Written by Brian Massie, taxpayer in Riverside School District
May 1, 2022
It troubles me to write an article with this much negativity, but I have never been more disappointed in a group of individuals as I was when I attended the Riverside School Board meeting on Thursday, April 28th.
The Riverside Bond Levy (Issue 1) on the May 3rd ballot may be the issue that permanently fractures a community that is already seriously divided.
The Riverside School District Bond Levy has become a very contentious, divisive issue that, I fear, may forever divide our wonderful community. The alignment of the opposing sides could not have been more evident than at the last special School Board meeting on April 28th.
I saw a deeply divided School Board, a feckless Superintendent, and out-of-control teachers display abhorrent behavior that was very unbecoming of individuals that are tasked with educating the next generation of citizens. It was not their finest hour.
There were three individuals that bore the brunt of the ire of the teachers and their union. They were School Board members Mr. Thomas Hach and Mr. Scott Fishel and private citizen, Mr. Christian Weiss. However, if they need a fourth person to ridicule it should be me since I took all of the videos that were meant as educational tools for the Riverside School District’s taxpayers.
Lobbyists for Citizens believes that transparency is a key to good governance and an informed electorate. It is with that mission in mind that I agreed to record, edit, and publish the videos.
The two videos dealing with the option of repairing and maintaining the building rather than demolishing and rebuilding were contested by three members of the school board (Lori Krenisky, Belinda Grassi, Jennifer Harden), Superintendent Dr. James Kalis and the irrational teachers have a story behind them.
Mr. Fishel, Mr. Weiss and I thought that it would be helpful if we could demonstrate what could be done with the existing facilities rather than demolishing the building and rebuilding a brand new school. Mr. Fishel wanted to use the videos AFTER the vote of the people on May 3rd, so that the videos would not influence the outcome of the election. Mr. Weiss and I wanted to display the videos before the election, but we complied with Mr. Fishel’s directive.
Since someone with the Administration’s approval had created and, without thinking, callously displayed a video that showed the school’s security shortcomings, there were discussions between Mr. Fishel and Mr. Weiss about how the security could be improved, but we never would have recorded a video on that topic for public consumption. Dr. Kalis and the three female Board members should never have permitted its publication. They needlessly put the children and teachers at risk from the evil in this world.
We originally were going to just show the exterior of the facility, and how, with proper repairs and annual maintenance, the building could be salvaged and remain a viable school for many more decades.
A member of the janitorial staff exited the building and then provided us access to the interior of the building upon meeting and speaking with Mr. Fishel.
On Monday Mr. Fishel called Superintendent Dr. Kalis and explained that he was doing his due diligence on how the building could be salvaged; but Dr. Kalis took umbrage to the idea that a Board member would have the audacity to show the shortcomings of his leadership. What Dr. Kalis fails to comprehend is that he works for the School Board and Mr. Fishel was not required to get permission to enter the building from anyone.
After meeting with Dr. Kalis, Mr. Fishel acquiesced to allowing Lobbyists for Citizens to publish the videos. As of today, there have been over 2,300 views of both videos.
It was obvious to us that the school was not being properly maintained; and that responsibility falls on the past School Board members and Superintendent Kalis for showing abject malfeasance of the highest order. With utter disregard for taxpayers’ funding, Dr. Kalis allowed a known water pressure problem go unrepaired until the School District received a $30,000 quarterly water bill! Dr. Kalis has previously commented that they only spend annually $250,000 on building maintenance.
At the School Board meeting, it was obvious that a School Board member, perhaps a “Queen Bee”, had orchestrated the event by ensuring that the teachers’ union was well represented. There were two teachers in particular that stood out to me – James Field and Matthew Ozinga. The other teachers may have thought both performed well, but in this writer’s opinion, they should not be in the classroom.
Mr. Field, in his attempt to appear like a constitutional scholar, failed to realize that Mr. Fishel received the most votes in the last election and ran on “No CRT in our schools, and Vote No on the Riverside Bond Levy”. By voting not to place the levy on the ballot he was complying with his promise to the voters. By the way Mr. Field, bearing false witness may open you up to a lawsuit for defamation.
Mr. Ozinga, in my opinion, is a bully, a tough guy, the muscle, that appears to want his old job back as President of the Teachers’ Union. Reading script is not his forte since he tripped over his tongue with his speech. However, he showed that intimidation is his strong suit by shouting at Mr. Weiss to sit down.
Mr. Ozinga, the School Board and Mr. Kalis failed to defend Mr. Weiss for his support of the school by twice offering to help identify how repairs and regular maintenance could negate the need to build a new school. Board President Krenisky declined his offer and suggested the Board hire contractors for the work Mr. Weiss offered to do for free.
By making claims that the union will never agree to transparency and parental rights, Ozinga absolutely displayed the teacher union’s Marxist agenda by inserting themselves between the parents and the children. Mr. Ozinga, you have been outed for all the community to see your abrasive style in action. You claim that there should be no political agenda in the school, but what you are really saying is that only YOUR political agenda will be taught at Riverside.
Unfortunately, teachers also took objection to the publishing of their “KIDS” campaign finance reports. So that tells us that transparency is not acceptable to them when their actions are questioned by the taxpayers.
After witnessing these teachers in action, I would caution anyone sending their children to public schools. They make a strong case for home schooling because they are definitely committed to indoctrinating the children to their leftist, “Woke”, ideology.
The Riverside School slogan is “One Community, Pursuing Greatness, and Getting Better Every Day” is rather interesting. It is too bad that the School Board and Administration are not living up to their slogan.
The arrogant attitude by several of the teachers and certain Board members do not align with the proficiency test scores and comparison with other Lake County School Districts. We did some research on the State Board of Education website and discovered that Riverside for the year 2018 – 2019 averaged an overall 75% proficiency for all grades and subjects tested. Riverside ranked 4th out of nine school districts in the County. Producing average students does not give them bragging rights. I expect better results for the exorbitant property taxes I pay to the school district.
Superintendent Kalis should be ashamed of himself when he acknowledged to a School Board member that he will not willingly tell parents that the Marxist philosophy known as Social, Emotional Learning is part of the curriculum at Riverside.
By passing the Riverside Bond Levy (Issue 1), taxpayers are reinforcing the malfeasance of the School Board and Administration and accepting the Marxist philosophy of a very ideological teachers’ union. In addition, you are agreeing to price seniors and those living on fixed incomes out of their homes that they have worked all their lives to achieve.
If there is a low voter turnout, history has shown that school levies have a better chance of passing.
To the Seniors in the Riverside School District, YOUR FATE IS IN YOUR HANDS…
School Board member Mr. Tom Hach introduced a resolution that states the School Board and Administration support total transparency and parental rights. The three female board members, Krenisky, Grassi, and Harden, even though they had the resolution for over thirty days, strenuously objected to the whole concept. Here is the resolution:
Here are additional public comments made at the school board meeting: