Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Half a Century Ago

Here are some of my penciled notes I wrote after my first year of teaching 1951-2. Believe you will find comparisons with today interesting:

A controlled system of placing teachers
More security
Panels to work out troubles, visit the school that has the problem
A county coordinator who will be familiar with particular situation-school
Better understanding of needs of teachers will lead to better understanding between school and community
Community and parents will learn their role in the school – result; better attendance and more community participation. Parents will feel they are part of the school system. Parents feel left out of many activities by unintentional action of teachers
Orientation of teachers about the community they are entering; therefore better and easier understanding of all concerned
Bring the place of the school back into focus with the rest of the technological world
Better understanding will cause community to aid teachers in housing, establish them in the community and raise living standards of teachers
Teacher, community, children, administration relations will improve with an understanding of individual problems
(Torn off corner of my notes) of many children feel discriminated against or left out of school affairs. Thus hostility against school board, teachers, ect.
School boards hires and fires on recommendations, whims, personal likes, dislikes, have little regard for accomplishments, qualifications, ect.
Superintendent has dictatorial powers in many communities and can take advantage of crowded fields
Time, money or worry about security while an applicant seeks a job
Better teachers
More systematic systems throughout the state
Happier or satisfied teachers; thus happier students
Public relations are very poor
Older teachers are slow to accept newer lines of teaching and understanding
Schools are losing the point of teaching children because parents are not getting out of schools all they should
Attendance problems because of lack of understanding and support within the community
State placement bureau
Teachers need to belong to union
School board applies to state placement bureau stating job requirements, salary, ect
State board is composed of men and women from all sections of the state, familiar with conditions of particular community
Publish bulletins on employment or field situation
Understanding of broken home situations
Lack of discipline – children need to learn unacceptable behavior – community help necessary – small acts lead to big acts of misbehavior
Doting parents is a problem
Outside influence, movies, books, radio (no TV or Blackberrys’ back then!!)

Under a heading “New Correctional Techniques – Youth Authority Commission”, I wrote:
Diagnosis of problem and individual – what’s wrong?
Guidance – group living special opportunity. (In Normal, Il., where I graduated from HS, some of my parentless friends removed from a normal family life, could live under supervision in a group home called Victory Hall, My parents let me spend a night with them and I was very impressed with the quality of these kids. Many of them were the first to enlist when WW2 broke out; one was class president and has kept communications flowing between our classmates even today.)
Return individual to society reforming him not punishing him – five states had adopted this policy by 1950
Approaches to hear off and correct kids with problems like the Kiwanis (I am a member) Rotary (past member of Peoria and E. Peoria and now a Noon Optimist), Lions 4-H, ect., send kids to the lake for summer camps
Two mediums of bringing a problem into prominent focus – radio and newspapers
Change is inevitable and change brings conflict
Choice making and methods
Minorities and their rights
Friction of living together
People are concerned because of large numbers of youth unable to live in harmony and according to the rules of society
Modern approach to the problem based on Diogenes philosophy is how to head youngsters off and how to straighten out the ones already having a record
Common sense is not so common

Enough, if you read thru this to the end. These are all things I wrote in 1951 and those of you who know me or read my blogs, note that I still believe almost all these things 55 years later. This is not a test but you can see how problems and some solutions haven’t changed much at all. Most of the problems are still there; only far more complex. Many of the solutions we knew about years ago have not been put in place because of resistance from the far left and far right, complacency, material greed, and a belief in keeping those who cause problems “in their place”. Many solutions are in place but need more community input, action and support.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment!!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Unions, Community and Cooperation

I have written before that I am a union supporter. That comes with understandings such as I had with the Teamster’s Union for 22 years. Archie and then his son, Chuck Gauwitz, representing the union and my unionized employees and myself representing both my employees and my company would set down in not always a totally friendly atmosphere but we would work out our differences. We had a mutual respect for each other and the positions we had to support. I had to make sure I wasn’t too far overpriced in the labor market and in the business field and the union had to be sure their members were treated fairly and earned a competitive salary. No one was ever totally satisfied with our bargaining but never to the point of me trying to break the union or them doing any picketing or striking. I only recall one grievance and that was in the first year.

Part of our understanding was that I owned the company. The union agreed that my company could terminate an employee who was not getting the job done. The union always wanted more money and more benefits. My company wanted to accommodate the union while staying competitive with my competition, none of them represented by any union.

In my life, I have only met one or two people who told me they were overpaid. I met an awful lot who felt they were worth more than they were being paid. Between management and labor there must be these understandings that not everyone is going to be happy. Both side’s position must be sold to there respective parties. This takes a good union business manager and a good employer. And a majority of reasonable employees.

I can understand part of the teacher’s union position. They have seen a lot of the good, the bad and the in-between. I know that communicating has been a huge problem as administration and boards come and go. I do not agree with many of the union’s positions especially their constant denouncing the Edison Schools. I can possibly understand the likely overpaid and overstaffed administration. #150 has never replicated the Edison concept and there is little belief they can do it now. When a union represented school system can only discharge 2-5 teachers out 90,000 teachers (in the entire State of Illinois) in an entire school year, the system is not working.

Many in this community have not forgotten that “six union members Terry Knapp, Mary Connett, James Lewis, Ken Meischner, Lillie Foreman and Larry Burdette, were paid more than $482,000.00 this past year NOT to teach in the classroom. A million dollars over the last four years not to teach. Local taxpayers should be livid. All taught less than half time, released from their classrooms to attend to their duties as members of the district two Local Professional Development Committees, according to district officials.” (Journal Star 6/19/05) On the same day the JS reported that the “board granted a $43.8 million dollar increase in teachers salaries alone, excluding benefits which are substantial.” The JS further states that “that 150 spend nearly 23% more on teachers today than they did in 2000 when they had more students.” The JS further states that “staff compensation as a percentage of education funds has jumped from 78 to 91 percent, which is practically unheard of. It would have been higher if not for 257 retirements. They retired with bonuses of $5.4 million.”

I ask that every property tax payers in the County and City of Peoria check your real estate tax bill and compare it with past years. Pretty soon this community will understand when I said “Wake Up, Peoria” an earlier blog of about a year ago, and start paying better attention to what is going on.

The community and property tax payer is demanding a better deal for their money. I suggest that a council of business leaders be formed not picked by the school board or the Chamber of Commerce or Caterpillar or the Civic Federation but by a person independent of the school board. I believe the person to lead this effort is Mayor Jim Ardis. This council should include a cross section of business-minded people to first meet independently to determine wherein lies the greater needs and how to approach the situation. Then ask to start meeting with the school board, who is RESPONSIBLE to direct administration to solve the problems that can be solved. This group would meet with some consistency to bridge the gap between the school, the union and the community. This is no longer just an education problem but a severe financial problem as well. We have plenty of qualified educators. Now we need people who know how to manage a $140 million dollar budget.

I support the work of the task force on building consolidation but there are a greater range of problems. The council I recommend would be all inclusive and report only to the citizenry of District #150.

I’ve recommended this before. Past time to move on this or someone’s better idea which I haven’t seen yet.

Why Edison Schools do not Produce What Some Expect

As a follow-up to Edison Schools in Peoria and why Edison teachers struggle to raise the grades of these students, we often overlook that parents whose kid or kids are failing in the regular public school system; these parents expect their kids to become a model student just because they are now attending an Edison School. I visit Edison Schools and other schools, and I see a number of kids who are failing in the Edison Schools. I see disinterested kids, kids without discipline at home (one kid at Edison Loucks told me he had been in juvenile court twice and he was only in the 8th grade) or much love either, kids who don’t get enough sleep or eat right. I see teachers who are better teachers than other teachers, same as in the non-Edison Schools. The same is true with principals. Edison Schools are not like a Washington Gifted School where the perception is that only the brightest attend and the teachers and principals are the best.

At Edison Schools, if a kid is too disruptive, they will not be back next semester. In fact, they may be removed and sent back to the regular school before the end of a session.. Most teachers in the Edison Schools seem more excited about their careers because they know they have a better support system and can better support each other. Also Edison personnel, (those who take our dollars out of town according to the unions) add additional expertise.

There are teachers, many, in fact, who are doing are great job in all the other schools that are not Edison. After all, only four schools in the entire system are Edison. Many are disappointed in the support given them by boards and administrations and the public, for that matter. They ask for support to maintain a reasonable sense of order in the classroom. As one older teacher (like 55 is old!!) told me “what good is it to send a disruptive kid to the principals office if the principal sends the kid back and the next day the teacher gets a call from the parent or guardian.” In most cases, because of the system set up by the board and the union, the principal has no choice. This teacher said she counted the days for retirement and she did retire last year. I visited her class and she was a good teacher, just tired of fighting what was going on in the system.

I visited a number of classes at Loucks and Rolling acres last week and have visited many regular classrooms and schools including all four Edison Schools over a period of many years. I served on a planning committee with teachers at Northmoor. I try to get school personnel to address social groups like the Noon Optimist Club. Nicole Wood was our speaker at Noon Optimist Club recently and she won a number of converts. The whole system needs a couple hundred more Nicole’s.

To break the system of failure and “perceived failure” in #150, there will be tougher leadership than this system has had in the past. Kids are going to need to be told in a tough positive caring manner that when they enter the door of any school, they may be entering a different culture where the rules may be different but these rules WOULD BE FOLLOWED, that they can not take the opportunities offered for granted and they will be expected to perform within their abilities to perform. Maybe not the best grades, but in some arenas, yes sports too, but also other arenas; they will eventually find their niche in this not always understanding world. Parents or guardians who have excuses not to attend these late in the day introductorily meetings must be held accountable. Maybe be subjected to arrest of fines like the judge handed out in Kentucky. Kids must be told they are accountable and that being late, absent or disrespectable is not way of life.

The community, board and administration, must understand that all kids are not college bound. The opportunity must always be presented but not the expectation as there are many other fields to serve any community by holding a job in some field with an opportunity to advance if they so wish. Kids must learn that decent wages must be earned and are not an entitlement. (In other word, they must ignore the welfare system offered by many who would make this a socialist society).

The community should expect a better rounded kid to come out of Edison schools while remembering you cannot make a “silk purse out of a sow’s ear” as the old saying is still true today.

Edison Schools in Peoria

A quote in the Journal Star on May 27, 2002 is attributed to Terry Knapp, then president of the teachers union representing Peoria Public School District #150. Knapp said “the fact is, all over the country they (Edison) have failed. If I had $50 million I sure wouldn’t invest it in Edison.”

Knapp was correct on one thing only. He didn’t and doesn’t have $50 million. He was wrong on everything else. Almost four years later it is the public school system that Knapp and his union represent that is failing and Edison is still performing. Where Edison has failed, it has largely been because of aggressive propaganda by teacher union bosses all across the country in their efforts to keep Edison, Edison concepts, charter schools, vouchers or any type of improved schooling; improved schooling that would weaken their death grip on the public school system, out of the public school system.

The unions do not want competition and you CAN blame them! At the same time they claim their greatest concern is the kids, the school system cannot fire a poor or even a bad teacher without facing expensive and time consuming litigation from batteries of union attorneys.

At the recent School Board hearing on whether to keep Edison Schools held at Franklin Edison School, Knapp and other union representatives sharply criticized the board for wasting taxpayer money on Edison. They also complained about Edison making a profit and worse yet taking this profit “out of town”. Shades of Chuck Grayeb, also a long time employee of the Peoria public school system; does Peoria buy books printed in Peoria with Peoria produced paper, are the buses manufactured in Peoria and out of Peoria produced products?

The JS incorrectly identified how much #150 spends on it’s four Edison Schools and issued a retraction a couple days later. The correction read “Edison cost the district $1.8 million of which $600,000 covers transportation and money paid to teachers for longer school days. Speaking of longer school days, the union has been consistent in ending the regular teaching day at 2:30 PM. You don’t have to have much imagination to know what a lot of these kids do in the period after they arrive home before their support system (in some cases, they don’t have any) arrives. Our juvenile court systems are clogged and teen pregnancy is a MAJOR problem.

Knapp talks about Edison “making a profit.” In the increasingly socialized world we live in, profit is becoming a “dirty word”. To bad because even a grade school knows that without the private sector making profits there would be no private sector jobs and no government taxes on these profits these jobs produce, to dole out the entitlements the public sector thrives on. (As does some of the private sector.).

I have been a long time supporter and critic of #150. #150 has suffered thru weak administrations and bad public perceptions. School union bosses have always thrown out the same old story “why can’t we run the public schools like an Edison school and save all this money?” One of the speakers at the Franklin Edison community input hearing was sharply critical of the Franklin school and it’s principal. I found out why later. Two teachers allegedly had been removed from teaching positions in the school and he allegedly had some connection. Were the teachers dismissed from the system? No, they were placed back in regular teaching positions in #150 because it was less costly to keep them employed than to fight the union lawsuits.

This is only one example of why the public school system isn’t working like it should. Another is discipline. You can remove a kid from an Edison school. If you remove a kid from the public school you incite the wrath of a parent or guardian who is just looking for a way to attack the system. An article in the WSJ about Martin Luther King Day talked about a young man who witnessed Martin’s father giving Martin a spanking for misbehaving. Too bad a father can’t spank a kid today and the kid doesn’t get discipline until it is too late. And only ignorant people or some parents without kids will tell you can reason with a kid. The failures of this concept fill our courts, jails, prisons and welfare food and clothing lines.

Should #150 discontinue the Edison Schools without replacing it with an EXACT system, a greater price than $1.2 million will be paid in perception alone. Look for this board to have enough common sense to cut in other places. The majority of the community’s message to the board is to look hard and you will find. This is a board decision and it is administrations job to find the “fat” to cut.

The “fat” is not in the Edison Schools. Either public schools be run like a successful business or that is exactly what will happen; but by then it may be too late. Competition comes from many places as witness the success of more countries shipping merchandise in while we ship jobs out.

Iraq today Tomorrow

Have lunch with the Noon Optimist Club tomorrow and hear about Iraq from Dr. Amir W. Al-Khafajl, Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Civil Engineering and Construction at Bradley University. We meet at approximately 11:45 at Barrack’s Catering this Tuesday. Enjoy an excellent buffet lunch for a total of $9 hear an informed speaker and enjoy our fellowship.

I heard Dr. Khafajl speak at Southwest Peoria Kiwanis about his experiences as a native, his family ties still in Iraq and the progress being made by Americans and Iraqis in this religiously chaotic country struggling to form some type of government much improved over that of the despotic Saddam.

You may ask questions and you may leave much more informed about the situation in Iraq than you will learn from the generally liberal media.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

At Evansville

When writing about Bradley basketball, I have to be very careful that I get everything right because there are a lot of knowledgeable Bradley basketball fans out there in the blogosphere. So I will say what I BELIEVE I saw on WEEK-TV tonight when Bradley played Evansville at Evansville. Going into tonight’s game, Evansville had 1 win and 9 losses in the Valley.

Here is what I believe I saw:

WEEK-TV flashed on the screen four times that the game was being played in Peoria at Carver Arena. I’m not sure the name of the Evansville arena was ever appeared in print unless you could read the printing on the floor or it appeared when I was switching channels.

Final score in overtime; Bradley 79, Evansville 76. Hey, a win is a win, right?

Probably the worst coach in the valley who must be married to the daughter of the President of the Board of Trustees at Evansville.

A game that if you missed it, I’m sure you made better use of your time.

More proof for many of us that it is past time for a change at Bradley in the sports department; maybe on more than one level.

Interesting entertainment by two teams which I guess all this money spent on basketball satisfies the loyal Braves.

Bradley had the best INDIVIDUAL talent on the floor tonight as they have all season.

I went to a game the other night (free ticket) and Bradley played quite well. Quite well against weak teams won’t win the Valley or get an invite to a tournament.

Just one mans opinion. Don’t take me too seriously; I’ve only watched Bradley basketball for more than 45 years and I’ve seen the good, the bad and the in-between when it comes to making the best out of the talent the coach brings to the game. I’ll get more interested in the current program when the current Bradley pres and his board shows they are interested in bringing Bradley back to the top of at least the Valley, in basketball.

Again, I invite all comments from the JS Sports channel viewers. Hope I didn’t misspell any words or names tonight.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

General Motors and Detroit's Dilemmas

“Detroit: a real welfare state.” This quote is from a Detroit News Columnist on 12/8/05 appearing in the WSJ. If you aren’t following what is happening in Detroit, you probably should be because the symptoms in Detroit are creeping through some parts of the Rust Belt. The article continues “auto industry factory workers wages were reaching $76 an hour. There was a deficit of $1.4 billion dollars in the city’s general fund, a shrinking population in Detroit proper of approximately half of what it was after WW2 with property taxes rising to about $8500.00 on a $250,000.00 home. (Think Peoria) The union monopoly over labor make it hard for management to respond to the needs of fiscal discipline, and the public and private health care and pension liabilities are rapidly rising. A former auditor calculates that in order to make ends meet, the city will have to lay off half of the 12,000 worker’s paid from the city’s general fund or cut wages by $27,000.00 each employee.”

Some worker costs are over twice that paid in comparable jobs in the US, let alone wages paid in say, China. Across the US, General Motors has some 5,000-6000 laid off workers in “job banks” where they still collect full pay and benefits, without working for GM, costing GM approx. $800 million a year. This ill-advised job bank was created in 1984 because of the concern of the unions that too many jobs would be replaced by robots.

Production has risen by 31% since 1995 but GM’s market share has dropped to 27%. GM plans to shed another 25,000 workers or more by 2008 and close at least three more factories.

How do communities go from once being called a “model city” by Lyndon Johnson’s subsidy-rich Great Society to being called by some a “welfare city”? Incompetent elected leadership to manage public bodies, incompetent management in the private sector, a change in demographics and the unions demands for ever more for themselves and the people they represent. And evidently “visions” that things would always be the same as the 1980’s.

Locally, as a contrast to Detroit, Peoria County went from a $1 ½ million deficit in their general fund in 2000 to what is shaping up to be $20 million dollars on the plus side at the end of 2006. How have we done it so far? We did it with stronger leadership by elected officials and unions willing, sometimes reluctantly, to work with management plus a large dollop of common sense, often seen lacking these days in people. Local strong leadership in the private sector has led to a better than average economy resulting in more tax dollars and less qualified workers unemployed. The city, aided by some significant changes on the council floor and necessity, appears to be handling financial problems in a more efficient manner.

A book “Made in Detroit” by Paul Clemens is not “politically correct” as you will soon see if you read the book. I plan to blog on this writer’s facts and opinions shortly as I feel he is writing about some situations becoming more prevalent nationwide.

If you go back into my archives, I said my blog site would not be “politically correct”; I feel that our FAILURE to face up to REALITY is the MAJOR PROBLEM IN THE USA today and has been for the past decade or so. One reality is that good times do not go on forever; good times don’t come at all for some people, and demographics are changing more rapidly than at any time in the past century. Most of our kids and some parents don’t pay much attention to history and not much is set aside or preparations (like getting a good education and developing a good work ethic) made for the unexpected “rainy day”.

This nation can only hope that the generation of “game players” will at some point turn this ability to the workplace. Many have but they aren’t the ones I worry about.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Tort CEOs' and Their "Good Old Boys and Girls Club" Boards

I occasionally express my distrust of “tort” attorneys but I also have somewhat the same feelings about company executives and their boards that rip off their stockholders with their excessive pay and perks. I’ll list just a small handful of these “irreplaceable business executives”:

These are departed or departing Morgan Stanley CEO’s or C0-Presidents or CFO’s: Departing 41 year old CEO Stephen Crawford worked 3 ½ months; $11.5 million last year but guaranteed $16 million a year thru 2005 and 2006 if he resigns before 8/3/05. He did. His golden parachute cost to shareholders; 32 million.

Phillip Purcell retired 6/30/05. His latest deal was $44 million in exit pay and his salary last year was $22 million. In addition he gets $250,000.00 annually for life.

David H. Sidwell current CFO. His latest pay deal as of 7/05; $10.5 million. He must remain with the firm until 10/15/05 to collect. Double this amount if he leaves before that date. His 2006 undisclosed compensation is guaranteed paid even when he if is no longer an employee.

I’ll skip names and go to a WSJ article called “Jet Green: Some CEO’s Use Corporate Planes as Private Golf Shuttles.”

Chairman of General Dynamics lives in Falls Church, Va. and belongs to Sanctuary Golf Course at Sanibel Florida. Handicap 6.5

Chairman and CEO of Motorola lives in Schaumburg, Il. and belongs to The Preserve Golf Club at Monterrey, Ca. Handicap 16.7.

Chairman and CEO of Martha’s Vineyard lives in Cleveland and belongs to the Lost Tree Club at Palm Beach Florida and the Vineyard Golf Club at Martha’s Vineyard. Handicap 7.0.

Chairman and CEO, Verizon lives in New York and belongs to Old Marsh Golf Club in Palm Beach. Handicap 9.9.

This again is just a handful. All these guys say the use of corporate jets is appropriate business travel or they reimburse some of the expense and report it as income on their IRS forms.

Sure they do!! They get paid and use these “perks” whether their companies stock rise or falls. Unfortunately, those who complain usually want the same pay and benefits or more when the opportunity comes for them to move up the ladder.

A high percentage of companies and organizations have these “extreme” luxuries. Seldom are these salaries and benefits brought forward as public record until they are indicted or problems surface within their hierarchies. Problems such as befell the phony Christian Richard Scrushy, the Enron, World Com, Adelphia and Global Crossing gang of crooks; here again just to name a handful.

And we complain about the Saudi princes!! These largely way over paid and over benefited executives live like monarchy, yet profess to be strong supporters of democracy. Actually they are greedy capitalists laughing at others not as lucky as they fly to their golf clubs on their companies, lobbyists or someone else’s expense. They do make substantial donations; seldom “anonymous.” They must make the donations in their names or they would not be able to write these donations off on their taxes. They take all the credit when the company stock prices go up and pass the blame on to others when the stock prices go down and are harder to fire than a bad union employee.

I don't believe I write this blog in envy; I write it in disgust of some of my fellow humans. Countries where the poverty level is very high do envy us and the line between envy and hate is very short. It doesn’t take much leadership under some existing world conditions to convert this envy into extreme hatred. Take note now of recent happenings in South America.

These people say “we are worth every dime we are paid.” We say “have you no conscience?” Of course they don’t, no one has a conscience who can justify to themselves and their often “phony” friends that what they do is always the “right” thing.

My hard working father of nine, if alive today would feel sad and disappointed even if I was one of “them.”

Friday, January 20, 2006

Bradley Basketball Revisted

Thanks, Mike for connecting me to a sports audience. Thanks for all the comments. I accept the criticism but point out I don't follow the career of Versace and I did say “I believe” I didn't say “was” still with the Grizzlies. I also said “McLain appeared” to be the top candidate; he certainly was a top candidate. Okay, where Sommerville transferred from is immaterial; he transferred from a stronger program and conference to a lesser conference and program. Sommerville is a talented athlete, I don’t believe he has achieved at Bradley what many expected him to achieve. And no, I wasn’t at the game but on television you can get replays of what happens on the court. The coach on the bench doesn’t have that privilege but he has numerous assistants including one of the best ex-high school coaches in the country.

As to won and loss, what counts is the loss column and it already at 5 conference losses with some of the best talent in recent Bradley history. I’ve followed Bradley since 1964 but admittedly less in recent years as the basketball program has turned on a downward slant and some of the professors have become more liberal. Promises were made by coach Les when he came on board; promises such as that he would have an exciting fast break team. If he had studied films, he would have known he didn’t have the material for a fast break team unless he believed that dribbling the ball rapidly up court was a “fast break”.

It’s also obvious that Les doesn’t know how to work with a big man on the post. A seven footer getting off two shots in a whole game?? Don’t blame the kid. Les’s team “committed 19 turnovers, 30 personal fouls, two technical and blew a 12 point lead” in a hurry (quotes from the JS) yet in the opinion of most of my friends Bradley has some potentially great talent this year. Please don’t bring Joe Stowell in for ANY criticism on what I write. I haven’t talked to Joe about Bradley basketball in over two years but I consider him a friend and an excellent coach of young men or young women as he was girls BB coach at Bradley until it was deemed not politically correct and the girls became the “Lady Braves”.

As to my coaching ability, you might ask Joe and also ask Roger Cushman, formerly a Bloomington Pantagraph sports writer and now I “believe” is still sports publicist at Illinois State Normal. He, I believe, still does some occasional writing for the Pantagraph because here is what he wrote in the Pantagraph on May 5, 2005, “Merle Widmer, successful basketball coach at Heyworth, ect”, and Jim Barnhart, Sports Editor of the Pantagraph wrote Widmer compiled a 47-27 high school basketball record over three years and is probably Central Illinois’ most successful grade school coach. His grade school basketball teams, both lightweight and heavyweight were in the sectional finals three of the last four times. His grade school heavyweight track team was 2nd in the state and his track teams have won four Mclean County championships and are favored again this year. His grade school teams won 26 trophies including a 2nd place in the state.”

Back then, many coaches coached both grade and high and that is the way some dynasties were built such as at many high schools in southern Illinois. I was told that after I left Heyworth that over the next three years Heyworth High won two County High School Basketball Championships, one more than they had won in the history of the school. I know that the high school track teams also won County championships before, while and after I left Heyworth and I know that a kid I coached won both the grade school heavyweight State shot put Championship (while I was coach) and the High School State shot put Championship. His name was Joe Connelly (now deceased) and at 5’11” also scored over 40 points in at least one high school game. My grade school was county champion in softball winning the finals at Chenoa on a sensational catch by partially disabled Jerome Vogel. I saw him a few years ago and he will never forget that night. Neither will winning pitcher Bill Kennedy who later became a fast pitch legend in the Central Illinois area. Ask Larry Dunn, another fast pitch legend in Peoria and a friend of Kennedy.

I also refereed in the Peoria area, in my first year I worked for Joe Stowell at Bradley and worked the Farmington-Canton game with Bob Brodbeck who is a legend in officiating circles and is now afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and is in a Canton nursing home where I visited him a couple weeks ago. When my company transferred me to Kansas, I had to cancel all my officiating dates; games I was to work at such names as LaSalle-Peru Jr. College, Ottawa, East Aurora and Rock Falls. I had the privilege to with work with Orville Nothdruft, another local legend; we worked the finals of the Jr. College Regional (the tournament that qualified a team to go to the nationals at Hutchison, Ks.), at LaSalle-Peru. Roy Romani, former coach at either Washington or Metamora, and I were selected to work the championship game.

I have been accused by some of my friends that “I am a born coach.” Maybe they are right and that is the reason as a county board member entering his sixth year; the county was recently called a “class act” by a JS writer. I believe I could still coach from the bench today but would demand a higher set of standards from some of the participants representing their schools in athletics today.

At Heyworth, I taught 7 out of 8 periods per day, did all the grade school coaching as well as all the high school basketball coaching for a TOTAL of $3600.00. (300 dollars covered all coaching because back then people thought it was a privilege to coach and pay was not a big factor because WE LOVED SPORTS AND COACHING YOUNG PEOPLE). We also loved teaching but I saw good teachers leaving the field because they had trouble paying bills like me. We are still paying for the mistakes made by many school boards in the 50’s and 60’s.

I also played and coached in Bloominton-Normal Municipal Baseball League, playing on the Eureka-Williams Championship team, the Sangamon Valley Championship team (Heyworth), the Tri-Valley Championship team (Danvers) and set up and managed a fast pitch softball league where I was player manager and league director when I was 18 years old.

I do know something about coaching but I admit I am like most of you; I now coach from the stands which is a lot easier. As to Bradley, I guess some of my frustration comes from promises made by Dr. Martin Abegg, former Bradley President and his Board of Trustees; promises that have not been kept by presidents who succeeded him. Also, I read and listened to all the promises Jim Les made and keeps making. People, who make promises (think politicians) and don’t fulfill these promises, can expect to come under criticism. Also, no one needs to be reminded that this is his fourth year.

My career as a basketball player? You could care less? Well, maybe some do so here goes. I went to a one room country grade school and never shot a basketball until I was a freshman at Congerville High School. I scored one career varsity basket. The coach would only let his players shoot with two hands or a running one hander. I later became well known in the Bloomington-Normal area as an independent player; shooting one-handed and later was a starter and sometimes leading scorer; I scored 16 points against Fort Dix and guarded 6’8” Junius Kellogg, (two of our four loses came at the hands of Fort Dix), who was the first college player to report a bribe and the first black player on an armed services traveling post team in the USA. Kellogg reported this $1000 bribe to shave points and arrests were made after the game. This attempted bribe caused a chain reaction later involving Bradley University and eventually prompted the ongoing debate as to whether “Squeaky” should be in Bradley’s Hall of Fame) for my 1st Air Force traveling post team winning the Northeast 1st Air Force championship with a record of 16-4.

I was offered a basketball scholarship at then prestigious academically and all boys Hamilton College in upstate NY but couldn’t pass the entrance exam. (I went back to (Utica)Hamilton College about 15 years ago. A new gym had been built but the old gym was open and a basketball was on the floor. I shot better than I did when I went to Hamilton to work out with the team!!)

Legendary Pantagraph sports editor Fred Young wrote in his column “Young’s Yarns” that I had “developed into one of the best shooters in Central Illinois”, after he saw me play in and independent tournament at Illinois Wesleyan.

I scored 14 points in the championship intramural game at Illinois State Normal University as it was called back then ( I left ISNU after Coach Joe Cogdall (sp?) wanted me to shoot most of my shots two handed; I couldn’t. Actually I transferred because I was flunking out; all I thought of was sports. I won one letter at Western at Macomb but never played on the great teams at Western in the late forties and early fifties. More important, I graduated with my class. I also played and managed the YMCA team, traveling to Peoria to play one year. Some of these Western BB legends allowed me to play with them in independent tournaments after the season was over. I played on Clubs at River City Championship teams 1988, 1989 and 1990. Confirm thru Bobby Humbles, former Manual and Bradley legend, Bobby, who worked with me for 10 years at Widmer’s and is now a successful State Farm Agent, credits me with getting him to play tennis 25 years ago and Bobby is now one of the best tennis players in the area.

At the age of 73, I won a Senior Olympics gold medal for 3-3 basketball representing Mesa, AZ. winning over teams from Southern California and New Mexico with the games played at ASU. Confirm with my wife and the video she took and the engraved medal on my trophy shelves.

The first 36 out of 39 years of my life were not lived in Peoria so my first contacts with sports people from Peoria were the independent teams that came out from Peoria from the Sunday Morning League or BB officials like Nothdruft and Joe Stowell, when he coached at Armington.

My blogging is for myself and for you who read me and for my kids who after I am gone may wonder what I did with my life. But thanks to everyone who reads my columns and those who post comments, I just ask that you don’t get nasty!!

All my sports background is recorded somewhere. You can read about Junius Kellogg if anyone still has any of the books written about the 1950’s scandal. I am sad to say that I have outlived some of my former students, players and peers. I still get invited to Colusa reunions, even though I’ve never gone back; Colusa is where I (also to Heyworth reunions which I attend when I can) started my teaching and coaching career and I promise to go back to Colusa-Nauvoo reunion this summer.

Lastly, I apologize, but I am not a journalist nor did I ever take a class in journalism. Read the JS more closely and you will see quite a few grammatical errors by writers who did major in journalism and those writers should have proof readers. (I know this doesn’t excuse me,) You may also notice that my blogs written late at night have more errors. After all I am a senior and aren’t most seniors in bed at 9:30??

Want to know more of where I stand on other issues? Look in my archives where I have posted over 200 blogs. I apologize for not blogging every day for those who say they enjoy reading me like Mayor Ardis, Judge Steve, Barbara Van Auken (not always) and Angela Davis (not always), Bill Dennis, a talent who got me started blogging, and George Jacobs. I can’t leave out Gary Sandburg who is still upset about the county jail booking fees, the City-County GIS contract, and with my stance on the water company buyout and is upset about anything that Peoria County does. Hmmm.

Thanks again, Mike Radigan. (I met Mike playing in BB pick-up games at the Clubs at RC with Mike when I was in my sixties and seventies)

Want to tell me about your past sports history? Become a blogger. Just keep your blogs short like I am SUSPOSED to!!

New viewers can find me at http://widmer-peoria-watch.blogspot.com if you wish.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bradley Basketball

As a successful ex-coach (the Bloomington Pantagraph called me that when I stopped coaching from the bench) and basketball referee, I have some qualifications to judge the progress of the Bradley Braves since Jim Les arrived as head BB coach four years ago. While I did not graduate from Bradley, I was asked by then freshman BB coach Joe Stowell to join the Chiefs club where I was elected to the position of Vice-President and in charge of fundraising. Joe and I met when he was coach at Armington and I was coach of Heyworth. In our one high school encounter, Heyworth won 84-42 and I gained Joe’s respect. I later refereed for him at the field house; freshman games. When my friend now head coach at Bradley, was removed and replaced by Dick Versace, I stepped down but remained a Bradley fan and financial supporter. In the new field house, I had 6 seats, 10 rows up from approximately center court; then as Bradley’s succession of mediocre coaches came and left, I gave up two seats and then four seats and two years into Les’s coaching career at Bradley, I gave up my last two seats. I also gave up sponsoring a yearly basketball trophy.

Tonight, I watched Bradley play some excellent basketball in the first half to take a 10 point lead over Creighton. Then I decided for the first time as a spectator to take notes because I had the usual feeling that Bradley could not hold the lead.

Here is a step by step of the happenings of the 2nd half:
Bradley committed three fouls in the first minute. Ruffin dribbled off his foot. O’Bryant made a not smart foul. Same for Somerville who made three fouls in 5 minutes. Bennett called for charge. Ill advised three point shots from pro range by Somerville. Bradley now outscored 18-4. Intentional foul called on Ruffin. Adams faked out of his shorts. J. Taui made two nice aggressive under the basket shots but no one back on defense. J.T. jerked from game but pretty hard to believe he was responsible for being first man back when he just scored on a lay-up drive. J.T. never returned to the game. Franklin hit 30f 4 three pointers but now Somerville and Ruffin were firing away and while Franklin who ended up with I believe 18 points couldn’t get the ball out of the hands of Sommerivlle and Ruffin. Bennett stepped out of bounds; O’Bryant who seemed to disappear at times missed a dunk. Franklin finally gets the ball and hits his fourth three pointer.

Dumb foul on Wright after he got shoved first and shoved back and referee called Wright for technical. O’Bryant loses man and Creighton player scores and is fouled. Score now 58-54 Creighton and Bradley is still in the game. Two consecutive ill-advised shots by Somerville and ill-advised foul by Somerville. Bradley still in the game at 61-60. O’Bryant loses his man and commits his fourth foul. Somerville throws the ball away. O’Bryant leaves man wide open. Bennett makes ill-advised foul. Poor shot by Bennett, poor foul by Ruffin, Creighton man wide open under the basket and scores lay-up. Wild shooting fouling in closing minutes yet with seconds to go, Bradley still could tie the game. More bad shots by whoever could get their hands on the ball; mainly Somerville.

Summary: Bradley played a great 1st half. Ruffin was good. 2nd half, Ruffin thought because he was 11 points over his seasons average that he was the star on the team. He scored 6 more points in the 2nd half basically after the game was over. Somerville reminded the Missouri coach why he was happy Somerville transferred to Bradley. Somerville was never a factor in the game; Bradley was not out hustled but they were out coached. I don’t fault Somerville, I fault the coach for letting him take pro range 3 point shots and not being a factor when the game could still have been won by Bradley.

Bradley is now 2and 5 in the Valley; 9 and 7 overall and the only chance to now play a post season game is if they win the conference tournament. I’m taking bets because while this is a scrappy team with inconsistent talent and without a good coach. Hard nosed Bradley fans and Les supporters will say Bradley played a heck of a game and on the road, what did you expect? I’ll tell you what we expect, we expect a lot better than what we have had since the days of Stowell and Versace. Bradley had superior talent on the floor tonight but the team appears to be in the same disarray as past Les seasons. This is Les’s fourth year and he has not lived up to his promises.

In the meantime, proven successful high school coach Chuck Buescher sits on the bench looking not too happy. Wayne McClain does the same down at Illinois. McClain appeared to be the top candidate for the Bradley coaching job four years ago, but Les had the personality to win over the board. We’ll see if the Bradley President and board really are interested in winning basketball. If not, as I suggested a few years ago maybe Bradley should drop down to a lower level conference.

For those of you not familiar with Bradley BB, Dick Versace, who I believe is now on the staff of the Memphis Grizzlies was an excellent recruiter but left Bradley sometime after an NCAA investigation which an attorney close to the situation told me later, that if the NCAA had asked the right questions, Bradley would have been fried.

This is my game summary, read Kirk Wessler in the JS tomorrow. Only thing he may say, and Wessler is pretty blunt, is that Ruffin had a career high point night. I hope he says that Ruffin was never a factor in the second half and that Ruffin should not believe that at now 8 points a game, that he is just a slightly better than average point guard and not the person who should keep on firing when there are better shooters on the court. Ruffin had a great 1st half but games are seldom won with a good first half only.

Bradley would have been better off with Ruffin on the bench in the 2nd half and ditto for All-Conference player Somerville. O’Bryant proved why as a seven footer, he wasn’t recruited by top 25 teams.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Tort Trial Lawyers

Each year Peoria County meets with our legislators to give them our position on the bills pending and inform them our position on these bills. The dialogue is beneficial to both the county and to our representatives in Springfield. (I note that only Republican representatives showed up for the dialogue.) The top priorities selected by the county this year included “Bicycle Legislation”. Our position, the same as other counties, was that if Springfield were to change the bicycles’ usership of public roadways from “permitted” to “intended,” the cost to ensure that all such roadways are always flat, level and smooth would be at an astronomical maintenance cost and potential liability cost to the taxpayer.

Here where the tort attorneys enter behind the scene: People lobbying the legislators to make counties liable for injuries to bicyclists, claimed to be “volunteers”. On a closer look these “volunteers” turned out to be in the pay of the trial lawyer’s association!!

This week I received an official document listing a class action against approximately 250 companies and that if I had lost any money thru the buying and selling of stock in any of these companies I could participate in this lawsuit against these companies and if the tort attornies won I would receive approximately one half cent per share after all attorneys expenses were deducted. So if I owned 2000 shares of one of these 250 companies bearing in mind that other stockholders owned or did own billions of shares, I might recover $10.00 minus expenses while the tort attorneys have already collected $38 million and the amount they are suing for is more than one billion dollars of which the tort’s are guaranteed 33 1/3% of everything collected. The action read “To date, the litigation expenses incurred in the actions total approximately $38,000,000.00.” Many of these smaller companies that are still in business will settle rather than fight the trial lawyers which could cost them millions more in legal expense.

Many of these attorneys are no better than crooks. They are out seeking customers because everyone they add will amount to more “expenses” for them to collect before paying out one dime to investors who lost perhaps thousands of dollars, most of it probably on bad advice from the brokerage handling their account. (Brokerages are next to impossible to sue because of the arbitration document you must sign before doing business with them, unless the amount you lost is over $100,000.00 because if you refer back to my blog on “Arbitration”, you must spend thousands of dollars before the arbitrators will hear your case and then you pay for the cost of the arbitrators.) This one mailing I received adds up to more than a quarter billion mailings passing thru an already overloaded postal system.

On 4/22/00, my wife put a one foot long, ½” wide scrape in the door of a pickup truck owned by a young man from Edwards, Jacob Russell Buhl. The police gave her a ticket for “failure to yield-turning left”. She told the officer the young man driving the truck was coming so fast in the same direction, she didn’t even see him. The police report is marked “no injury”. Six month later we got our car insurance bill and found the bill had increased approximately $200. I called the agent and learned that my insurance company had settled $8373.00 to the man for “injuries”, $400.00 for rental of a vehicle and $1294.98 for repairs. When I protested there was no injury, my agent asked me to call the adjustor. The adjustor said that it was simpler to settle the claim than to contest it, because the attorney might then go for more “damages”. Of the $10,000.00, approximately $2500.00 was set aside for chiropractor services. Zinser Chiropractic was alleged to be the services he was using for his “injuries”. At a rate of $50 per visit that would be 50 visits!! And he wasn’t even injured according to witnesses on the scene and the police report!!

We live in a great country but it is not as great a country as it was 20 years ago. People are learning how to beat the system and becoming more and more devious and are working to get themselves in positions to figure out how to enrich themselves at the expense of the innocent or sometimes not so innocent. Beware of people who say they are looking out for your best interests, like some greedy stock brokers, “lobbyists like Jack Abramoff”, trial lawyers associations controlled by “tort” attorneys and politicians like Tom DeLay, especially if there are large amounts of money involved that will go to them and there is a more than average risk to you of losing your money.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pam Adams Column Revisted

I note our most liberal pacifist and biased JS columnist is making another attack on white people. Her article ends up with “What’s the Matter with White People?” The question could easily be reversed by asking “What’s the Matter with Black People?”
She writes that 25% of the troops in Iraq are black. What the writer leaves out that based on majority to minority, our prisons are also out of balance in population, the failures in the public school systems are out of balance, the number of people on welfare are out of balance, the number of pregnant teenagers is out of balance, the number of people unemployed are out of balance as is the number of uneducated, the number of truancies and the number of kids not listening in classrooms are out of proportion and lastly the number of people who murder and are murdered in Peoria and major cities across the country each year is out of balance comparing black and white population numbers..

She fails to mention that these mostly brave black people were not drafted but enlisted as did my nephew now serving in Turkey where he appears to be getting a better education than he was getting in the liberal college he was attending..

This writer also insinuates that white people are proud of the war. No, the majority of us are not proud to fight any war but we are not afraid to go to war if our government so decides that it is in our best interest as a country to do so. But we ARE proud of those of any ethnic group, race or gender, that serve and do risk their lives to protect people of Pam Adams’s ilk so that you can be employed (possibly because of the JS diversity policy?) and write the type of prejudiced drivel that is often seen in this writers column.

I note that the JS and other newspapers and media sources report of wide spread massacres in some parts of Africa. Some of this slaughter totaling into the millions has been going on for centuries. I suggest that people who have nothing better to do than stand on street corners or write drivel might not better serve humanity in countries with a greater need than this flourishing, free speech, and free economy country and this country that most of us love, the United States of America.

As a post note, my nephew Bill Greytak, Jr., knew the risks involved when he enlisted in the Air Force last year. I do believe that many who joined the National Guard were told they might be asked to serve in any capacity that their country felt there was a need to do so. I also believe that a few who joined the NG or any branch of the armed service did not believe they would be asked to serve in a militant position overseas. I’m sorry that it worked out badly for some, but life is often that way such as when a girl gets pregnant on her first sexual adventure or any youth becomes HIV positive as a result of a casual sex engagement, or young people die in out of control vehicle accidents that they did not expect to happen to them.

As to mistakes made in this engagement in Iraq; there were many made and many of us are unhappy with some of our leadership, but those of us who are educated enough to read history, realize major mistakes were made in every war ever fought by any country. (Mistakes, of course are usually of no excuse.)

I was recently shown an old newspaper dated 1919, I believe, and at the bottom of the page was a small article announcing that over 5,000 bodies were being returned to the United States in just one shipment as a result of our involvement in World War I. (My nephew Richard Witzig, he enlisted, is buried in the National Cemetery in Springfield, a victim of a Japanese pilot in World War II. His name will appear on the war memorial planned for the courthouse square, a small memorial for his sacrifice so that the ilk of Jack Ryan can stand on street corners spouting whatever it is he spouts under freedom of speech laws protected by our war dead and injured and their grieving families).

Most of the dead that died in the service of our country would be crying in their graves if they knew what some relatively uneducated and uninformed people are trying to do to their country.

District #150 Career Acadamies

Back in the 90’s the academies at 150 were the way to strengthen a students chances to secure a well paying job upon graduation from high school or college. Now the #150 board has voted to phase out these academies (read yesterdays JS on the subject) with the possible replacement by some yet unannounced and un-described better programs. A long while back I pointed out that these academies were not accomplishing what they were intended to do. As late as four years ago they were only reaching approximately 280 students out of a high school population of 4000. And very little was being done for those kids who were dropping out of school before they graduated from 8th grade or before they became dropouts. I said that many kids were entering these academies away from their community school to do just that, get away to what they perceived as a better school such as Richwoods. Some wanted to join their friends including boyfriends or girlfriends. It was apparent these academies were not serving enough of the student population. When I broached this subject with past school board presidents, none of them including now State Representative Aaron Schock appeared to be very concerned. Well, I am and have been concerned from the days when I ran a business and struggled to find competent employees. I did and many of them still work at the company I founded, Widmer Interiors.

Much lip service has been given to Vo-Tech schooling such as the successful program being run at Pekin High which I have visited and reputed successful systems at Bartonville, Chillicothe and Dunlap which I have not visited. Other than a Caterpillar sponsored TI at Manual with approximately 30 internees (if that is the proper term) promising the possibility of future jobs at this major community supporter, and the continuation of scaled down programs at Peoria High and Woodruff, little progress seems to have been made in approaching what most in this community believe to be a major failing of #150. ( Beneficial Adopt-A-Schools Art classes and other after school programs run by social agencies I do not overlook.)

I know that some school board members read my blogs when they have time and I would like them to show the community the progress I am overlooking and do so on this site or in a letter to the editors of our local newspapers. Several of the board members are at least acquaintances of mine and some I helped get elected. Some I know are good people and perhaps some I don’t know are good people also and perhaps some have not had time to get the failing system they inherited up and running. But some have been on board for quite awhile and are looking more and more like they are part of the problem; both board members and administration.

Nicole Wood, Principal at Northmoor Edison was our speaker today at Noon Optimist. Nicole and she and her staff rank as one of the best run schools in #150. I suggest you Edison doubters visit her school classrooms and the same with Principal Valda Shipp at Franklin Edison

As Lincoln is quoted and now his statue and statement area now displayed on the Peoria Court House Square, that their comes a time to “draw a line in the sand”, I continue to challenge District #150 employees and board members to emulate Lincoln in the stance he took.. Just combining schools, building new buildings and abandoning old buildings and creating curriculum steering committees (this is year 2006; why are boards creating steering committees at this late date??) is not going to guarantee that our kids regardless of color background or ability are going to challenged enough to want to learn to at least read, write and do basic math. I suggest this new steering committee designs programs; programs in which kids will actually be sold on the idea that they must learn some skills to make it in the real world. That means programs that require learning how to work and to work with their hands and minds. Otherwise all jobs requiring a work ethic and basic skills in Peoria will be taken up eventually by new immigrants of all kinds and of all statuses. Or expect more outsourcing to countries where workers will do these kinds of jobs for less wages and benefits. Enough “chiefs” will come out of the many schools that are succeeding in #150 and student leaders who will succeed in college.

I believe it is time for more administration officials to retire and take their exorbitant pensions and health benefits and have the board hire new younger talent promoted or hired form the outside. Administration should not spend too much time bragging to the community of the many things you are accomplishing. You have 140 million dollars to work with and salaries starting as high as over $200,000.00 a year with pensions based on the average of their last four years earnings thanks to a greedy majority of legislatures down in Springfield. We expect you to do these things you brag about and to do a lot more than many of us think you do. What progress that is obvious to name a few like Franklin, Northmoor, Whittier, Kellar, Roosevelt Columbia, Lindbergh and Washington Gifted is good but not enough other schools are having the same successes.

I expect some criticism from this article but my shoulders are broad. You can also comment on the shortcoming of the Peoria County Board as we too are not beyond reproach. I really wish my blogs would create more dialogue on my comment site. Just keep is civil and thanks in advance.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What's Next at Peoria Public School District #150

Somebody email me, call me or send me a fax of what transpired at the “Making Schools Work” seminar or whatever sponsored by the Barton’s last week. I scanned the JS when I got back from being out of state and if there was coverage, I couldn’t find it. I’m always interested in ways to improve our public schools even though I’ve known how to make schools work for years; I’ve been writing letters to the editors for 10 years and I’ve been blogging on the subject since late 2004. How? First you get as much state and federal government out of everything you possibly can in the public school system (probably an impossible task), then you get more business people to run for the board, (probably another impossible task) then you hire an administrator with a doctorate in finance and business management and with an understanding of social issues and with an understanding of the demographics of the community and then you let that person, with the boards approval, and input from the top teachers, fill all other positions. You can always hire education specialists of all types; you appoint them as principals based on their ability and not by seniority or tenure. Do not make them administrators until they get their degrees in business along with their education degrees. Run the public school system like a business where you either turn out an acceptable product or you fold up and get out of the way of the private sector. The administrator then becomes the number one spokesperson for the entire system, not the budget director. How many times have you read or heard about the budget director of Peoria County stepping up as spokesperson for the county? Probably never, because the Peoria County Board elects a board chairman and they both hire an administrator. The administrator and the Board Chairman are the spokespeople for the county. By having the administrator, preferably or the board chairman be the public spokesperson, you don’t have confusion and doublespeak as you read and heard over the past few days about the pay raises for two people in Peoria Public School District #150 administration. I’ve already commented my opinion in my last two blogs on this subject which I believe represent the majority of this community’s opinion.

Consider this Merle Widmer’s “Visions for Better Schools”. I believe I’m entitled to a vision as so many other “leaders” like me have grandiose visions for this community. Mine may be grandiose but it’s real and attainable and part or all of it is a top priority. Also my vision is shared by millions of other real leaders all across the Country. I blog on the attained results of community visions whenever I hear about them or pass them on by email to other leaders in this community.

Everything works if you have the right people running the system. It’s pretty obvious that nationwide our system of selecting school administrators from the field of education is at least 20 years out of date. Its way past time to realize that education is a business, especially when you have a budget of around $140,000,000.00 as does District 150. The JS says that 54% of this funding comes from local taxes. Schools should be under local control in all communities and federal and state governments should be there to help communities; not legislating unfunded mandates among other common sense defying directives..

Six months after I was elected to serve on the Peoria County Board, I told all elected officials that we were going to run the county like a successful business. Some said it couldn’t be done. We did and the majority of credit goes to our County Board Chairman, David Williams, Administrator Patrick Urich, our elected officials especially “Trip” O’Connor and our administrative staff including our IR Director, Russ Haupert and our Budget Supervisor Donna Schwab and a county board that largely laid politics aside (not all) and worked for the benefit of the community. Popular opinion is that we have so far succeeded in running Peoria County government “like a successful business”.

Its way past time for district #150 and some other local public entities to run taxpayer supported publics business in a more businesslike manner. District 150 can start with slashing some excessive salaries, combining administrative duties, stop promoting by seniority, stop padding pensions and by keeping the Edison concept; this concept being battled by the union, not because of its cost, but because of its competition to an entrenched anachronistic system.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Merit Pay for Teachers

The USA TODAY editorial page reported last week that Denver voters agreed in November to come up with 25 million dollars in new property taxes to pay successful teachers more money. The article says that school reformers have long predicted that taxpayers would boost teachers’ salaries if they knew that the money would go to the best teachers. But most teachers and unions seemed wedded to the traditional system of seniority, tenure and equal pay.

In recent years, the brightest college students have avoided the teaching profession, largely because of the union’s insistence that all teachers be paid equally, regardless of competence.

The need to attract more talented teachers has always been clear to me. But I would add to the article that talented teachers will quickly leave their chosen field if not supported by a strong school board, competent administration and principals who are selected on their ability to lead. With the recent attempt by District #150 leadership to boost a couple of seniority administrators from earning 92,000 to 130, 000 dollars in less than 18 months shows that the good old boys and girls club in Peoria is still preventing #150 from having an overall successful school system. (I predicted the board would approve the raises tonight, and maybe they did, but my attention span was consumed after about a couple of hours of old visions and plans under new titles that I have heard from administrators and staff starting back with the sorrowful term of Ex-Superintendent John Strand).

Why these large boosts in pay? Because the mandated system from your elected representatives down in Springfield say that most public retirement pay is based on an average of your last four years of salary. With this system in force in the private sector we would be absolutely bankrupt in this country.

Back to the USA TODAY editorial page that also had an opposing view that “Merit Pay Will Fail” written by a teacher in Denver who helped organize resistance to performance pay reform. I’ll quote only his last paragraph “Our public school teachers work hard under difficult conditions and need more support and recognition and deserve a higher base salary”. Bet you a large amount of money that he belongs to the Denver Teachers Union!

In a recent blog I said I am a union man. I am also a management man. However, I support neither if they do not represent those who work under them.

It will be interesting to see how the Denver plans and the new plan in Chicago approved by the union that allows top-rated teachers to evaluate their peers. Last fall, the New York City Chancellor demanded multiple pay innovations, including merit raises, signing bonuses and extra pay for hard-to-staff positions. I hope these plans and many others already in process, help lead the reform movement so badly needed in the public school system.

For those of you that don’t know me, you may wonder why I blog so much on education. If you had read one of the first of my more than 40 published “letters to the editors” starting back in 1994, you would have noted that I believed that our education system was the number one priority for this community. Not highways to Chicago, Gateway Centers, recreation centers, ball parks, zoos or museums. All these are important to a community. None of them are as much of a priority as a sound District #150.

My opinion hasn’t changed.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Entrenched Bureaucracies, Entrenched Management, Entrenched Unions, Entrenched Elected Officials and Weak Boards

Happy New Year and please accept my apologies for not blogging recently. December was, well just December. Things had to be done including going door to door to talk with my constituents and making sure I would have strong support for re-election in the March primaries. By visiting, you learn how you have been judged and the strength of your base. My visits indicate I have an excellent chance of being placed back on the county board in November. Only then did I take my first vacation since my surgery back in 2004.

Now back to the heading of this blog. All subjects will be thoroughly covered by me before the end of 2006. Some of my blogs will be shorter and the subjects of my blogs covered more frequently but some of my readers have asked me NOT to leave out the details. I promise I won’t for the sake of brevity.

Any entity that believes they are smarter than all those they represent except the special interests that helped put them in positions of power, will be discussed in future blogs.

I covered the subject of job security and tenure before but I bring it up again after reading an article in the Arizona Republic titled “Teachers Fighting to Keep Power”. The battle is over a 2-inch handbook that gives high school teachers a powerful way in running the Phoenix Union High School District. The president of the teachers union is quoted “If you don’t involve teachers in decisions, you can’t make the best decisions”. Of the district’s 1600 teachers, 1200 of them belong to the union. Administration says that with new state and federal mandates, principals need greater control over how their schools are run. The principals say that “right now the teachers make the decisions”. Administration says it is hard to recruit good principals because they know that the teachers run the school district.

The teachers worry that they could be loaded with new duties, won’t have time for teaching, planning lessons and tutoring. Administrations says that since tenured teachers have the first shot at open positions, jobs can’t be offered to other teachers until May when all the good teachers have been snatched up by other school districts, especially good math and science teachers.

Both sides want to change the handbook, which is consulted before practically any decision is made. Administration says the current handbook makes it difficult for the superintendent, his principals and the board to manage the district’s resources, both financial and human.

The handbook proposed by the teachers assures any open job in the district is based on seniority within the district. This prevents the hiring of better qualified teachers outside the district. The handbook lets teachers decide whether they work full time or part time. It allows teachers to say they would not attend a 3:00 meeting because the handbook stipulates only a 2:00 start time for meetings.

An article in the JS dated 12/05/05 titled “Study: Tenure Means Job Security”. The article reads that it’s next to impossible for school teachers in Illinois to lose their jobs if they have tenure. Many of the schools largest districts have not fired a tenured teacher for over 18 years. Only 2 tenured teachers are fired per year out of 95,000 tenured teachers. One superintendent is quoted as saying “When I hire talented new college graduates to teach, I tell them “you are going to meet a lot of people in this profession who just shouldn’t be in it. But there is not a whole lot that can be done about it because of tenure”.

Back to the title of this blog. Entrenched bureaucracies, entrenched unions and either weak administration or weak elected boards or a combination of all are described in these two articles. Of course, teachers should have strong representation in the decision making process, of course principals should be in charge of their schools, of course administration should hire the best and support them. Of course all should be fiscally responsible and treat each other fairly. Of course the community as a whole has an investment in the entire system. And last, the board is where the activities start and where the buck stops.

Sound simple? Then why doesn’t if work? Go back and read the last 180 blogs I have posted on this site since 8/2003 and you will find out many of the answers and I didn’t need to pay for a survey, I just stay informed and try to use common sense. Adults are like kids; they try to get all they can get for themselves under the guise of helping others. And most of them do help others and we should appreciate those that do help others even when they feel they are underpaid, overworked and unappreciated.

Until the voter and taxpayer really becomes concerned about what is going on in public and some private entities and does something about it like electing strong, common sense leaders, I believe you will be reading the same articles 20 years from now. If the trend continues we will continue our slow slide to becoming a socialist country or a dictatorship and people like myself will have become anachronisms.

I close with this fact. The District #150 board will probably vote to increase the salaries of two administrators to $130,000.00 tomorrow night. (THE HIGHEST PAID EMPLOYEE OF ANY KIND EMPLOYED BY THE COUNTY OF PEORIA, to my knowledge, is $107,000.00). The county appears to be fiscally solvent. District #150 is NOT. If they do and if you really are concerned about this school system, you will start trying to find replacements for those who vote for this increase and for those who allow Guy Cahill to be spokesperson for this administration and board. This system did not get into the shape it is in solely because of past administrators.