To: (several)
Sent: Sunday, March 17, 2013 11:24:35 PM
Subject: The Spirit of Lake Bluff
This column shows what the current School Board President says of the candidates of the Lake Bluff School Caucus:
  Dear District 65 Neighbors,
  Good evening and let me begin with an apology for the length of this email. I feel the need to respond in detail to some troubling things I’ve heard and read over the past days and weeks.  
  What of the attacks being made on our District 65 schools by a group of disgruntled individuals? Measure their validity first by considering the membership of the discontented group. Are they truly concerned with quality education or are they perseverating on their opposition to the Elementary School, an issue that was decided by popular vote years ago? Are they motivated by what is best for our children or what profits them personally? Do they actually work to make things better, do they have specific plans for improvement or are they simply naysayers who in knee jerk fashion turn their sour outlook on the efforts of those committed to helping? disgruntled individuals

discontented group

simply naysayers

knee jerk

sour outlook
  Before we let them measure our schools I think a little measuring of them is in order.  
  Is $19,000 too much to spend educating each District 65 student? $19,000 is an incorrect figure. As we’ll see throughout, the naysayers are uncritical in reporting. The right number, easily found on the Illinois Interactive Report Card ( is $18,053. Perhaps not a great differential but precision dealing with numbers is important. The naysayers simply don’t take the time to be accurate, or perhaps accuracy is not a high priority. In another example, they don’t explain that the per pupil cost is not only a child’s share of the cost of classroom basics, but includes nearly every single cost necessary for the district to function (in addition to direct classroom instruction costs, the curriculum, professional development, administration, bilingual programs, facilities, desks, chairs, computers, trucks, snow plows, lawn mowers, tools, light bulbs, transportation, maintenance, utilities, internet service, liability insurance, employee benefits, pension payments, new school buildings to replace old ones, and many more). Still the question is, “Is $18,000 too much to spend?” That figure is higher than the State average but District 65 not average by any meaningful standard. The wishes of the gloom mongers notwithstanding, I don’t want an average education for my child. I suspect my fellow parents feel the same. naysayers


simply don’t take the time

perhaps accuracy is not a high priority

gloom mongers
  Do our kids perform poorly? Citing an internet ratings service the naysayers conclude the children at the Middle School are poor math students. Bear in mind that their source is not above reproach. (“Sites such as ‘schooldigger’ may have some interesting bells and whistles but they can never adequately address the question . . . of greatest interest to parents: ‘How would my child fare in this school as compared to another school?’ If this is, indeed, the question, then school comparison websites are doomed to provide poor and potentially misleading answers.” “Data are Good: More Data May Not Be Better” Aaron Pallas, Gotham Schools, 7/22/09). The one source that all educators in Illinois agree to be the starting point for serious discussion: Illinois Interactive Report Card (IIRC: Home). Review of these data demonstrates that year in and year out District 65 students perform strongly. And they also fail to consider local sources for real performance data. Perhaps they prefer to spend their time not interacting with educators in Lake Bluff and Lake Forest, but criticizing those who do make the effort to become involved. Whatever the reason, the naysayers don’t mention that teachers from Lake Forest District 67 now come to observe math being taught in the Elementary School and plan to come to the Middle School. Had they asked, Superintendent, Dr Jean Sophie, or Curriculum Director Joanne Trahanas would have advised that Lake Forest wants to see how we are instructing on the “Bridges” math curriculum at LBES and “Agile Minds” at LBMS. Likewise the naysayers fail totally to substantiate their claim that our kids “are insufficiently prepared to advance and compete at the high school level.” Had they cared to fairly inquire, Dr. Sophie and Ms. Trahanas would have specified that regular contact with Lake Forest High confirms our kids more than hold their own. Should the naysayers be unwilling to take the word of our local administrators, why don’t they ask District 115 superintendent, Michael Simeck? He would have verified that students from Lake Forest High continue to set records on college entrance exam. Proclaiming proudly (and rightfully so) that “Achievement in District 115 is sky high.” (“Insight”, District 115’s Winter Report to the Community) Mr. Simeck went on to note that the High School “stands on the elementary districts’ shoulders. District 65’s new superintendent, Dr. Jean Sophie, has been a great partner with us already . . .” Mr. Simeck is “confident she will update District 65 parents on their district’s impressive work.” (3/7/13 Message from Superintendent Michael Simeck”)


Had they cared to fairly inquire



  Given their imprecision with numbers and selective use of data the naysayers may be poor at math and ill-prepared but District 65 students are not. By any credible measure they know what they need to know, and more, when they graduate from 8th grade. the naysayers may be poor at math and ill-prepared
  Confronting the naysayers hit-and-miss version of analysis is, if nothing else, worthwhile in that it recalls to mind the thinking of famous personages of history. Who was it, a British politician maybe, who said, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics?” the naysayers hit-and-miss version of analysis
  And it is not just Math at which our kids excel. A very small sample of the recent achievements of District 65 students includes: a representative to the Illinois State Finals of the National Geographic competition in 4 of the last 5 years; a medalist in the Prudential Community Awards national contest in 2013, a recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship and a place in the national touring company of Les Miserables.  
  Enrollment goes down but expenses go up. Let’s first challenge the naysayers’ methodology. What budget year(s) are they using? What line items do they factor into their percentage cost increase projections? How do they define their terms and concepts? As with most of their case, they don’t specify. So really, who knows? What we do know is that the naysayers harp on declining enrollment. They ignore, or perhaps have no clue, that our student population has waxed and waned over the last 25 years. For example, during the 1987 – 1988 school year, enrollment stood at 665. The high water mark was 1137 in 2001 - 2002. But the economy cares little about enrollment in District 65. Michael Jacoby, Executive Director of Illinois Association of School Business Officials, is quoted in a Chicago Tribune article of October 31, 2012, and makes the point, that like everyone’s household, the cost of living continues to increase. Perhaps in the world of the naysayers, the cost of goods and services decreases. For those of us facing real world obligations they go up. Road salt costs more and insurance premiums increase. And yes, paying for voter-approved elementary school building to replace the leaking, mold-infested one built during Grover Cleveland’s second term costs money as well. But the proof of prudent management is the impact that management has upon our property taxes. While the naysayers can mash up numbers ‘til the cows come home the simple fact is that our Board has reduced your burden. You’ll be paying significantly less in property taxes to run District 65 in 2013 than you did in 2012, roughly $1,000 on a $750,000 home. naysayers

the naysayers harp


  But what about District debt? Their alarmism on this subject demonstrates how disconnected the naysayers are. In 2007 the community voted to build the new elementary school. As with many public improvements, the new school project was funded by selling bonds. There was nothing “creative” about the financing. Those have to be repaid. The schedule upon which they’ll be repaid is and has been a matter of public record throughout. No one who has been involved with Lake Bluff schools is surprised by the bond repayment schedule. It is a matter that has been known since bond issuance. That the repayment amount will increase in a few years is also well known and the subject of current contingency planning. Fortunately, the District over the last decade or so has husbanded resources and created a rainy day fund. That reserve, the subject of so much naysayer condemnation, gives us a vast amount of financial flexibility including the possibility of calling some of those bonds when that opportunity presents itself in 2018. Maybe the naysayers are surprised as they‘ve had so little contact with school governance. Or maybe they are feigning shock to create a campaign issue. Either way the school board candidates they endorse have no business serving in matters they so little understand. Indeed the naysayers and their slate of school board candidates will take us back in time. Some of us remember the embarrassment and anxiety of our school district turning up on the State’s financial watch list in 2003 and the early warning roster in 2004. If the naysayers wish to be shocked they would do well to remember these Scarlet Letters. To return again to historical commentary: “Those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Their alarmism on this subject demonstrates how disconnected the naysayers are.




have no business serving in matters they so little understand.

  This has been a long day. I began by commencing this communication and I end by finishing it. In between we went door to door in various neighborhoods of District 65. We are gratified by the support we’ve received. It is heartening to know that so many reject the clamoring of a few. The wisdom of the citizens of District 65, and their intuition, is impressive. They know that the criticism of the naysayers does not pass the smell test. The fact is that they focus on the negative because they have no idea about the positive. They’ve not been involved with the schools and thus are ignorant of just how well prepared our kids are to face the future. Can we improve? Of course! Have I been perfect? Certainly not! The difference between me, my fellow candidates Kate Amaral and Eric Waggoner, and the naysayers is that we’ve been working on actually enhancing education for years instead of perseverating on one issue, district taxes. We’re accountable, not angry. We believe in best practices, not belligerence. AND we’re committed, not crabby. naysayers focus on the negative because they have no idea about the positive.

ignorant naysayers



  That’s the Spirit of Lake Bluff.  
  Mary Jane Brady


That's the spirit, MJ.



A Lake Bluff neighbor responds to her.

"An Open Letter From Lake Bluff School Board Candidate Marozsan"


A Lake Bluff neighbor responds to her.

"Open Letter From Ed Holstein To Voters & Taxpayers Of Lake Bluff Schools"


A Lake Bluff neighbor responds to her.

"Lake Bluff Caucus Member Questions Email From School Board President"


A Lake Bluff neighbor responds to her.

"Endorsement For Lake Bluff Caucus-Endorsed Candidates For School Board"


A Lake Bluff neighbor responds to her.

Endorsement for Lake Bluff District 65 Candidates Gottshall, Hegg, Marozsan, Letchinger


A Lake Bluff neighbor responds to her.

Letter to the Editor:  Sorting Out District 65 Race









Hi. I am Don Russ. I favor the four candidates endorsed by the Lake Bluff School Caucus.  Don’t vote for the three SmartChoices candidates!

But I am willing to help MJ, Eric and Kate get their message out so that the voters can choose for themselves. That’s why I created the image below.  I certainly wouldn’t want to put words in her mouth so I used her own words from her email printed above.

Right-click and “save picture as” so that you can attach it to emails and paste it to FaceBook.  Let's all help MJ spread the SmartChoices vision.









Sadly, the SmartChoices campaign of vilification persuades some people.



Note to Ed, Bob, Neil, Kathy, Bill, David, David & David,

19 days after MJ made her reckless campaign appeal, and after a half-dozen letters of protest have been published, she continues to deny her behavior.

Instead, she claims that anyone who quotes her venom is spreading venom.  She claims that anyone who documents her personal attacks is making personal attacks.  She claims that anyone who graphically portrays her sophomoric and empty rhetoric is has nothing to offer but sophomoric and empty rhetoric.



“My detractors have found new outlets for their venom...They cannot refute the facts stated specifically, so they continue to resort to personal attacks. Their forensic skills are as cartoonish and sophomoric as the popup image of me with which they seek to divert attention from the absolute emptiness of their rhetoric.”

MJ Brady, April 5, 2013



When we go to the polls in 4 days, let us all remember that no one has called her names. No one has questioned her motives. No one has insulted her abilities.

Only she has done those things. And Eric & Kate have gone along with it.



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