Guest Column: Letter to Harmon Mitchell
Dec. 8, 2012
Mr. Harmon Mitchell
President, Rockford Board of Education
2514 Mandrake Drive
Rockford, IL 61108
We were saddened to read that you do not intend to run for re-election to the Rockford School Board. It’s not that you don’t deserve a break from one of the most thankless jobs in town. It’s that under your leadership, we have seen the board work together (HARMONiously, we might say), to accomplish many positive objectives in a relatively short period of time. As we all know, that is no easy task. The list of what you and the School Board have accomplished is impressive:
1: The School Board actually returned money to the taxpayers. How often has a taxing body voted to do that? This move not only served to build trust between the board and the community but also demonstrated a commitment to fiscal responsibility.
2: The board took advantage of an opportunity to purchase, at liquidation price, a building to serve as its new headquarters. Located in city central, this decision provided an upgraded building at reduced operating expenses compared to the old Central High building. It is definitely a more efficient work environment.
3: The board appointed Dr. Bob Willis as temporary superintendent. This proved to be exactly what the community needed. Dr. Willis quickly earned the respect of educators, the community and the board.
4: The board decided to do something it had not done in decades. When Dr. Willis’ interim tenure was up, they extended his contract and kept a local leader in charge. And when he later decided to retire, they stayed local in selecting a district junior administrator as his successor, one who received his education in Rockford schools. We are hopeful he will keep us on the path Dr. Willis began.
5: The board, acting with teacher union leaders, settled a two-year contract that satisfied all parties — and it was done with dignity and professionalism.
6: The board was able to identify a way the community could pass a bond referendum and generate millions of dollars worth of school improvements without increasing taxes. The key to its passage was the board’s ability to communicate its message to voters. It wasn’t an easy job. But during the past few years, the board has earned back the voters’ respect. The referendum passed.
We know there is more that could be said about your leadership, Harmon, but we’ll keep it brief: Job Well Done. On behalf of the people in the School District, thank you for your hard work and, even more important, your effective leadership.
John R. Cook
From the Dec. 19-25, 2012, issue