Zach Mottl: Hinsdale D86 spends hundreds of thousands on consultants while undercutting sports, leading to loss of popular coach
Hinsdale Central High School’s winning football coach, Dan Hartman, is the latest casualty in District 86’s “reckless” maneuver of pinning the future of high school sports on the $140 million April 2 referendum, opposition leader Zach Mottl told the DuPage Policy Journal.
“They clearly made this an unethical quid-pro-quo,” Mottl, who co-chairs the grassroots group D86 Can Do Better, said of the district. “Give us our tax hike or we will destroy what is important to you. But once you open Pandora’s box, you can’t shut it and now collateral is adding up, regardless of the vote. How could they do this to our community. It’s shameful.”
Hartman, who went 40-13 over five seasons at Hinsdale, is leaving to coach football at nearby Lyons Township High School District 204. The district hired Hartman by unanimous vote on Monday.
Hartman told a Tribune reporter that the Hinsdale board’s December decision to cut the sports programs after the failure of the $166 million referendum in November was a factor in his decision to leave. The board said it would reinstate the programs if the April 2 referendum is approved. The referendum is the district’s third try at a tax increase in two years.
In an earlier loss for D86, Hinsdale Superintendent Bruce Law announced last month that he had accepted a position with the Township High School District 113 in Highland Park.
Mottl said the loss of key staff, and the hit to the district’s excellent reputation, could have been avoided if the board had funded the athletic programs instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants to help sell the referendum, and architects for projects that have yet to be funded.
Records obtained by D86 Can Do Better through the Freedom of Information Act show that the board and administration spent over $350,000 on consultants for work related to November’s referendum, and a $76 million April 2017 referendum.
One architectural consultant, Arcon and Associates of Lombard, received a total of $179,029.21, an analysis by the group shows. Arcon donated $5,000 to the D86 Vote Yes on Referendum PAC, according to State Board of Election records. In addition, the George K. Baum & Company, a nationwide investment banking firm, received $81,556.82 for “Phone Poll” and “Public Policy” services.
A second FOIA request from D86 Can Do Better shows the board and administration spending $456,955.06 on general consulting services over the past two years. Over half the money went to two consultants: Consortium for Educational Change received $200,166.45, and the ECRA Group received $111,781.78.
“They could have funded the sports programs and worked with us to get a reasonable referendum approved,” Mottl said. “Instead they pursued this reckless unethical game of chicken, and now they are witnessing the fallout from their recklessness.”