If you are like my wife and and receive about 800 requests for funds or renew our memberships like the one just received from WTVP, you wonder where all that money goes. For example, an organization called Community Builders whose mission statement is "Our mission is to unite the Christian resources of Greater Peoria to meet the spiritual, economic, and social needs of our community", started out with a lot of hype, neighborhood canvases, grant money of at least $150,000+. Three targeted schools were Manual, Trewyn and Garfield. Joyce Banks was administrator. (Jane Baker is now in charge with a new phone #6965656). Another $10,000 grant was received in August, 2008 and another unspecified amount was received in a grant recently. Trewyn administration said there no after school programs this year by CB, the Garfield Principal, irritated over my questions, couldn't say but mentioned White Oak and Family Counseling; I called my friend Ron Tyler, who said no money or programs that he could ever remember from Community Builders and no one from Manual High returned my two requests. Nothing unusual there. The only way I can find out what goes on after school at Manual is drop by and talk to the janitors who know who is in the building after hours. They say, what "community" programs? So do I.
Charter Oak School does or did have after schools programs. Hope they are continuing.
These programs were to be "after school programs", not just summer programs and they were to involve the whole community surrounding the schools. See the JSEB Editorial dated 8/12/04, "Make better use of schools as neighborhood centers". The JS reported on 12/23/05, "Schools would be open 24/7". Superintendent Hinton said "We are linking up and developing new concepts for using schools beyond school hours". That was 2005 and sure they are, varsity football, track, basketball, baseball, volleyball, cheerleaders and some other sports with few participants.
Specifically, the JS reported on 9/25/05 the following "Ken Hinton yelled "Yes" when finding someone home while going door to door conducting his first resident survey of community needs and interest. Manual, Trewyn and Garfield plan to become 'full service community schools' this year, which means the will provide services and resources that the people want, said Hinton".
Ah, such great dreams and so poorly followed through and such apathy. There were to be committee after committee meeting with each school and each school was to have an "in school community director".
The program feel flat through lack of interest and administration. When I ask a soon to be departing school board member, she said check with Jim Stowell and "I wonder how much time we are taking out of administration to ask "bits" of information". The original administrator is gone and there is little money in the bank except for the new grant.
What community schools? The cash strapped JSEB couldn't even followup there own grand ideas. See their editorial of 8/12/04 titled "Make better use of schools as neighborhood centers". See my blog of 4/27/07, titled "Schools an all day affair?"
And a computer center (19 at last count) in the back of Manual High. This Center is operated by Workforce Network. The computers in Manual High can't be used after 2:30 five days a week.
Now 150 officials are saying "we will have 24/7" in the new schools. Why didn't they have them in the old schools? Where were Community Builders with their $150,000 grant? Oh, summer programs.
Now the largest provider of for the homeless, the YWCA, is starting a fund drive for $50,000 to expand their homeless shelter to another floor at 714 Hamilton.
I know people who give money for good causes never check to see how their money is used but they have a "good feeling about giving". Sure, these clubs like the Boys and Girls Club have boards of directors, some of them attending fund raising dinners for the advertised two locations, Grinnell and Kansas St. Problem was that Grinnell was closed in May 2007 but management did not notify some board members and evidently, Caterpillar who promoted a fund raising dinner a year after Grinnell was closed, listing both locations.
I've been saying for 15 years that Peoria has too many organizations all working for our youth (roughly 70 at one time) and many of them building their own bureaucracies, writing grants, hiring administrators and recruiting board members, many who lose interest, don't attend board meetings and in one case, one told me he didn't even know he was a board member. Back in the nineties, the B & G Club had 19 members. Four, including myself and the then police chief showed up to set the budget for submission to the United Way. The president, McFarland Bragg, showed up 20minutes late and asked for the agenda. The manager refused to give me program attendance numbers and I resigned. I believe they still have 19 "members" today.
Which leads me to ask about the Museum Committee composed of all these different organizations. So much conflicting news released to the press, including documentation released through their legal counsel, John Elias in conjunction with Peoria County in their request for an additional, $20 million plus public money received already, $40,000,000.00 new tax dollars to make up the fund drive shortfalls.
Which leads to my next blog on public tax spending transparency.
The Boys and Girls Club at Grinnell St. is closed. (There is no sign on the door but it is closed.) Board members say older youth gangs took it over so the board decided to close it. The location on Kansas St. is inadequate in most ways and the building needs a new roof. And the club needs a new bus. A board member tells me they do not have enough money.
Activities at the Grinnell location have been shifted to Trewyn and perhaps some activities at Manual High.
The hyped Community Centers Program is directed by the faith based Community Builders. Joyce Banks is Executive Director of the program. Mrs. Banks says the centers are working. I guess it depends on a definition of “working”. Spend some time at Trewyn and Manual after school closes. Visit unannounced and see for yourself as it’s been said thousands of times that “Figures lie and---------.” What I see is an expensive child care center for a limited number of kids. As to adults “bonding” with their kids after school hours? The centers are open until 8 PM or later so there may be a few adult programs during the 35-40 hours of the buildings being open. But in four visits, I didn’t see any nor was I told about any adult programs. I did see maybe a couple of volunteers observing. I did not see any flyers or signage promoting adult programs.
When I visit, I talk to whoever is connected in one way or another to the subject of my visit. These facts are not gathered from someone living in Weaver Ridge or from an “Ivory Tower” executive. This information I always gather is from people who are actually INVOLVED in the community, not the people who just FUND the systems.
The Community Builders grant was for $150,000.00 and was for one year and I am told they are out of funds. How much of the 150 thousand was paid in salaries and benefits? I stopped by Community Builders office to see Mrs. Banks. She chastised me for not making an appointment. She says “60 kids from the Boys and Girls Club use Trewyn for after school activities.” On four visits to Trewyn after hours, I counted an average of 20 kids in TOTAL with what I would call limited organization and programs. Adult programs, if any, were not visible or posted anywhere in the building. Vandalism? I was told of an incident and actions taken. More could happen as the buildings are open without sign-ins and security is limited.
On visits to Manual, the only thing I see that may be working as an “after hours community center” is the Workforce Network Computer Center which is open from 3 till 8 Mon. – Fri. and 10 -2 on Sat. A computer class for Manuel students starts at 2 PM. I was told by a Dist 150 Board member that she was told that computer users were “turned away” twice last week. That is difficult to believe figuring that the center is open approximately 30 hours per week. On four personal visits I saw as many users at one time as none to 8. I was told by an employee that they did not record the number of users but that they did teach classes at least twice a day. There are 20 computers.
As I’ve said before, the centers of learning, the libraries are all closed for after school activities. $100,000.00 has just been spent to convince the City Council to tax property owners $35,000,000.00 for public library expansions. Most of us, who live in the city, should be convincing councilpeople that more property taxes are not in the best interest of growth in the City of Peoria.
As Peoria is in denial about so many things, I believe that many influential Peorians want to believe that so many of these money sucking programs that teach our kids the things they will need to succeed in life, are working.
A few are but when you consider that there are over 14,000 kids in the public education system, and the school’s budget is close to $140,000,000.00, $10,000.00 per kid, highest in the entire area, one would hope so. The programs that are not working are the ones that worry many of us.
Our Police Chief says he could use 25 more officers on the street. The way I see things deteriorating in many areas of this community, the day is not far off when the Chief will need a lot more than 25 more officers. The Sheriff will be asking for more funds for jail expansion to “temporarily” incarcerate the ones similar to those who have forced the closing of the South Side Boys and Girls Club and for those who are considering “school learning” as a liability. Also, those who use schools (and centers such as the B & G Club) as gang recruitment centers.
The money to fund all the city pensions, health care, and other benefits, will come from the City of Peoria tax payer. Most of the money to fund the welfare programs, public building like public schools, the public library system, the RiverPlex and the zoo, will come from the City of Peoria taxpayer. The deteriorating infra structure like the sewer system, public works, public safety, public transportation and government funded businesses will be supported by the City of Peoria taxpayer.
New schools and expanded libraries are not the answer but those in denial will continue to believe and convince you that “new and expanded” is the way out of the unstable conditions of the City of Peoria.
The way out is a crackdown of discipline all over the community and a cut back on welfare to those who could work but won’t. Increased public safety, (A businessman acquaintance could not understand why a poor person was fined for parking in a disabled slot without a necessary permit?) as the no population growth city expands in square miles needed to be protected. We need public schools not beholden to the teachers union and less outside government interference. We need smaller combined bureaucracies, more pride in community; without this pride comes more enforcement, stronger highly paid (Pay incentives should attract a better choice of candidates to elect), smaller elected boards that control large amounts of taxpayer’s money, combined entities and services and less political correctness.
All accomplished with a demand of hard love, of mutual respect, community cohesiveness,the ability to take criticism and a consistent system of law enforcement.
Probably won’t happen until pigs can fly. Then again, that depends on what the definition of a “pig” is.
Community meetings after community meetings and now a new law titled "Illinois Youth Development" making Illinois the first state in the nation to make after-school programming official.
Sounds again like lot's of taxpayer dollars with lots of new administrative jobs, new offices and secretaries and very little leadership.
That is what has been proven in Peoria. The JS announced on May 23, 2008, in an article titled, "Community school will debut". "Kids programs such as book clubs, sports instruction, cooking classes, will be available