Board Candidate Forum saw Village leaders welcome Greendale’s new superintendent of schools and the Easter Bunny will receive a grand, gala reception at the Spring Fling fundraising event at Greendale High School for the Marching Band on Sunday sponsored by the Greendale Lions Club.
It was a good sign to see Greendale’s soon-to-be superintendent at the School Board Candidate Forum this week. Dr. Gary Kiltz was engaged, shook hands and took lots of notes during the forum. I sincerely wish him good luck and success for our kids and community. Welcome to Greendale.
The candidate forum itself was another lightly attended school affair with 50 or so community members in attendance. There were lots of empty seats and a giant “moat” of empty space separating the candidates and audience members. The crowd probably could have fit in a large classroom rather than the cavernous Multipurpose Room. It wasn’t long ago that events like this saw much larger crowds.
Among the many tasks on Kiltz’s to-do list will be authentic community reengagement in the schools — beyond involved parents, long-time school supporters and Village insiders. Especially, if the board plans a referendum to pay for facilities upgrades or to revisit removing voting from the schools.
As one Village leader told me, “It is time for the school board to sincerely engage to the community and not expect and wait for the community to make the first move.”
The crowd was a who’s who of Greendale politics. I saw Village President Jim Birmingham along with trustees Carl Genz, Ron Barbian, Donna Ouellette and Sally Chadwick. Village Manager Todd Michaels was pulling double-duty and wearing his Chamber of Commerce hat.
Former Village president John Hermes was in attendance and sat behind former school board president Judy Fons and Village board candidate Rich Busalacchi. Eighteen year school board veteran Vicky McCormick was up front near Joe Crapitto and former school board member Ivanka Kuzmanovic (who served on the board in the 1980s).
Former school board treasurer Anne Szcygiel and her successor on the board, John Comiskey were scattered near the rear. And, I saw Village board candidate Brian Schuk.
The rest was a mixture of parents and community members. Candidates Andrea Bender, Mary Grogan, Tom Slota and Mel Kuzmanovic fielded a range of audience questions scribbled on white index cards about Common Core, budget challenges and voting in schools.
On the issue of voting, Bender, Slota and Kuzmonavic clearly didn’t shut the door on a renewed effort by the school board to have voting removed school buildings. Slota invoked Sandy Hook and Kuzmonavic floated The Historic Hose Tower and new fire station as possible new voting locations.
Only Grogan appeared to believe the issue was settled by adjusting the school calendar to accommodate voting. So, that is one issue that isn’t going away anytime soon.
The candidates were also questioned about repairs to the tennis courts at Greendale High School and a proposed parking lot for the district property at 84th and Grange.
Surprisingly, both incumbents Tom Slota and Melanie Kuzmonavic stated they were unaware of any such parking lot plans by the school district. However, a one-page January 4 memo to the school board from Todd Hajewski, Director of Business specifically references the proposed parking lot to them.
“We are analyzing and getting quotes on … a parking lot on 84 and Grange,” wrote Hajewski to the school board. For a link to the memo, please click here.
Both Slota and Kuzmonavic were present for the January 4 school board meeting. So, I think it is fair to wonder if the pair are paying attention and actually reading the memos from the administration in preparation for their meetings. It wouldn’t be the first time an elected official (or two) were totally uniformed about the issues before them.
So, what is going to be different this time around for Kiltz and the school board? It is a question that many parents, teachers, administrators, community members and Village leaders are thinking about and asking.
This will be the fourth superintendent (including interims) Crapitto and his team have burned through since 2012. Privately, some of his predecessors have little good to say about most board members.
Add to that the eight or nine closed sessions last year resulting in the resignation of Dr. Tharp. Ironically, the $145,000 the district has set aside to pay for the tennis court repair is just about what the school board agreed to pay John Tharp to not be the superintendent this school year.
There is also the debacle around the Veterans memorial that required community leaders and influencers to step in quietly to pull the school board out of a major mess they made themselves — and still blame others for. Not to mention the school board’s ham-handed attempt to unilaterally remove voting from the schools in 2013.
Kiltz’s recently released $160,000 salary seems in line with other districts. And, I hear he is considering moving to Greendale. But, as one Village leader joked on Saturday, “Will he be eligible for hazard pay for having to deal with Crapitto and other sitting members of the Greendale school board?”
Tomorrow is the Spring Fling Fundraiser for the Greendale Marching Band. Try to make it if you can. Wednesday is the Trustee Candidate Forum. See you there!
A Parting Gif…