The common thread – our educational leadership?

We have talked about District 86’s educational leadership in previous posts, about transparency, and about suppressing information.  Now: an observation on identifying the loom for this pattern, and the weavers that may be at work.

This site has been criticized for maintaining its authors’ anonymity (as well as that of commenters who choose to remain anonymous), and we responded with a brief note about the history of anonymity in America.  We closed that note with a reminder that the major criticism is that anonymity fosters untruths, but that there are remedies for that potential drawback in other, existing laws – such as defamation tort law.  Another set of laws relates to campaign contribution disclosure.

One commenter to Joe O’Donnell’s Patch article about the District 86 attack on our website was candid enough to admit that she actually judges the veracity of a factual proposition by its proponent.  Similarly, campaign disclosure law qualifies assertions of political opinion/endorsement by requiring identification of its proponent(s). Would it then surprise you to know that the major proponent of attacks on this site, was himself found liable for campaign disclosure violations?

After several administrative hearings were held, an Election Board hearing officer issued a written report on October 5, 2001, finding, inter alia, that the [pro-incumbent political] committee and plaintiff [District 86 Board of Education President Dennis Brennan] failed to report contributions to the committee in excess of $500 within two business days; plaintiff failed to turn over to the acting committee chairman financial receipts and proofs of transactions to the committee; plaintiff filed a false D-1 statement of organization naming David Zapata as chairman and treasurer when, in fact, plaintiff was the committee’s de facto chairman and treasurer; plaintiff allowed the committee to accept and expend funds at a time when the committee had vacancies in the offices of chairman and treasurer; plaintiff filed a false D-1 and amended D-1 by failing to list his name as a sponsoring entity; and plaintiff’s actions were performed with the intent to violate the Election Code. Brennan, 336 Ill. App. 3d at 758.

Brennan v. Kadner, no. 1-03-1476 (emphasis added).

The hearing officer forwarded his report to the Election Board, which

. . . adopted the hearing officer’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. The order directed plaintiff, the committee, and David Zapata, to cease and desist from the conduct complained of in the complaint; it levied a fine against the committee in the amount of $4,200, which was stayed until further order of the Election Board, and it directed the Election Board’s general counsel to send a copy of the order to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.  [Brennan v. Kadner]

Brennan is an attorney, and in fact maintains a website listing practice areas including “election law [and] municipal bond issues”.  His work has included serving as legal counsel for School District 229 (in Oak Lawn, Illinois); in fact, “[i]t was established that if the four candidates [Brennan opposed] were elected to the school board, plaintiff would lose his contract as counsel for the school district.”  Brennan v. Kadner

Brennan personally financed the production of some 7000 videotapes attacking the threat to his revenue stream, which were distributed to registered District 229 voters.  Interestingly, Brennan’s website proclaims a college major in “Mass Communications”.  Also interesting is that Brennan claims to have the advice of District 86’s attorneys that this site is violating District policy; interesting because: the two conservatively leaning members of the Board of Education have voted against paying that firm’s legal bills on a number of occasions, and have suggested placing the no-bid legal services contract up for competitive bid.

What has changed in the year since initial attacks on this site’s validity were put soundly to rest?  Well, the only readily identifiable change is the passage of time: Board elections are 12 months closer.

Concern for the truth?  The Court opinion from which we have quoted extensively herein resulted from a defamation suit Brennan filed against the Daily Southtown newspaper when it persisted in reporting Brennan’s run-in with election law.  The result of the suit: Dismissal (thrown out – Brennan failed to state a case worthy of trial), affirmed by the Appellate Court.  Brennan v. Kadner.  We have to wonder, however, whether Brennan’s goal was to establish truth – or to impose a financial burden/penalty on media critical of Brennan.

Take care to understand the point of this post:  We are not pots calling the kettle black.  We have no knowledge that Brennan lied about his political opponents, or that his campaign strategy was immoral.  The point is that Brennan attacks us for violating a policy designed to ensure  no one will be confused into thinking we speak officially for the District – while he demonstrated great enthusiasm (to the very verge of criminal conduct) for disguising his own politicking.

Brennan has made no attempt to outline a sound legal theory for threatening suit against this website (the argument would have to be that either (or both) “Hinsdale” or “high school”  is a proprietary term).  But we do see a consistent pattern: mass communication is sometimes the art of sacrificing truth to the molding of opinion.  As Winston Churchill said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

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3 comments

  1. Sam Houston Fanning

    Now the current District 86 School Board members are not exactly what one would call intellectual powerhouses, but they would have to be complete morons to mistake this site for the “Official” District 86 web site. If this confuses them and they can’t tell the difference that is is very, very scary given they are actually entrusted with the very oversight of our children. Aside from the Board Members that can not tell the difference, I would love to meet any real people in the community who can not tell the difference.

    I have never heard a School Board talk so much and actually say so little, these same members of the community they claim have valid concerns are the same people who can’t even tell you within a huge $1,000 difference how much money is spent per student in district. These are the same people who can not tell you within a huge $10,000,000 what the budget was last year.

    Similarly, does anyone think a web site name that uses Chicago High School, or actually think there is really a brick and mortar Chicago High School? Or that the University of Phoenix is actually run by the city of Phoenix, Arizona? With the teachers lacking progress on their “rich” contract aren’t there better things to worry about?

    When lawyers are retained and selected to pursue litigation whether paid or unpaid are background checks conducted on past or pending allegations of conduct and findings of fact? Is their reputation within the profession examined? For example, an unpaid medical intern at a hospital is still considered an employee of that hospital.

    This site is about the kids and consistent with 1st Amendment Rights. This site serves a valuable oversight purpose and a forum for informed, educated members of the community to participate in thoughtful dialogue. Jefferson stated, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Guy Fawkes quoted the same theme in “V”.

    • It is a comfort to know I am not the only teacher that has dealt with these issues. I just recently wrote a quick blog post about what is the role of the Parent in their Child’s Education. Many of my parents are older than I am, so I feel they think they can overpower my philosophies with their age.As many failing stories, I have successful stories.

      I had a parent three years ago that was livid with my teaching style. I put a lot of responsibilities on the students. I know they will forget and fail, but that is part of learning and we will work through it. This parent who was a Psych Professor came to me with so called research that kids her daughter’s age couldn’t think critically and they need to have their hands held. Fast Forward to this year, I have her son and the mom couldn’t be any happier with my teaching style. She finally got it and saw that the hard work in my class has made her daughter an independent learner and better off. We plant seeds to succeed, as a teacher we don’t always get to see that plant blossom.

  2. Where is the financial transparency from the District 86 board? Hinsdale Taxpayers deserve to have a spreadsheet going back 10 years to the present showing it’s budget for all taxpayers to examine. Without financial disclosure from the District 86 school board, taxpayers are blind. There is no excuse for the lack of financial disclosure.

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