Does ECC really stand for “Everyone Can be Crazy?”

In the vein of Will Smith, I have got to start attending Elgin Community College board meetings. And it was last night’s festivities in particular that made these gatherings sound even more fun than those Me-TV Welcome Back Kotter reruns.

Having talked at length with an attendee, the plan here is to only provide the highlights, but should you want the full effect, please immerse yourself in Courier-News reporter Dave Gathman’s account of the evening.

I know I tend to fawn over Dave’s writing, but this piece is another perfect example of how he can interweave an almost disparate series of events in such a seamless way that you actually feel like you were there.  ecc

But back to the board meeting where they were about to end the lengthy debate on whether to outsource ECC’s janitorial staff.

1. The closed session boycott. Though I certainly have to give him credit for sticking to his guns, ECC Trustee Robert Getz’ theory that the board acted illegally when they went into executive session to discuss the custodians’ future employment was an interesting one to say the least. As was his decision sit outside the session and sulk.

Employment issues are exactly why closed sessions are a board option.

2. The public speaks! In an effort to prove some folks can’t accept a victory, even after it became clear the janitors were staying, Mary Shesgreen of the Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice and local psychologist Pam Verner decided to wax poetically about the rising gap between the rich and poor.

Apparently they thought it was an Occupy Wall Street meeting. Why, Verner waxed so poetically, after repeated warnings about exceeding the three minute limit, Board Chairman Donna Redmer finally signaled an ECC police officer to gently escort her to her seat.

Take note folks, this is exactly how to go about destroying your cause. Co-opt a meeting to promote your own agenda. Ignore the rules everyone else has to follow. And then self-importantly drone on for ten minutes about something that’s already been resolved.

3. The union strikes! But not in the way you think. When the officer attempted to guide Verner away from the podium, ECC Faculty Association President, Luis Martinez, bolted from the gallery, interjected himself between the officer and Verner, and declared, “You’re going to have to go through me first.”

Then unions have the nerve to wonder why the rest of us think they’re a bunch of socially maladapted bullies who resort to physical force whenever it suits them. Maybe it’s because far too often, that’s exactly what y’all are!

4. The President plays defense attorney. Part of Verner’s and Shesgreen’s wealth gap contention was that, while the janitors are paid less than $10 an hour, ECC President David Sam just received a 25 percent salary and benefits package increase.

Yes! It’s probably not a good idea to ask for a big raise when you’ve already begged your teachers to take just 2 percent and you’re trying to can the custodians. But not only is that $426,000 total hardly the stuff of one percent legend, it’s pretty cheap for a college president. Former U-46 Superintendent Connie Neale did way better than that piddly amount.

But not being one to take the high road, while Verner continued her state of the union address, Sam got up and started working the crowd. I’m guessing he thought he was doing the open mic night at Zanies.

He explained that he works 80 hours a week and his six degrees entitle him to more money than someone with only three of them. But if that’s the case, shouldn’t all the Ph.D. administrators get more than he does?

5. Getz votes no! In what can only be described as the perfect cap to what Gathman gently described as an “oddball” evening, Trustee Getz, the board member most vocal in his support of the janitors, cast the lone vote against retaining them.

He said his dissent was due to the administration’s quick change in custodial course which necessitated waiting to resolve the issue till the next full board meeting. Apparently he didn’t understand what the other board members already did. Prolonging this agony would only give Ms. Verner another opportunity to go all Douglas MacArthur on them.

Do you remember my favorite postulate which states it’s always better to deal with nefarious than it is to have to handle silly? You see, you can fix nefarious, but silly… And this is a prime of example of why that’s true.

Start with a group of well-intentioned unpaid board members who really don’t understand what it means to be an elected official. Then add a college president who clearly has no clue. Throw in a union head who doesn’t know how to behave and mix it all up with some audience members who don’t know how to handle a win.

You may not be able to fix it, but at least it’s entertaining.

6 thoughts on “Does ECC really stand for “Everyone Can be Crazy?”

  1. Wow, there’s a lot of issues tied up into one ECC Board meeting! It’s unfortunate, but entirely understandable that people can get carried away over employment & justice issues. A $426K salaried person telling a $20K person that they make too much money is a hard pill to swallow. At my work, we outsource the custodial duties; a couple people come in after hours for 2-3 hours and empty the bins, clean & vacuum. It works and it would be hard to justify a full time person. For ECC, it is much larger and I think some of their duties can be more complicated, so there is value in having a skilled staff. The process you described is messy, but it looks like they are on the right track. The consultant can provide a non-biased report on improvements from which the Board can take action. An 88 person custodial staff is big enough to consider automation aids, productivity tracking, route optimization, and so on.

    One thing I take issue with is that public comments are held AFTER the votes. This cheats the Board members from using the public input to consider how they should vote.

  2. I have just recently moved into ECC from Harper’s District. We are most fortunate to have such fine Community Colleges as Ecc Harper COD ( College of DuPage) but I am puzzled why Superintendants of School Districts, College presidents receive salaries in the mid six figures. Doctors,and Lawyers, Judges ( including IL Supreme Court Justices) don’t make those salaries.
    The teachers actually teach, with better educated Board members perhaps we can work to get salaries more in line for the services people provide.

  3. Public colleges and community colleges (formerly called by the now politically incorrect name
    “JUNIOR colleges,” attract these problems. Their boards are largely absentee in nature
    and in charge of overall policy, not day-to-day observers of how the place actually operates.

    They leave the day-to-day stuff to the head administrator and his staff. This allows the administrator to tell his side of the story to the board FIRST and, if need be, to attempt to overawe them
    with his credentials (after all, isn’t that how he got hired in the first place?)

    “80 hours per week?” doubtfully. “Overpaid?” probably. A certain Wheaton Schools Superintendent was paid over $300,000 per year, had two Assistants who did the work, and specialized in public relations appearances while the assistants and staff covered for him. The board also fought a
    citizen-initiated FOIA request concerning the amount he was being paid, and it took years and
    a court decision to force the board to comply. (Was the board ashamed to admit what they paid him?)
    After his years of PR blitzes, he was hired away by another school for even bigger money.
    This is what you get with “Hired Gun” top level personnel. They are pay-hunting nomads.

    Yes, personnel matters are exceptions BY LAW to the Open Meetings Act, but how many
    citizens have bothered to research it before jumping on the nasty wagon and going to the meeting?

    How many of those attendees are willing to run for a position on the board? If they believe there
    is a problem, some of them should step up and run for a board position in the next election.
    If not even one of them does, they become a part of the problem by doing nothing.

  4. um, an ECC police officer DID NOT escort the lady he exceed her time to her seat. If you cannot get that simple fact right, why should i trust for about anything else? p.s. you spelled signaled wrong.

  5. Frank, Thank you the spelling correction has been made. But I never said the officer escorted anyone. In fact, I specifically noted that Mr. Martinez’ intervention prevent the officer from doing just that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s