Though it was intended to be a charitable effort to direct supplemental funding to classroom programs in District 209, the unveiling of a functioning body to oversee that project has been delayed by a political tug of war. But school officials are now saying they are closer than ever to getting this worthwhile project off the ground, and concerns of power hungry egos running interference are unfounded.
A group of volunteers assembled under former superintendent Stan Fields and charged with establishing the District 209 Foundation was disbanded by the school board in July 2007. At the time, members of the ad hoc committee said they expected to announce the foundation’s board of directors on Aug. 21 and in working with a Michigan consultant had gained non-profit status. This gave the foundation–not the school district–control over any funds that were raised. Several committee members accused the school board of making a power grab in order to gain control of those funds.
“That shouldn’t be a concern of anyone’s,” board President Chris Welch said recently of the perceived power struggle. “Let me apologize on behalf of the board and everyone, it is not our intent now, or ever, to control that funding.”
Administrators have since turned the foundation over to Michael DeBartolo, who is an attorney for the district, and a full-time secretary hired exclusively to help oversee the fundraising efforts. But to date, no money has been raised and the secretary, Carla Johnson, is without a board of directors to report to.
According to DeBartolo, the hitch is in getting a majority of the original committee members to dissolve the non-profit. Welch said the board of education voted in December to accept the resignation of the requisite number of committee members, but DeBartolo said he’s seen no paperwork to that affect.
Superintendent Robert Libka called two meetings in the fall of 2007 to discuss the dissolution with committee members, but only two people attended. But according to Libka’s December report to the board, “the required majority number have [sic] signed the appropriate documents.” This will allow a new group of volunteers to choose the foundation’s board of directors, Libka stated in his report.
“Instead of this being in a constant state of limbo, we’re trying to get this to move on,” DeBartolo said.
Johnson, the foundation’s secretary, confirmed that the requisite number of committee members has agreed to dissolve the non-profit.
Libka did not return phone calls to his office or cell phone.
Even if the superintendent had failed to get the requisite number of resignations, the articles of incorporation for the District 209 Foundation are up for review in February, said DeBartolo, which means there’s a chance the entity will dissolve by default.
Angela McDaniel, former community relations director for the district, filed the original paperwork, according to the attorney, and is the registered agent. McDaniel is no longer employed at District 209 and, said DeBartolo, has said she has no interest in keeping up with the foundation. Without an annual report from organization, the federal Internal Revenue Service will not recognize the District 209 Foundation as it was originally incorporated.
Phone calls to several members of the original ad hoc committee were not returned.
Proviso Township High School District 209 is soliciting volunteers to join the new design team and recruit a board of directors but, said DeBartolo, is meeting with a minimal amount of success. If need be, the school district will appoint those board members directly. Such a move is likely to draw fire from the community, he said, and board members will most certainly face renewed accusations of meddling.
According to Johnson, a few volunteers have stepped forward but none were members of the original committee. This new group is expected to meet this month and begin selecting members for a board of directors.
“We’re going to have to move forward with what we have for now, because we can’t sit and wait and wait and wait,” Johnson said. “It would have been nice if everybody did rejoin. Everybody’s welcome because it’s not a one person show.”
Should the school board have a role in appointing the foundation’s governing body, Welch reiterated that there is no interest in wresting control over that potential funding pool.
“Once that group is up and running, that foundation will be in charge,” Welch said.