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School District 163 Attorney Sends Bizarre Letter to eNews Park Forest

Joyce Carmine, Caletha White, School District 163,
The 2 superintendents of Faculty District 163: Interim Superintendent Dr. Joyce Carmine, left, and Superintendent Designate Dr. Caletha White. (Photograph: Gary Kopycinski)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The administration at Park Forest-Chicago Heights Faculty District 163 was evidently not proud of a report revealed by eNews Park Forest on November 21 (SD 163: Residence of the Richest Superintendent in Illinois). The displeasure of the district was apparently so acute that, almost a month later, an lawyer affiliated with the district penned a weird letter to this publication.

Within the letter, Justino D. Petrarca (an Fairness Companion with Scariano, Himes & Petrarca, Attorneys at Regulation) nowhere discloses his relationship to Faculty District 163. Printed on letterhead from Mr. Petrarca’s regulation agency, Mr. Petrarca says he’s ostensibly writing a “response on behalf of the Board of Schooling as containing some strategies to enhance your craft,” journalism.

The underside of the letter signifies that copies have been despatched to Mr. Lance Jefferson, Board President, and Dr. Joyce Carmine, Interim Superintendent.

The letter quantities to nothing greater than an try at intimidation and addresses no authorized issues. As an alternative, the lawyer features as a high-priced public relations agent.

And it’s dangerous public relations, if public relations, on the very least, means placing nothing within the media that would probably embarrass Faculty District 163.

All the textual content of the letter follows, together with responses from eNews Park Forest. Emphasis, at factors, is added.

December 17, 2018

Pricey Mr. Kopycinski:

It has come to my consideration that you simply just lately wrote a number of articles by which you report incorrect info relating to Park Forest-Chicago Heights Faculty District 163. Having reviewed the articles, I’m sure that you simply need to be seen as a critical journalist, whereas setting examples relating to equity and accuracy for the scholars you train. Subsequently, I’m offering this response on behalf of the Board of Schooling as containing some recommendations to enhance your craft.

I first should marvel how a lot the composition of this letter value Faculty District 163. If Mr. Petrarca is studying this, please think about this discover of a forthcoming formal FOIA relating to that quantity. Additionally, I need to marvel why the Board President Lance Jefferson didn’t reply, and why did neither Superintendent for the Faculty District reply?

First, you reported that Park Forest-Chicago Heights Faculty District 163 has two Superintendents. That’s merely not true. Dr. Carmine is the Interim Superintendent; Dr. White is the Superintendent-Designate.

On the district’s web site, there’s a Superintendent’s Message. Whereas the singular possessive apostrophe is employed, the message is signed by two individuals, every sharing the title “Superintendent.” You’ll be able to cut up hairs and your can cut up follicles. Both method this odd association is cut up, we nonetheless have two individuals sharing the title “Superintendent” sitting side-by-side at conferences of the Board of Schooling.

Superintendent's Message, Park Forest-Chicago Height School District 163', two superintendentsScreenshot from the signature part of Park Forest-Chicago Peak Faculty District 163’s “Superintendent’s Message.”

Additionally, please observe using the phrase “Superintendent” in each of the titles above (emphasis added). The District is utilizing the phrase “Superintendent” for each, and, whereas the lawyer makes use of a hyphen in Dr. White’s title (“Superintendent-Designate”) the District makes use of no such hyphen within the Superintendent’s Message.

Screenshot of the Superintendent’s Message, taken and added to this story Dec. 30, 2018 at 9:37 PM:

Once more, the District goes out of its method to inform us there are, the truth is, two Superintendents.

The first purpose behind this administrative construction is to permit the Superintendent-Designate to confidently transition into her position of Superintendent initially of the 2019/2020 faculty yr.

Was the district unable to seek out somebody who might step into that position with confidence? Is Faculty District 163 radically extra difficult than some other faculty district within the state of Illinois that it requires two prime directors?

Given the truth that the Interim Superintendent has served the Faculty District for almost 20 years, she possesses priceless institutional information to assist the Superintendent-Designate to achieve that transition.

There’s a worth placed on that information, nevertheless. As Fox 32 Information reported “between her pension and new/previous job, Carmine will take residence $419,235.” That features her “half time” place of Interim Superintendent the place she takes residence $1,200 per day and works solely 100 days.

That’s not “priceless” to an over-taxed district.

Furthermore, the Interim Superintendent’s retirement in the summertime of 2017 got here at a time when the Faculty District was present process numerous development tasks, altering its curriculum and administration construction, and starting negotiations for a successor collective bargaining settlement for academics and help employees. Subsequently, the Board of Schooling felt it was greatest to maintain Dr. Carmine on employees because the Interim Superintendent to be able to guarantee that these main tasks have been sufficiently concluded.

Development tasks, curriculum and administrative structural modifications, negotiations for a “successor collective bargaining settlement for academics and help employees”: This all sounds just like the enterprise of operating a faculty district. Development tasks are hardly extraordinary. Altering curriculum and administration construction? That occurs yearly — or it ought to. Such evaluations in schooling are fixed. A collective bargaining settlement for academics and help employees?

Dane Placko, Fox 32 Chicago, School District 163Fox 32 Chicago investigative reporter Dane Placko on the November 19, 2018 assembly of Faculty District 163’s Board of Schooling. Lawyer Justino Petrarca is within the background. (Photograph: Gary Kopycinski)

Again to the lawyer’s letter:

Second, you reported that the Village of Park Forest is decreasing its tax levy, whereas the Faculty District is growing its tax levy. That is additionally incorrect. Though the Faculty District’s levy has elevated, the Board of Schooling can be making use of to the Illinois State Board of Schooling for a tax aid grant that may truly abate taxes because of the Faculty District. The appliance will probably be despatched to the State Board of Schooling in January, 2019, and we expect the appliance to be permitted in March, 2019. We’re assured the appliance shall be permitted based mostly on the Faculty District’s place within the precedence listing for this grant.

It’s a undeniable fact that the Village of Park Forest lowered its tax levy for the primary time in 26 years. The lawyer for Faculty District 163 lacks understanding that establishing a tax levy and making use of for and ready for a grant to return via are two utterly various things. The district set the levy. If a grant comes by means of (When, March of 2019?), that may be a separate matter. The levy has been set, or, because the lawyer says, “the Faculty District’s levy has elevated.”

The reporting for this publication was sound and true. Let’s see what, if something, occurs in March of 2019. If the grant comes by way of, we’ll report that too. Till then, “the Faculty District’s levy has elevated,” to cite the lawyer’s letter.

Third, within the second paragraph of your November 21, 2018 article, you misspelled the Interim Superintendent’s final identify. Proofreading is a pillar of excellent writing type and can result in your means to be taken significantly.

Thanks for this! I’ll perpetually cherish the day Park Forest-Chicago Heights Faculty District 163 Board of Schooling paid an lawyer to level out a typo on my website.

Lastly, and what’s most troubling about your current articles, is that you simply by no means sought to interview or search info from anybody on the Faculty District earlier than writing them. Yet one more cornerstone of excellent journalism is trying to glean info from the topic of your story. Offered that you simply adhere to the Board of Schooling’s insurance policies and procedures relating to media relations, I might be completely satisfied to do no matter is feasible to help you to publishing correct info. Within the meantime, please be happy to contact me in case you have any questions or considerations.

Who I interview for a bit is totally as much as me. The “Board of Schooling’s insurance policies and procedures relating to media relations” don’t apply to me, eNews Park Forest, or another media outlet overlaying this district. They could apply to high school employees, however there are not any such insurance policies on the district’s web site, and, if there have been, they might be meaningless to me, eNews Park Forest, or another media outlet masking this district. This line, because the letter itself, seems to be an try at specious intimidation.

It seems our protection of Park Forest-Chicago Heights Faculty District 163 was too correct for the consolation of the Board of Schooling and the lawyer.

Lastly, relating to the jabs at journalism, and Mr. Petrarca trying to share his ideas about journalism, I shared his letter with members of LION Publishers: Native Unbiased On-line Information Publishers, a corporation to which I’m proud to belong.

They have been lower than impressed with Mr. Petrarca’s letter, dismissing the lawyer’s letter as silly.

“I’m sorry however I laughed out loud once I learn the lawyer’s letter,” stated one writer. “It’s probably the most contradictory factor I’ve learn this yr. We’ve two superintendents however we don’t have two superintendents. Taxes have been elevated however they weren’t elevated. The district wants a brand new lawyer.”

From one other writer, “The letter primarily confirms every part you reported. Two individuals have ‘superintendent’ of their title, so, yeah, they’ve two superintendents. And the lecture about being taken critically for accuracy from an individual trying to veil the reality is moderately wealthy.”

And this, from one other writer, “Relish the day the district paid a lawyer to level out a typo in your website.”

Very really yours,




I respectfully recommend Park Forest-Chicago Heights Faculty District 163 procure a brand new lawyer.

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