Tim Scanlon was a key part of an RB era that should never be repeated.
Yet there are those who want us to believe he was the Socrates of Ridgewood Road.
Since the district has spent the last year unraveling issues Tim helped create, and will do so for some time, RB’s future requires additional perspective on Tim’s actual contribution.
In 2011 Tim promised us a construction project “audit” (his word), so we could establish an accurate capital plan to maintain what we built and bought for $65 million. The Landmark’s July 2 edition carries an article about lingering serious problems with the project. Instead, the Scanlon Audit never happened, we are stuck confronting avoidable issues and our capital plan is a guess.
Scanlon, according to the July 2 Landmark article on his retirement (“The man behind the curtain,” News), was a union booster in administrator’s clothes.
It was Tim who opened the official January 2008 State of Illinois notice that RB’s superintendent and about six union-member teachers were legally unqualified to enter the school or be paid.
Faced with startling news, Tim said he … encouraged the superintendent and the teachers to sort it out.
Tim proudly declared he did not tell the president of the Board of Education in January. The board president subsequently said Tim told him in May or June of 2008. By keeping mum, Tim served his insider buddies, not the community.
And Tim gained the glory. The same board president, less than a year later, boosted Tim’s pay with four, 6 percent cumulative victory-lap raises, to make Tim’s pension “closely mirror” those of his union friends we paid him to oversee, even though he was management. Or was he?
In 2007 Tim told another former board president not to bring an attorney to contract talks. Why? “It would upset the teachers,” Tim reportedly said.
Tim’s top accomplishments are the so-called “three-year catch-up (to Oak Park, Lyons Township and Hinsdale pay levels) contract” from fall 2005 to spring 2008, and the current five-year contract, fall 2008 to spring 2013.
With average total annual hikes of some 10 percent and more than 7 percent for the second, these contracts are the beating heart of RB’s fiscal unsustainability. They so divided the community from the school that the last referendum lost by more than 79 percent to less than 21 percent.
What matters even more than the raises is the quality of the bargains. Unions have a solemn duty to get the very best deal they can. So does management, in this case, for us. That is the American way. But Tim Scanlon sat on one side of the table, so to speak, while working for the other side. We have the deficits to show for it.
Tim’s most outrageous breach of our trust as “man behind the curtain” was running the pro-referendum campaign out of RB. Tim, from our offices, deployed personnel, equipment, facilities and even students to hike our taxes. Such was Tim’s gratitude for our boosting his salary. I guess that in Tim’s view, we had only begun to pay.
The fault here is not Tim’s. It is entirely ours. We elected the folks who used a front man “superintendent” and Tim as their go-to guy. Tim’s execution of their policy choices drove us into the fiscal hole we now occupy. Tim is an object lesson in poor governance. The “Tim-as-visionary-educator story” is stoked by the insiders he diligently served at our expense.
When we acted, it was too late, but that realization became the reform movement. It is another thread in RB’s story, and it will go on.
Tim Scanlon’s RB thread ended on June 30, which, with the knowledge of what not to repeat, makes RB’s future considerably brighter already.
Chris Robling is a Riverside resident. This is excerpted from an article at www.riversideinfo.org.