HIGHLAND PARK – A Facebook Sounding Board group recently revealed that North Shore School District 112 Board of Education Candidate Brent Ross and his wife were both serving on the Reconfiguration 2.0 Community Team, which ultimately led to his resignation from 2.0. The couple began working on the 2.0 Team last June.
On January 23, Ross told DailyNorthShore, “Samantha Stolberg asked me to resign and she attributed it to the fact that my wife and I were both on the team,” said Ross. “Please ask her [to explain] as I would love to understand it better myself and why it became an issue for her now.”
NSSD 112 Board President Samantha Stolberg said, “Brent Ross saying that I asked him as board president to resign from 2.0 is not accurate.”
Stolberg explained that she was on the Reconfiguration 2.0 Selection Committee and since Brent Ross and his wife Megan Geelhoed had two different last names no one knew that they were married. Stolberg said she just found out about it two weeks ago.
Kenneth A. Henry, 2.0 Communications Sub-Committee co-chair released this statement to DailyNorthShore:
“The Reconfiguration 2.0 Community Team is sorry to lose Brent Ross, and we thank him for his service and dedication to the process. 2.0 did not know that Brent and his wife were both selected for 2.0 from the applicant pool. The Steering Committee was later alerted of this fact by Dr. Bregy, at which time the decision was made, with Dr. Bregy’s input, to keep both members as part of 2.0. When a community member raised an objection, Brent made the choice to withdraw from 2.0 to avoid the appearance of any conflict. 2.0 has made no recommendations about reconfiguration. That will only happen after extensive public engagement.”
Stolberg said, “If Dr. Bregy did approve it — nobody asked me.” She explained that the reason this is now “coming to the surface” is because there was a “little brouhaha” on the D-112 Sounding Board Facebook page.
The issue was that Ross and Geelhoed were a husband-and-wife team who would “arrive separately and sit at different ends of the room at 2.0 meetings and someone asked if they lied on their applications,” said Stolberg, who added that she has never attended a 2.0 meeting. “That’s when I felt I needed to jump in, because they didn’t lie on their applications, but as a member of the Selection Committee there’s no way that I would’ve been OK with a husband-and-wife team, especially since we had so many qualified candidates.”
Stolberg continued, “Brent Ross responded very quickly and said why don’t you ask one of us to step down. My response to Brent Ross was personal and did not represent the board. I said it would probably be a good idea for one of you to step down. And his immediate response was then you have my resignation.”
Stolberg said there was no discussion and within two minutes she told him that before he submits his resignation she would address the rest of the board, but by then he had already sent in his resignation to 2.0.
“Had I known they were a husband-and-wife team I personally would not have been in favor of it, and under the circumstances if you’re trying to pass a referendum the last thing I want is for people to say that anything tarnished the transparency of the process, and that’s why I said personally I think it would be a good idea if one of you stepped down,” said Stolberg.
Stolberg continued, “I don’t want 2.0 to come up with this hopefully wonderful solution and for it to be tarnished for any insignificant reason. I don’t want people to say the deck was stacked with a husband-and-wife team.”
Dan Weil served on SCFFAC (Superintendent’s Citizen Finance and Facilities Advisory Committee), and Moving Forward before he was chosen for the Launch Team, which was involved in the selection of the Reconfiguration 2.0 Community Team.
“Though Brent and his wife served on different committees, there were definitely some 2.0 members who were upset about it,” said Weil, who echoed Stolberg’s sentiments, as it wouldn’t have “been fair to the community or other applicants.”
Weil resigned from 2.0 in December because “I was witnessing a bunch of people, some with good intentions, going through an education that I had already been through and I didn’t feel comfortable committing to another year for myself or for my family,” he said. “It wasn’t a rejection of 2.0.”
Weil said Ross has told him that he has a strong opinion against building new buildings and believes that the cost of maintaining new buildings is no less than maintaining old buildings. “There are some elements of truth to that statement, but this is not the time to be making those statements as the past referendum was rejected and we’re now going back to the drawing board.”
DailyNorthShore asked Ross to explain why he would not support building a new D-112 middle school and is still awaiting his response.
In the meantime, Ross said in a January 22, DailyNorthShore article, “Any plan that builds a new school and makes other necessary renovations will cost about as much as the last referendum.”
Weil said the 2.0 Education Committee really learned a lot, but after all of these months they’re not ready to submit any recommendations to the board. The goal from the very beginning was to have two to four alternative options by the end of the year, he added.
What do you think will happen when the new D-112 board comes together in April?
“Most of the candidates are narrowly focused on district reconfiguration and there are issues above and beyond reconfiguration that must be addressed,” said Weil. “It depends who the interim superintendent is and how well the district cabinet is able to quickly give the board members the proper education they need to be effective board members.”
Last December Ross told DailyNorthShore why he and his wife applied to be on the Reconfiguration 2.0 Team:
“After careful consideration, we both submitted applications to the reconfiguration effort assuming that we would be lucky if even one of us was selected,” said Ross. “When we were both selected, we decided that this was important enough to both participate even if it meant more nights with the babysitter for our daughters.”
Ross explained that he and his wife have worked for the same global management consulting firm for 12 years. “As in our professional lives, we give each other plenty of space to draw our own conclusions, which is part of the reason that we are serving on separate reconfiguration sub-committees,” he said.