Quick Hits – December 21, 2018

Let me be perfectly clear about school board candidates

On Wednesday we covered exactly which Geneva school board candidates were backed by the Geneva Education Association. For the uninitiated, that’s the D304 teachers’ union. To repeat, those candidates are:

  • Jill Johnson
  • Katherine Frye
  • Kim Edwards
  • Alicia Saxton
  • Prerak Patel

But when I posted that story, a couple of commenters referred to that slate in some rather unfortunate terms. And I say “unfortunate” because, while I completely disagree with their cause, anyone who has the cojones to run for school board deserves a boatload of credit for doing so.

Image result for geneva school board d304

First, this race covers all of Geneva Township and a bit more, so it’s bigger than a mayoral run. Second you don’t get paid for serving on a school board and, if done right, it can be a very time-consuming proposition.

And third, it’s an utterly thankless job because you regularly have to deal with folks’ two most precious commodities – their children and their bank accounts. To make matters worse, the only time the voters give you any consideration whatsoever is when the press believes you’ve done something wrong.

I have a number of friends on school boards and when they displease me my favorite comment is, “Don’t make me help you get reelected!

So, while I certainly don’t want to see any tax and spend candidate get elected anywhere, you have to give this group credit for giving it a shot. Their lives will not be their own from January 2 through April 1. Campaigning, done right, is an incredible amount of hard work.

Will I reasonably and civilly work against them? You bet I will! But isn’t that the American way?


This board was more than respectful to the teachers

I’m not being bombarded with this contention, but I am starting to hear it on a semi-regular basis. “The D304 School Board needs to treat the teachers with more respect.” In fact, it’s the main reason one of the pro-union candidates is running.

The irony is these well-intentioned folks have it completely backwards.

I’d say five percent annual raises for five years shows a whole heck of a lot of respect. And unlike GEA President Kevin Gannon and too many of the teachers, this Board bent over backwards to keep the animosity to a minimum.

Geneva 304 Board of Education Members

I know these board members far better than most local politicians and it isn’t in this group’s nature to be disrespectful to anyone, much less the educators they will continue to work with.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gannon

  • Knew a strike was unnecessary
  • Incited an absurd level of hostilities just because he could
  • Consistently and blatantly lied
  • Consistently resorted to intimidation
  • Enjoyed every bit of his 15 minutes of fame
  • Created a consistently moving negotiation target
  • Consistently negotiated in bad faith
  • Was behind sending that absurd text to D304 students

But here’s the real kicker. Sure, that errant text destroyed the union’s public position, which meant they had to settle quickly. But the federal mediator was also greatly responsible for the settlement that fateful Sunday.

At one point during those intense negotiations, he went to the white board, drew a line down the middle, and wrote “Board Concessions” and “Union Concessions” atop the two columns. It took him awhile to list all of the board’s compromises. But when it came to the Union listing theirs, they couldn’t come up with a single word.

Their side of the white board was pure as the driven snow. And that’s really something when you consider strike mediators almost always favor labor. When faced with the text fallout and the fact they clearly weren’t negotiating in good faith, the GEA finally made an effort to resolve the issue.

Furthermore, I have received no reports of any teacher’s child being harassed on social media, but that certainly wasn’t the case for board members who still have children in the Geneva school system. The threats and harassment got so bad that a couple of them are considering sending their children to private schools.

So, it’s the union and some of the teachers who have a lot to learn about respect – not the board! And if you’re running on that basis, you might want to reconsider your candidacy!


Ahoj mým českým přátelům!

For those of you who don’t speak Czech – and that’s probably all of you – that roughly translates to, “Hello to my Czech friends!” And I offer this greeting because I may not be “big in Japan,” but The First Ward seems to have developed a growing Czech readership.

Image result for czech flag

You see, one of the fun things about WordPress blogs is they tell you where your hits come from. And I’ll generally get a smattering from Canada, the UK, Costa Rica (Hi Stephanie!), Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Hong Kong and China. But I’ve been getting up to 60 hits a day from my friends in the Czech Republic.

I suppose if David Hasslehoff can be big in Germany, I can be Czech hit, too!

When I mentioned this to my lovely wife, she suggested I reach out to my Czech readers to ascertain exactly what draws them to The First Ward and I’m going to do just that!

Takže, moji čeští přátelé! Co vás přivede na svůj blog? Dejte nám prosím vědět v sekci komentáře.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

13 thoughts on “Quick Hits – December 21, 2018

  1. Didn’t the union offer, the night before the federal mediators came in, to try the boards proposal for two years then the last two years do it their way? I would call that a big concession.

  2. Direct quote from the daily herald. “the union had offered a major compromise Friday, with teachers agreeing to accept the board’s flat-raise salary schedule for the first two years of the contract.” that’s from December 8. The article was literally called Progress in talks as both sides make concessions. This is also supported by the 304 connects sent out on December 6 at 11pm.

    The board asked the teachers to go back to work on Friday when they considered the offer.

    Federal mediator came in on Sunday night. Deal done Monday morning.

    Consider changing your article since you have incorrect facts

    1. Bob,

      Do you know how often the Daily Herald gets it wrong? I have a source who was in the room. Could my source have mildly embellished? Perhaps, but the only thing I’d change is there was a slew of compromises by the Board and one by the Union. It doesn’t change the gist of the story that the Board was far more willing to negotiate than the union was.

      The fact that a federal mediator seemed to see the board’s side is a truly shocking thing. I’ve covered quite a few labor disputes and that rarely happens.

      Your comment will clearly stay up and I’m sure readers will duly note it.

  3. Kudos for your courage in speaking to your Czech readers in their language. If I tried something like that I’d probably accidently tell them the albatross was massaging the porpoise with cheese.

  4. Well judging from the Czech response maybe he did or perhaps they are calling The Donald to have the Dude’s blogging rights cancelled
    Merry Christmas Mr Ward and to all your bloggers too

  5. This is making me remember the profile I wrote of Judy Barr Topinka when she was first elected to the state House. We talked about her Czech heritage and how it helped her appeal to voters in Berwyn, which at that time had a lot of voters of Czech extraction.

    She told me, “I speak fluent Cermak Road Czech, which is not what they speak in Prague. In fact, when I try to speak it in Prague, they say, ‘Oh, you must be from Burr-vin.'”

    Great lady. A regret I’ll take with me to the grave is that I voted against her in favor of that corrupt sonofabitch Rod Blagojevich. My reasoning at the time is, I was afraid that her much-touted frugality would translate into starving social programs of funding.

    1. Judy Barr Topinka was right about Blago and right about the pensions in Illinois. I met her more than a few times and voted for her every time she ran for state wide office. She was a genuine person who loved Illinois. Had she been elected rather than Blago we might not be in the fix we are now.

Leave a Reply