Bill Geiger, a candidate for the Evanston Township High School District 202 School Board, says he sees no conflict of interest between his position as CEO of the McGaw YMCA and his service on the school board if he is elected.

“I have earned a reputation of fairness and commitment to being a trusted partner with other organizations in our community,” he said in response to a query from Evanston Now.

“Were there to be a decision required of the ETHS School Board involving the YMCA,” he added, “I would recuse myself.”

Geiger said he has been asked during the campaign if a conflict exists by virtue of the fact that ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon was a member of the McGaw YMCA Board.

He said that while he and the school board’s legal counsel do not believe that a conflict exists, “Dr. Witherspoon has chosen to resign from the McGaw YMCA Board of Directors effective Feb. 25.”

Geiger lauded Dr. Witherspoon’s service on the Y board, saying the ETHS official “has challenged me to be the best CEO I can be and has supported the work of the YMCA to be a stronger force for strengthening our community.”

By the same token, Geiger said that if he is elected to the ETHS Board, “I, too, will challenge Dr. Witherspoon and his team to be the best they can be.

“I’ll ask the tough questions that need to be addressed so that ETHS can realize its vision of excellence and equity and achieve its goals and objectives to provide a transformative experience for all students.”

Geiger is one of eight candidates for four positions on the ETHS Board in school elections slated for April 9.
 

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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18 Comments

  1. Why are we paying for this?

    Why is the school board’s legal counsel discussing whether a school board candidate would have a conflict of interest if he were elected to the board? Why are MY taxpayer dollars going to pay for this consultation that has virtually nothing to do with education of the Evanston youth?

  2. Cronyism at its best

    This seems a little weird to me. Why does Witherspoon want Geiger on the board so bad that he is willing to resign from the Y board to allow Geiger to be ‘ethically’ elected? What is it about Bill that Witherspoon likes so much that he is willing to give up a position on a community board in order for Bill to serve on the 202 Board? Is it that he would be a reliable vote for what Witherspoon wants?

    A little shady? I think so. Seems like cronyism at its best to me.

  3. Conflict over what?

    So two organizations that are dedicated to the well-being of young adolescents are in conflict?  It seems that Geiger's expertise and perspective would be a welcome addition to the ETHS board.

    A far bigger conflict are board members who appear to advocate for the specific needs of their own children.  Check the District 65 board.

      1. All students need to be challenged

        Who do you want on the school board – a parent who has kids in the schools and has familiarity with what goes on in them (and indeed has a vested interest in making them effective) – or someone who has no connection to the schools for years (if ever)? Who is likely to be better informed? Who is likely to merely accept the information given to them by the administration without questioning it?

        Education is not a zero sum game – every student deserves a decent education, and just because some students need more assistance, that doesn't mean that any student's education should be ignored.

        I support school board candidates who understand that all students need to be challenged to work to their highest potential, and that sometimes those students have good grades and high test scores.

        1. Non-parent

          I want a school board member who has in interest in the 70% + of the taxpayers who do not have children in the schools and makes decisions for the long-term, not just to satisfy current parent pressure.

          Excellent schools are important to all of us.  And excellence is not defined only by the needs of the students at the top of the achievement spectrurm.  Or by the views of current parents.

          1. Knowledge is key

            Don't you think a board member should understand what is going on inside the school to make effective decisions? No, they don't have to be parents. But if they listen exclusively to the administration they are going to get a skewed view of the situation. 

            Of course, as a non-parent, you may not be able to understand just how different the school looks when you can see it from the student/parent point-of-view. 

            You are also naive to assume that the only vocal parents in the schools are the parents of high-performing kids. In fact, they've been ignored for years. The needs of those who have been exceeding standards on ISATs and PSAEs are consistently ignored because "they're fine." This is true in both D65 & D202.

        2. You missed the point

          No board member – be it the parent of a special ed, twi or gifted student – should be advocating for their student alone. The role of the board is to consider the best interest of the entire student body. Top performing students in our district have always received a top notch education and will continue to do so. Why is it so threatening that some of us (some who may even have students who *gasp* outperform your kid) believe that it is time for all students to share in a superior learning environment?

  4. I thought Geiger Resigned as Y CEO?

    You all reported last July that Geiger was stepping down.

    http://evanstonnow.com/story/wellness/bill-smith/2012-06-29/50555/mcgaw-ymca-launches-search-for-new-ceo

    What happened with that?

    It is interesting that the article about Geiger's supposed retirement indicated that the CEO Transition Committee would operate with "as much transparency and objecdtivity as possible," according to the Y board chair.

    Go to the McGaw YMCA's website and you see aboslutely nothing about the transition.  That's transparency?

    I agree that it is problematic that the ETHS lawyers are wasting their time talking with a candidate who has not won an election.  

     

    1. Geiger at Y

      Sometime after his resignation plans were announced, the Y board asked Geiger to stay on for a while longer.

  5. More Suspicious Activity

    My question is why did Mr. Geiger announce last year that he was resigning from the Y, then suddenly decide, after being requested to do so by the Y board, that he would stay on at the Y after all?  It all works out so much better having him in place at the Y while on the school board, doesn't it?  He made such a big deal out of how he was ready to move on and looking forward to it, the board searched out candidates, and then he strangely changed his mind.  Or is it strange at all? 

    1. Worst unpaid job ever?

      is why anyone would want to run for school board – 65 or 202 – with so many backseat, anonymous critics.  Possibly the worst unpaid job ever.

  6. Why so much effort to explain no conflict of interest?

    " …he and board's legal counsel think (???) there is no conflict of interest"? Yet, Mr. Witherspoon resigns from the Y Board–what, just in case?

    Voters are not buying, Mr Geiger. 

  7. Geiger is serving the community

    Geiger is not running for a high power, high paid position. He has worked hard to make Evanston a better community and he sees this as another opportunity to make an impact. Give the man a break. He will recuse himself as necessary and we'll be lucky to have his skills and experience.

    1. Wait until he retires

      Mr. Geiger is serving the community as the CEO of the Y for at least 2 more years.  He has no children at the high school, and none on their way.  He's lived here for a decade.  It's not as if we don't have many others who want to serve this community.  There are 7 other candidates running for a seat on the 202 Board.  So what's Mr. Geiger's big push to get elected to the 202 Board right now?  After all, there's another election in 2 years, when he may be retired from the Y.

      Maybe he wants to help his friend, Sup't Witherspoon, get a contract extension?  Maybe he wants to put the Y in a more favorable position than other local organizations, e.g. YOU, in getting programs with joint funding from ETHS approved?  Maybe to promote a particular agenda, as he did on Sup't Murphy's video selling the idea of a brand new, super expensive 5th ward school in Dist 65?

      I confess I have no idea why, but I sure would like to know.

      1. Too much power

        I agree with Wait until he retires.

        It's puzzling that Mr Geiger, who wanted to retire from the Y Board, is now seeking positions on 2 very busy, time-demanding Boards–at least in the next 2 years. 

        It's bewildering that, so as to make room for Mr. Geiger on the 202 Board, Dr. Whiterspoon, resigned from the Y Board. This, will make him the first ETHS Supt. in years (perhaps ever?) not to sit on the Y Board.

        And, frankly,  it's downright troubling that Dr. Whiterspoon's name is so prominent in this campaign and associated with some of the candidacies (as in X, Y , Z support Dr. W's views on PEG and the ensuing restructing) Since when does a Supt. change his role in community organizations and/or let his alliances be known for Board elections?  Is there a rift marked enough between what the community wants/expects and Dr. Whitherspon's vision that it is time to start thinking of a new Superintendent?

  8. Board Positions – Conflict of Interest?

    Bill Geiger is an honorable man that has demonstrated his genuine regard for the community, especially our youth.  There's no reason to attack him or his motives for running for office.

    He has expressed his full support of and commitment to Dr. Witherspoon's efforts at ETHS publicly over the past several years.  I believe that's the source of concern.  Clearly, Candidate Geiger cannot announce that he no longer fully supports the work of Dr. Witherspoon at ETHS, even though a position on the D202 School Board requires a less cozy relationship between the Superintendent and Board members to which he is accountable.  There would also be something awkward when the two CEOs voted on one another's employment and compensation packages, not to mention performance reviews.  

    Not sitting on one another's Boards removes the potential for impropriety, which is important because we can't always be certain that all elected officials operate with integrity.  That said, we can be confident that Candidate Geiger would serve the community as he always has, openly and honestly. 

    If you continue to be uncomfortable about the potentially symbiotic relationship between Candidate Geiger and Superintendent Witherspoon, there are seven other candidates running for D202 School Board. 

    1. Supporting the superintendent

      In many districts, the school board does support the superintendent in his management and adminstration.  The Board oversees Policy and Finance, not the running of the schools.

      In Evanston, however, the Board(s) want to run the schools, ignoring what the educators (teachers, principals and other administrators….even legal counsel) advise.

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