Saturday, October 26, 2013

"The Donoroo Debacle" -- Has The Public Been Told the Full Story? Will the Board Really "Get to the Bottom of It?"

Last week, we received an anonymous comment publishing a letter that had gone out to all CHMS staff on October 17.  The comment stated:

The following email went out to the staff at CHMS yesterday.  Ms Donohue brought the financial misconduct to the attention of Dr S in early summer.  Dr S has chosen to sweep this under the D181 rug.  Why? 

On behalf of my family, I would like to thank the CHMS community for their enthusiastic support of Donoroo over the past six years. The event has raised over $30,000.00 and has become part of the fabric of CHMS.

It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that Donoroo has come to an end. This summer, I became aware of the fact that some of the charities that were advertised as beneficiaries of Donoroo over the past three years had never been paid. I notified CHMS and district administration of the irregularities in the Donoroo account and that the event would not be held again.

I can tell you that after a long summer of fact-finding and heartache , all charities have finally received their donations from Donoroo.  

I cannot thank you all enough for your support of my family over the years.

Kathy Donohue, RN
School Nurse 
Clarendon Hills Middle School
630 887 4260 extension 1826

Subsequently in a letter we published as a free standing post, a Concerned Anonymous Teacher stated:

Please, bloggers, look into the CHMS Donoroo debacle. What started out as a wonderful charitable event (the first three years) ended up a slush fund for the CHMS music department and was condoned by the principal. This fund was mismanaged and misused. I hope parents will demand an explanation into what happened and learn the truth about what has happened over the past three years.

On Friday, the Doings' Online Edition published an article on the questions of possible financial impropriety that arose out of what community members are now calling the "Donoroo Debacle." The following is the link to the Doings' article:

According to the article, the Donoroo fundraisers "raised more than $30,000....over its six year run" and the "funds raised through ticket sales were designated for four charities: Lurie Children's Hospital; the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; Engineers Without Borders; and the CHMS Gives Back Fund, which provides funds for students in need."

We read this article with dismay because it is the first time that any D181 administrator has publicly acknowledged issues -- which they are calling "honest mistakes" --  occurred in the distribution of the funds raised by the Donoroo fundraisers. As Concerned Parents, we agree with the retired CHMS teacher who was interviewed for the news story and as reported by the Doings "wasn't buying the explanation" given by the D181 staff interviewed about the situation. Neither do we. Why?  Because there are still many questions that should be answered for the public.

As reported in the Doings' article, "Board President Marty Turek said Oct. 24 that he had just been made aware of the Donoroo happenings.  He promised the board would look into it and "get to the bottom of it."  We hope he means it and if so, the following are the questions that we, as Concerned Parents, want answered.  And the questions should be asked during a full, independent investigation that is NOT conducted by Dr. Schuster, any D181 staff member or the Board of Education.  Rather an investigation should be conducted by an external party, such as the Regional Office of Education or perhaps by the State's Attorney's Office.

In our opinion, the Investigation should determine:

1.  How much money was raised each year by the Donoroo fundraiser?  -- MONEY IN

2.  When, to whom and what $ amounts of funds raised by Donoroo were donated to the charities that were originally identified as the recipients of the funds.  A full accounting of the checks paid must be made.  -- MONEY OUT

3.  Does the MONEY IN = MONEY OUT?

4.  Who was in charge of determining the amounts of the funds that were to go each year to each of the identified charitable organizations?

5.  Who was responsible for authorizing and signing the checks issued to each of the charities with the Donoroo funds?

6.  What occurred to make Ms. Donahue aware that some of the charities had not been paid?

7.  Why did some of the charities not receive any payments for some of the years the Donoroo Concerts were held? Who made the decision not to send funds to those charities?

8.  How could the CHMS Principal not know (as reported in the Doings' article) until this past summer that some of the charities had not been paid?  Isn't he the administrator in charge of all funds that are spent by CHMS?

9.  What funds were spent by CHMS on set up costs to host the Donoroo Concerts and were the funds supposed to come out of the $ raised each year?

10.  How could the CHMS Principal state (as quoted in the Doings' article) that "I was never fully aware that the account was only to support the charities?"  What exactly does this statement mean?  What did the principal think the funds could be used for and why would he think that it was for anything other than donations to the identified charities?

11.  The CHMS "Gives Back Fund."
       -- What exactly is its defined purpose?
       -- How is the "Gives Back Fund" funded?  Is it only funded with Donoroo Concert funds?
       -- Who decided what percentage of the Donoroo funds would go into the "Gives Back Fund?"
       -- What guidelines existed to determine what qualified as a "need" that could/should be funded with a donation from the "Gives Back Fund?"
       -- Were Gives Back Funds only used to address "students in need?"

12.  According to the Doings' article, last month (September), the following charities received donations made with funds raised by the Donoroo Concerts: Honor Flight organization -- $1500, Lurie Children's Foundation -- $250, Engineers Without Borders Organization $3423.  These amounts total $5173.  This total is much greater than the $687.74 in funds that the Doings' article reports was spent on a "new sound board and a couple of other items that were used for Donoroo and other events."   So the question is, where was the rest of the money being kept?  In what fund?  And for what purpose?

13.  What assurance will the donors of $ given to the Donoroo fundraiser have that the donations did not end up as suggested by "Anonymous Concerned Teacher" in a "slush fund for the CHMS music department"  that "was condoned by the principal, mismanaged and misused?"

14.  Why did the CHMS Principal wait until October 24, 2013 to send a letter to CHMS parents telling them that the Donoroo Concerts have been terminated, one full week after staff was notified not by him, but by the school nurse's email?  What exactly did the letter say?  We would invite any parent who received the letter to send us a copy of the text so that we can publish it for everyone to read.

15.  But it is not just the CHMS principal that we need answers from.  We need them from Superintendent Schuster.  According to the Doings' article, Dr. Schuster is quoted as saying "We have nothing to hide."  Well it sure seems as if that's exactly what was going on until a "non-administrator" came forward with her email to staff.  So we ask:
      -- When did Dr. Schuster learn about the Donoroo issues and why didn't she notify CHMS parents and community members who made donations with the understanding that four charities would receive the proceeds from the fundraiser?
      -- Why wasn't the Board of Education notified by Dr. Schuster of the Donoroo issues, especially after future events were cancelled as a result of the funding issues, until the issues were raised by others?
     -- Isn't the Superintendent who is responsible for overseeing the day to day operations and management of the district ultimately responsible for the financial oversight of fundraising money donated during a school sponsored event with the purpose of being donated to external charities?

16.  Who is going to determine if any financial improprieties or worse yet, illegalities, took place?  And if it is determined that improprieties or illegalities did occur, who will be held accountable and how will they be held accountable?

Ultimately, the question we are all asking is "Will the School Board Really Get to the Bottom of the Donoroo Debacle?" The answer to that question will determine whether we have elected public officials of the highest integrity who will not turn away from finding out the truth.

Ms. Donohue deserves the truth; the students who performed during Donoroo concerts deserve the truth; the parents, staff and community members who made donations to Donoroo deserve the truth; but most importantly, the truth needs to be determined for Gavin Bradford, in whose memory the Donoroo fundraisers were started.

Stay Tuned....


Anonymous said...

October 24, 2013

Dear CHMS Families,
I want to first thank you for a very successful start to the 2013-14 school year. Our CHMS Eagles have shown outstanding commitment to schoolwork, activities, the arts and athletics.
Our students engage in many service-learning opportunities. In the past, one of our most successful service programs was Donoroo, a talent show and charity fundraiser held in the spring. Donoroo has been a wonderful event for our community over the past six years. This summer, we learned that some of the organizations set to benefit from the Donoroo event had not yet received our donations. All charities have now received our contributions, and the account has been closed. Additionally, purchases such as a soundboard and cables for an amplifier were charged to the Donoroo account in the 2012-13 school year. While these purchases were used in part to help to support the Donoroo event, the account has since been reimbursed because we use this equipment for other school functions.
The CHMS staff is exploring new ideas to continue an end-of-year event that will support our tradition of the CHMS school community giving back to others. We appreciate your continued support as we strive to educate your children in so much more than the academic areas.
Griffin L. Sonntag, Principal

The Parents said...

Thank you to Anonymous for sending us the letter parents received on Fridsy from the CHMS principal. We have only one comment at this time: The minimization and casual attitude shown by the principal to what is and should be treated as a serious situation is truly unbelievable.

The Parents said...

Correction to last comment: Friday, not Fridsy.

Anonymous said...

I found The Doings article concerning. It stated, "Sonntag said he was unaware until the past summer that some of the charities had not yet been paid...That led us to look at things that had been paid out of the Donoroo account..."
Isn't Principal Sonntag required to sign ALL checks written for this and all other CHMS accounts? He did not know he had not signed checks to the charities for the entire year? Does this call into question other checks and other accounts?
When  Dr Schuster stated in The Doings article, "We recognize now that we need to provide more training to staff who will be involved as sponsors so that they understand the accounting that goes along with it when money is involved." I hope she was referring to Principal Sonntag, the signer of the checks. Seems quite simple; money in from Donoroo--money out to charities.   

Principal Sonntag also stated in The Doings article, "I was never fully aware that the account was only to support the charities."  Ask your middle schooler where the money from Donoroo goes. They will tell you to charities. How can a highly paid administrator not know what your child knows? Again, quite simple;  money in from Donoroo--money out to charities.

Anonymous said...

CHMS Parent:

I am completely offended that Mr Sonntag, who obviously did not write the letter sent out to parents, can actually think parents will just overlook the fraud that took place in his building, over which he is totally responsible. So the fact I help "donate" $7000 to a composer to write a new song for retirees; the fact that so many other whims of Sonntag's were funded with the Donoroo money is now justified because the reimbursements have been made and the account is closed. Does he think we are stupid or what? And if rumors are true that Dr. Schuster has used taxpayer dollars (from district funds) to cover all the checks that were written out of the Donoroo account, then she is just as guilty. I am not paying taxes to fix the mistakes of administrators. Some heads need to roll.

Anonymous said...

Something shady is going on over there, and it seems like Sonntag and administration is trying to cover up their misappropriation of funds. What a shame that the Donohue family should have to suffer through this gross negligence after their loss of Gavin Donohue, whom this event was supposed to remember and honor.