Friday 24th November 2017

The parents of Lincoln-Way North speak bluntly

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The parents of Lincoln-Way North speak bluntly.

“Why did I do this,” explained Liz Sands, founder of the parents group suing to stop the closing of LW North High. “Because I’m pissed.” stock-photo-four-piles-of-colorful-fiches-on-a-poker-aces-158176721

Todd Velky, another officer in their advocacy group, Lincoln-Way Area TaxPayers Unite, said much the same: “This is B.S.”

Speaking at a community center in Frankfort Square Wednesday afternoon before a standing-room crowd of fellow Lincoln-Way parents and students, and news media, Sands and Velky explained why they’ve been moved to anger and legal action.

For months, starting in the spring, the District 210 Board of Education and school administrators brushed off rumors that plans were afoot to close LW North — a school built and opened less than 10 years ago.

When they finally admitted in the summer that the district — placed on the State Financial Watch List in March — needed to consider dramatic expense cuts, including the possibility of closing a school, the board of education members brushed off their questions and suggestions, Sands and Velky contend.

Then the board rushed ahead in August with what appeared to many a pre-determined conclusion — the board voted to close Lincoln-Way North after this school year. Superintendent Scott Tingley had been telling some employees for months that North would need to close, sources told Patch in the late spring. The public timeline took less than 60 days, and very little community input was sought. At the special board meeting convened for that vote, board members did not respond to comments and questions from residents and taxpayers.

“I trusted these people,” Sands said, at one point choking up. “I I didn’t just trust them with my money, I trusted them with our children and this is what we get for it.”

She believes the board betrayed that trust.

That inspired the formation of Lincoln-Way Area Taxpayers Unite, bringing Sands, Velky, Robert Ripp and many others together — a hundred others, Sands said — to look into Lincoln-Way District 210’s financial management for themselves.

They filed Freedom of Information Act requests, one after the other.

And when the district complied with their requests, the parents didn’t like what they saw. Worse, however, were the many times District 210 administrators failed to comply with their FOIA requests for payroll data, financial documents, contracts, detailed breakdowns of cost-savings anticipated with the closing of North, and other information.

What they did receive, puzzled them. And when school board members actively tried to thwart their efforts to gain information and refused to work with the parents to explore other solutions, their anger galvanized into action — and a lawsuit that seeks a temporary injunction to block the school closing.

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