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Something not mentioned in the editorial “Welch’s free ride needs to end” is the caseload of litigation District 209 deals with and is required to manage. Another is the absence of stories or information about what it takes to change the current culture in Proviso, from entitlement and pandering to sustainable risk management, through building consensus and practicing reconciliation at Proviso Township High Schools.

I recall my experience as a 209 Board of Education member: we vetted the legal-bill issue often. The entire board listened, after requesting up-to-date reports from our legal panels, and then acted.  Our collective efforts were in curbing legal costs. Other cases were an array of contentions that included criminal complaints, labor lawsuits, school-code compliance issues, and flawed-contract cases. Unfortunately, many individuals had legitimate concerns, but many often did not.

The “sue you, sue me” entitlement mentality often targeted District 209 as an easy mark. Once this hyper legalization process starts, the proverbial cab meter begins, and it’s hard to break away. (I do not advise anyone not to pay your lawyer without consulting an attorney).

It is the nature of the law profession to test, challenge and argue in a court of law. At worst the hubris and bravado become a distraction and a time-robber of the D209 board’s deliberation. Yet school codes get more complicated, the law business is booming and public schools improvements are still perilously challenged.

Legal settlements are, at best, a crapshoot. Overall, this is a large expense to the district, but there have been reforms put in place to diminish runaway legal frenzies. Decisions on paying legal bills are vetted by multiple boards. PTHS would benefit greatly by the reduction in lawsuits.  Lawsuits cannot remain the lone method of solving a problem.

Transition of a problem to a commodity, or the abrasive output of an alleged problem into a dollar reward for settlement has a negative effect – the original root problem seldom gets a solution. I would speculate the financial-oversight-panel decision was intended to nudge both sides that these long-term lawsuits cannot go on forever if the district is to be financially sustainable. However, the panel’s action or opinion will not trump a court decision or any legal appeal. Every step of the legal process costs money.

The “us vs. them” sentiment expressed in the last part of the “Free ride” editorial is also a concern. This erodes Review’s role as curator. That is a loss for its readers.  This position refuses to enlighten the public about Proviso actions that require bipartisanship, building consensus and practicing reconciliation, while perpetuating the unnatural hatred of anything Proviso.

Even upon the dawning of a new political election season, it is urgent that the D209 students receive solutions from adults that fund and protect their education, not runaway legal costs, or another session of the blame game featured by a self-dubbed community newspaper.

 

Bob Cox
Former District 209 school board member