Narrator:††††††††† Harold† Brown
Interviewer:††††† Mark Mershon
This is an oral interview with Harold Brown.
Q:††††††† Mr. Brown,
when did you first move to
Well, we moved to
weíre talking about the part South of the railroad tracks, there was nothing† at the time
north of the tracks.† Orchard Drive, of course, stopped at the tracks.† And the area I live
in now, the ďWĒ section, was just starting to get† built, and I can give you an interesting
story of† how my house got built within two weeks, if you would like to hear it.
Q:†††††† Alright, please.
Okay.† Well, just
prior to coming to
We had difficulty with the builder and he was late in completing it.† In fact, the entire
block had to move in, where there were no sidewalks whatsoever, and† walked on
planks.† Because of it, I learned a good lesson.† And when I bought my home in
Harold Brown† page 2
else.† I got a call from the sales
manager at that time, who asked me to come back.† I came back and he told me how ridiculous it
was to look for a completion date in April, May, June, July or August, when
itís going to be done in April.† I told
him to make it September or October, and he laughed and he said, well, you know
if you want to be ridiculous about it maybe we will just put it in.† And I said fine, make it November the
first.† And he did.† And at that time it was a ten-dollar-a-day
penalty clause.† On November the first, I
had a slab here with pipes sticking up out of the ground.† And I called them and told them that as of
this date they owed me ten dollars a day.†
And I let it go at that.† I got, I
would say, four or five phone calls telling me that they never did this and I was
mistaken, but finally, somebody read the contract, called me back and asked
what they could do to rectify it.† I told
them my birthday was on November the fourteenth; if I can get the key in my
hand for my birthday I wouldnít charge them a penny.† I got the key on November the thirteenth and
I understand from people who live in homes about a block or so away, they
thought I was somebodyís son-in-law or somebodyís son, because the workers left
every house in the area and came over and built this house.† We didnít move in until December, of course,
but that was my first experience in
the time I was, and still am, in womenís wear manufacturing.† The reason I moved out to
Harold Brown page 3
most of them at the time had a great deal of education.† It was a young, vibrant community and it was a good group to come in with.† Everybody was there to help.† The first day I moved in, one of my neighbors walked in to see if he could help light my hot water heater.† Of course, I knew how to do it, but we wound up having coffee, and weíre still friends today.† Where do you want to go from here?
Q:††††††† What kind of involvement did you have in the community in the early.† .† .† .†
when we first came here, there was a sign across the street from our home
saying that was going to be the site of
Westwood went up, of course, it was kind of dear to our hearts, being right
across the street.† My wife and I took an
interest and joined the P. T. A.† Now at
that time the P. T. Aís in
Harold Brown page 4
P. T. A., after the school was built, found that there were no coat hooks for the kids to put their coats on.† We spent one day building shelves for their hats and putting coat hooks up.† We found that there was a lack of book shelves, and we spent another time building book shelves and bookcases for the school.† So there was nothing we would do, or could not do, to work it out.† We had fund raising affairs.† I remember, well thatís really where I got started.† I came to a P. T. A. meeting one night to see what was going on and they were talking about raising some money and I had a couple of ideas and, because I opened my mouth, they elected me to the Ways and Means chairman.† One of the things we did, we fed four hundred people in three hours in a smorgasbord at the high school kitchen one time, in order to raise money.† We raised several thousand dollars during the year to buy the things that we needed, or to help buy the equipment to build the things that we needed.† So everybody participated, and from that point on I stayed with P. T. A., and I was elected president of the P. T. A. and naturally kind of grew towards the district level.† I ran for the school board and I was elected to the school board in 1961-- April 1961.† And I served on the school district for two terms till April of 1967, and I was board president, for oh, I think it was 1963, 1964, 1965.† Where else do you want to go from here?
Q:††††††† When you were first elected to the school board, what were some of the events that were happening at that time?
A:†††††††† Well, let me instead of - - can I just make it jump around in time?
A:†††††††† Iíll give you some of my recollections.
Harold Brown page 5
one of the most important things we did as a board was to build
††††††††††† However, our neighbors in Chicago Heights, the powers to be, the city council - - and remember I was in business in Chicago Heights and I knew some of these people involved - - without any knowledge there was a zoning hearing and this continued on until in the paper we found thatís the only way we discovered it, even though that was part of our school district, the 163 board was never notified that it was zoned to private homes, individual homes.† Now as I say this was not really publicized.† Nobody knew anything about it-- how it happened-- this perhaps is politics, or what have you.†
Harold Brown page 6
Nevertheless, we were now in the position of having homes built in an area where we never expected to have any children.† And remember, we were still fighting to build schools, because we had a very prolific community at the time and the community was still growing.† So here was another problem we were encountering.†
U.S. Steel started
to build these homes in that area, and, unfortunately, at that time there was a
slight recession, depression, what have you, and it became almost impossible to
sell those homes.† And although they were
not built too badly, nevertheless, their location really made it very difficult
to sell; they were in
we knew that we had a population of young people coming in there now that we
had to take care of.† One of our first
thoughts was not to build a school in that area, because we wanted to try to
bring those particular students out of
Harold Brown page 7
north of 26th Street,
and then just kind of move the schools around.†
By doing that we, of course, weíd crowd that school and have to be
pushing people back and forth throughout the district, as the waves, as the
ripples, kept eddying out.† And finally,
against what we really wanted to do, we were forced to build a school,
since then, of course, it became a Black area and these children, coming in
††††††††††† As far as the other elementary school problems, there was always money problems, as there is today, trying to build schools, trying to pay teachers, just keeping the finances of the district afloat.† That was basically the part I was the most interested in.† I was perhaps the only businessman-- self-employed businessman-- on the board, and knew the finances would be a problem and I became a little more, how should I say,
Harold Brown page 8
better versed in the financial structure of a school district, how schools are financed.† I was able to handle that.
††††††††††† ďTerm as board president,Ē well, at that time we just lost a Superintendent and we had an interim Superintendent, Dennis Calihuah [Ben Sykuta?], who now has just retired as Superintendent of Country Club Hills Schools. And when he left, the board appointed Ike Baker-- Ivan Baker-- who is still Superintendent of the schools 163.† So Ike and I kind of started together in a sense; I started as board president and he started as Superintendent.† And we had an excellent relationship from the beginning.† I told him what he was hired for was the Administrator of the district-- that we wouldnít interfere with him as long as he did his job, but that at the same time, we wanted to know what was going on.† I feel he has done an excellent job in all these years.† He has gotten praise and he deserves all the praise he has received and I am happy for the district that he has stayed with us.
Q:††††††† What were some of the logistics of funding of the schools, in terms of having them built?
A:†††††††† Well, we tried to put a
school in every section that we could.†
One of the schools that we put in the corner of the district was a very
small school up in the ĎWí†
Harold Brown page 9
Elementary School, plus Blackhawk Junior
High, Westwood Elementary and Westwood Junior High.† I
think they function very well.† Of
course, today as you are aware of, they just closed Blackhawk Junior High and
incorporated the entire
††††††††††† We had many problems in trying to solve the school boundaries.† As a matter of fact, two of my children slept in a double bunk and the boundary line went right through the middle of the double bunks.† One of my kids went to Westwood and the other had to go to another school.
Q:††† Oh, really?
A:††† Well, because the ripples go
on.† And these are the things we had to
do to accommodate the population.† We had
one section, the
††††††††††† One more aside on that.† While I was on the board matter, as a matter of fact, before I became board president and then while I was board president, Westwood Junior High was built as two buildings, one a junior high school and one the elementary school.†
Harold Brown page 10
There was a space in between to build a gymnasium at some future date.† And, of course the district couldnít afford it.††† The Village at the same time, wanted to build a recreation building, so that there was an arrangement made between the school district and the Village, the Village would build the building with Village funds and the school district would maintain the building.† The school district would use it during the day, during school hours and for extra-curricular activities, but in the evenings, on weekends, during the summer, and on holidays, the Village would make use of it.† That was the Westwood recreation/multi-purpose room, which was a great idea, sharing this building.† I know that after a while the Village wanted to get out of it.† I remember many of the discussions which Barney Cunningham, Village President at the time, and myself had, in which he kept saying, ďWhy donít you buy that building back from us?Ē† I told him that itís impossible, because itís like asking the people of 163 to buy back something they have already paid for.† And this is why today the Village still owns it, the school district operates it, and the same contract being used today as the first one we had.† It has worked out.
††††††††††† I guess from that point on, I felt-- always had felt-- that no school board member should be on any more than six years.† I feel there should be new blood coming into it, and after two terms I resigned, and some of my friends asked me if I would run for the 227 high school board.
††††††††††† Oh, one more thing! While I was in 163, it was during the time of the beginning of the teachers: militancy, letís call it that way.† And I was on the original negotiation
Harold Brown page 11
committee, and, being one of the few members on the board that had any experience at all in negotiations with unions, of course, I have dealt very strongly in this area from that point on,† even later on into 227.† Some of the things I learned of what we did wrong in 163, in recognizing the teachers and the logistics of it, I was able to help 227 with when I was elected† to the 227 board.† Because with that background I had, I was able to recommend certain things, such as a pre-negotiation agreement.† In other words, knowing full well that sometime the† teachers would be recognized as a bargaining unit, and as long as you are going to recognize them anyway, give them an offer of a pre-recognition agreement, that in order to recognize them, they would agree to certain things.† Which, of course, would put off to some future date some of the things that you donít want to discuss, or you do not want to be negotiable.† And the teachers, in turn, would be getting a contract sooner than they would have, and were perfectly willing to sign that.† So it worked out for both sides.
†Q:†††††† Well when you were at 163, when there was the formation of the teaching union, what were some of the events, the conditions that were happening, that caused them to form a teaching union?† Who were some of the people involved?
A:†††††††† Oh, the people involved?† Well, there were so many.† One stands out in my mind, Marilyn Tannebaum, who is now on the superintending staff of the district.† And Marilyn was a personal friend of mine, she and her husband, as I say, were personal friends of ours, and I found myself at opposite ends of the table, negotiating with her.† And I tried to teach her as much as I could of how to negotiate.† Well, now I guess I can say it; after some of the meetings she would come out and say, ďWell, how did I do?Ē I say, ďYou did
Harold Brown page 12
great; youíre learning well.Ē† Because, although we were discussing over the negotiating table, there was a good feeling; there wasnít any hard feelings about it.† We did our best to understand the other personsí problem and they being intelligent people, tried to understand ours.†† Of course, in any groups, and there are people who are very adamant abut their stand, but all in all, it looking back, it wasnít as bad as it could have been.† Any experience on behalf of the negotiators, I think was the biggest problem of all. But as they got to know what they were doing and how to handle themselves and what to look forward to and how they could accommodate the other person and, at the same time, not give up what they want, in time this is what happened.† Of course, strikes are there-- even today we have the strike of 163.† Itís when you come to a point when you only have so much money you can spend and the teachers feel that this money can be spent on their salaries.† This is a difference of opinion and you and you take a strike vote, and if they feel strongly enough about it, then go ahead. This happens in business, why canít it happen in the schools?†† At first the idea of it sickened me, but then I began to realize - - why not?† Why not?† This is the real world weíre living in, so that never scared me.
††††††††††† And as I say from that point on, these recollections as we are talking about it and some of the notes I have.† Oh, one of the things, I would say the things I learned in 163 I was able to bring with me to 227, and in all honesty, I was able to be more helpful in 227 than 163 because of the experience I had.
Q:††††††† How did you see people perceive the first teachersí strike, or negotiations?
A:†††††††† Well, we didnít really have a teachersí strike as such. They would, how should I say, informational picketing is the word?† Which is really what it was.† At the time, as I
Harold Brown page 13
say, 163 had just been organized and had one or two contracts under their belt when I left the district.† So things were already going in a form of negotiations.† So, as far as hitting each other over the head at the time, that wasnít occurring.† It was a learning-- they were still learning, trying to learn what negotiations meant, trying to learn what you can expect from the other side each time and over the years, theyíve come to a point where they understand each other.† I hope, and then come to a conclusion whether they want to strike or not.
††††††††††† Unfortunately, and Iíll say this for the record, school districts have only just so much money, and when the school district board feel that they can only spend so much money on teacher instruction, and instructional salaries, youíve got to remember, I would say about 85% of the school budget, if not more, is salaries.† Now where do you go from there?† The others are fixed costs: your insurance, your maintenance, remember the school buildings keep getting older - - your telephone utilities, your everything else still is going to cost you, and, no matter what you do, they are going to be static or go up.† And you only have just so much of that 100 percent to spend on teachersí salaries.† I never minded at that time in order to pay the teachers, to go into deficit finance.† Itís not popular now, but at the time we really didnít have much else to go on.† We were able to-- I guess still are - - we started a working cash fund.† Now, a working cash fund is a fund that the board can vote on, it doesnít have to have a referendum, and itís a fund thatís taxed.† Itís part of the tax structure and it brings in money from the real estate taxes to the school district.† However, itís money that acts as a bank.† The money is a working cash fund to be used to borrow from, as needed, for working cash, just the way itís said;
Harold Brown page 14
instead of having to go out for a tax anticipation warrant and pay interest on it, you borrow from this fund.† And as the years go by of †[illegible], the fund grows bigger.† And it is really a loan bank that you have.† And it has saved the district over the many years, and many, many, many thousands of dollars.† And sometimes the teachers feel well what you can do is forget about that working cash fund, because at any one time that you want you can cut out your working cash fund and put that money, whatever is in that fund, into the other educational fund, and youíll have plenty of money to pay for teachers, except that you donít have any more to borrow from.† And then, in order to start it again, youíve got to have a referendum and then go back to the tax payers and say† ďOkay, we spent that money, letís start again,Ē and what do you think youíll answer will be?† So the districts over the years have been very jealous about keeping that working cash fund, so weíve been fortunate, both in 163 and 227.
††††††††††† As a matter of fact, that was one of the things I learned.† When I came into 227 I was able to explain to the board about working cash fund and they immediately saw the value of it and voted it in.† Itís because of that fund that 227 very, very rarely ever had to borrow more tax anticipation warrants.† And thatís a big savings, it truly is, over the years.† In other words, you would have deficit spending, youíre spending more than your income, but as far as your cash is concerned, you donít have to go outside to borrow it.† You can borrow it from your own bank.† Now, this is why I felt I donít mind deficit spending, as long as it doesnít cost the district any more money.† Thatís my own interpretation of it.
Harold Brown page 15
So anyway, I say, I ran for the 227 board.† At the time that I ran, there was, oh, letís say many of the teachers, I had a lot of friends,† who are teachers in 227, in the high schools, and a number of them asked me to run for the board, which I did after a bit.† Unfortunately, after I got on the board, I didnít see these people anymore.† They figured Iím on the other side of the table, so I canít be friends. I really missed it; I missed the rapport I had, the information I got from them, their feelings.† Donít get me wrong.† Iím not saying all of them, but I would say 95 percent of them just kind of froze up and were afraid to talk to me.† And yet, it was because of them that I ran.† It was a big disappointment at the time; I really felt a loss in doing that.
††††††††††† But we ran for the board and won a seat on the board and it was around that time - - that was in about 1967† - -† and in 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, and through that area, there were groups that I called up they came out of the woodwork someplace.† Everytime I ran I always used to run against what I called for want of a better word, - - no Iíd better not say it, they might be listening to this.† Letís say that their interests and their outlook were completely against mine.† In both directions, Iím basically a middle of the roader.† Iím pretty moderate and pretty [mild?] of position.† But we had people coming at us from the right and from the left, and with really wild ideas of what they would like to have.† We had, for example, a program in the high school called SPEAK, in which there were people invited to speak to the kids, and the kids were the† ones,† in conjunction with some of the teachers, who
thought of the people who they would invite.† And at that time, there was the SDS, Students
for a Democratic Society, that ran wild while in
Harold Brown page 16
It was the period of the nuts.† And I say that† - -† when I say nuts, I mean like from all over, right and left.† They [the board] being in the middle was very uncomfortable, but everybody had to get their say.† And SPEAK really tried to get both sides; if they had a speaker from one viewpoint, and the next time, or the time after, they would have, in other words, they would schedule two speakers maybe not-- it wouldnít be at the same time, it wasnít a debate, it was a speaker platform.† We had people coming out, of course, damning the school district because they allowed this type of thing to go on.† How could we have representatives of the SDS.† We even got damned one time because we had a representative from Martin Luther Kingís organization there.† Not we, I say the students did.† We, the board, thought that as long as they presented both sides of the story, it was alright.† But things became very, very uncomfortable, extremely uncomfortable for a while. And they started a group called Concerned Tax . . . United Taxpayers, and Concerned Citizens, like having political parties running for school board elections all through this period of time.† Luckily, since then, things have calmed down.† But for a time there it was extremely uncomfortable running for the school board.† If I remember correctly, the second time I ran, which I think was about 1964, and yeah, I recall, there were two complete factions, one on the left as we call it today, and one on the right.† They kept asking me, which one are you with?† Well, although I was very friendly with - - well, there was a lady by the name of Mrs. Anderson who kind of was one of the people representing the right wing, and Dr. Jerry Kerish, who represented the left.† And Jerry Kerish happened to be a friend of mine.† I was not comfortable with what his position was.† Just because he was a friend of mine socially didnít mean that I agreed with him.
Harold Brown page 17
† Mrs. Anderson, some of the things she
believed in I agreed with.† But they kept
trying to put me into one camp or the other, and, as I said before, this is
what made it uncomfortable, the fact that you couldnít choose to have a middle ground, you were either connected with one or the
other.† And this happened in several of
the elections, at that point.† We had organizations coming to us from all over, which in a sense is
good, but it was very disruptive, very disruptive.† You canít get back to business
sometimes.† We had people coming out of
our ears at some of our meetings, and took up more time on their positions than
we were trying to run the school district.†
But, of course, we made sure at all times that everybody had their
say.† Some of them, of course, wanted to
make sure that it was in the paper and I assure you our meetings were very,
very well attended by reporters, even for some of the
Q:††††††† What were some of the issues that they were . . .
A:†††††††† Well, SPEAK, as I say, was one of them.† Oh, the position of the school board in financing, some of the subjects, they would take off of reading, books, anything, anything.† I think what happened was that there was an action from the right and then a tremendous reaction from the left.† And everybody soon lost sight of, really, what the problem was, and they were just lambasting each other, and wanting to take over the board and run it the way they wanted to.† Luckily, for us, most of the citizens in our district voted to keep a moderate board on.
††††††††††† †I became board president-- oh boy, Iím not quite sure; it must have been around 1971 or so.† Now, just before I got on the board - - as background - - there was a Dr. Andre who was the superintendent of schools.† He was a great politician, but a miserable
Harold Brown† page 18
administrator.† Actually, the board let him go.† There was a lawsuit, they tried to buy off his contract, and it was a very sticky thing, a very sticky thing.† And the assistant superintendent of schools took over temporarily - - he could have had the job while the board looked for another superintendent.† They finally found a superintendent who came in and took the job on as an administrator.
Q:††††††† Do you recall who the assistant superintendent was during this time?
A:†††††††† Do you want to know something?† I have got a blank spot all of a sudden.† Would you believe?†† My mind just started wandering.† And Iím trying to think; he was just over at my house the other night.† Now you wonít figure it out, I guess itís the sign of old age - - thatís the first thing that goes, is the memory.† Or is it the second thing that goes?† The first thing I forgot.
Q:††††††† Thatís okay.† Just go on.† If you remember him. . . .
A:†††††††† Iím sure Iíll remember; thereís no
question about it.† I can tell you what
he looks like, where he lives, you know?†
Anyway what we did is we brought in this superintendent, Wayne Riggs,
Dr, Riggs, okay?† I canít b e getting
microphone shy at this point.† As a
matter of fact, they brought
Harold Brown page 19
A:†††††††† Okay, I think when we flipped we were
just at the point where I was talking about the Beacon Hill situation, or, not
situation, but problem, at the time, where we had a great number of Black
students coming into our district out of the Chicago high schools.† And as I mentioned before,
not all of them got educated.†
They were just put through their paces, I guess, as long as they
attended school.† They came to our
district really unprepared to attend high school, with the background that most
of our students had from the elementary schools that fed the high schools.† At the time we had Rich East, which is
basically a walk-in, neighborhood-type school, and Rich Central.† Rich Central took all the busing from the
outlying areas, and because of the boundaries and the sizes of the two schools,
it was a natural thing to have the students from the
††††††††††† Now, I donít know if you are familiar with Rich Central and the way it looks, as Benny Robinson, one of our board members, who is Black, pictured to us; itís something, as you can see, I have never forgotten.† He said the school looks like a country club, with a beautiful lagoon out in front and long sloping grassy areas, a beautiful school.† Here it is out in the middle of a field, and he said, ďHow do you expect these Black kids, coming out of the ghetto, to come up to this school and see this magnificent structure, with the
Harold Brown page 20
†pond in front of it and the waving trees, and come and say ĎHey, this is going to be mine nowí†† and feel comfortable?Ē† Because it is completely alien, it is something they never even dreamed of, and when you donít feel comfortable to begin with, you put a chip on your shoulder to start with.Ē† Trying to explain to us the feelings that he thought some of these kids had, and I have never really forgotten that; that was a good picture he painted.
††††††††††† Well, of course, the percentage of
the Black students was small to begin with, and we were able to have remedial
classes for a lot of them, in order to try and help them along, but as the
Black population in
††††††††††† We were very fortunate, after a bit, in bringing into our district, into Rich Central, an assistant principal, Bill McGee.† Now, I had known Bill McGee prior to being on the 227 board. I had met him while he was one of the assistant superintendents, to the county superintendent of schools.† Bill had participated in an arbitration that our company was involved with, and, because he was so extremely fair as an arbitrator, I met him socially and got to know him.† And when we had this problem happening over at the school
Harold Brown page 21
district, the word got out that we were really looking for a Black administrator and Bill McGeeís name came up from another area, I even called Bill and asked him to come out and come in with us, and he did, because he liked the set-up.† He came in.† He did an exceptional job in helping quiet things down, because a lot of the Black students were able to identify with him.† And when he said ďCool it,Ē† it was coming from someone that they respected.
††††††††††† Now, we really had a number of hassles.† We held several meetings in the Rich Central gymnasium, which was full of parents.† We had it in the lunchroom which was full of parents.† We had meetings that started at , and, in order to get as many people accommodated to speak as possible, to take their turn and still take care of our business, we were there until sometimes, in order to give everybody a chance to talk.† We, in order to keep the violence down, we brought in sheriffís deputies, which wasnít a popular thing to do, but it was the only thing to do at the time.† I remember, at that time, there was no answer, as there is none today, but weíre still groping for something.† We came upon an idea, †that was presented by the Police Chief at Olympia Fields, of police-counselors, who were actually police, but would come into the school and work as counselors.† And this way the kids at the school would know that they are really part of the staff.† By bringing those people in, we were able to slowly get rid of the sheriffís deputies, who were really standing guard.† They were in plain clothes, but, nevertheless, the kids knew they were police, and they resented it - - both Black and white.
Harold Brown page 22
††††††††††† We set up structures within the
school; John Berryman, the principal, I think, grew from this experience.† He was, at the time, basically
inexperienced.† It was an entirely different
thing for him to contend with.† But he
grew, and Iím very pleased to say that I think heís doing a great job at the
school heís at now, still over at Central.†
Bill McGee has just moved on, not too long ago, and is now full
††††††††††† But, in that same time frame, we knew that we would be needing a third high school, because School District 227, as such, had two high schools, one in Park Forest, which was handling just about all of Park Forest south of the tracks, the 163 area.† 163 was big enough to supply all of Rich East.† Rich Central, on the other hand, was taking the kids from Olympia Fields, Richton Park, Matteson, Beacon Hill, the Lincolnwood area of Park Forest, and we put on a building program for both of those schools and added more classrooms, what have you, but knowing full well that it was a temporary thing that weíd have to build another school.† So we went out looking for land, and looking for land, we, of course, had to take into consideration where our next growth would be.† Now, Rich Township goes up to Cicero Avenue and† Sauk Trail, about that area, the corner of Sauk and Cicero and all the way up north, and only half of the district was built, believe it or not.† And that was taking Central and East, so a third school was
Harold Brown page 23
very important, because the next building boom would be
out in what was called the
††††††††††† Rich South was built as a core, which means it was expandable.† Rich South was also built under a program that the State had, the School Building Finance Corporation, that the State put together for school districts who had no more bonding power to build schools.† Then this fund would build the school for the school district, and then rent it out to the school district, and the rent would be applied toward the purchase price over 20, 25, 30 years, or whatever it might be.† So we, in order to be able to qualify to get that money, we had to sell the bonds that we had, all our bonding power, which wasnít very much.† We had to sell those bonds and put it into a separate fund.† Then we were broke, technically, and we were able to then get the money to build Rich South.† Now this was industry interest-free money, because what youíre doing is actually the rent is repaying the loan, without interest.† And, of course, we had to go under the regulations that this authority had, couldnít do all of the things we wanted to do because of the restrictions on funds.† Iím not saying it was wrong, but everything had to be approved by them.† We
Harold Brown page 24
were fortunate on the board that one of our board members was an architect, and he was a great help in planning the school.
††††††††††† The school was planned as a core, as I said, expandable.† Thatís crazy talk today, because weíre closing school buildings all over the place.† 163 will close several of them.† 227 has enough classrooms, but we had planned that that school would be big enough for two to three years and then weíd have to start building onto the school.† Well, but we havenít touched it since, of course, itís big enough.
†††† Of course, this last referendum that the school district lost, we wanted to build , another gymnasium, which they do need there.† Also an auditorium and Iím sorry to say that the referendum lost, but it did.† However, Rich south is expandable and, in time, I truly believe that we will have to guild on to that school, and we wonít need a Rich North until just turn around again and the population starts to increase, if that ever happens.
††††††††† After the first two years when the population started to decrease, we saw the indication in the elementary school, which we always followed.† Remember, as a high school district we had an advantage over the elementary school district.† They didnít always know what their population was going to be, but we could tell from our feeder schools a little better that they could, and we knew that for a number of years we might be a little overcrowded, but down the line there was a big drop, so no way could we build on.† We had to anticipate that.† And of course with the same thing in mind that if the elementary school population ever builds up, then we will have to look ahead and put on more classrooms in the high schools.† Thatís the story of Rich South, and how it was built, and what kind of money.† What else can we talk about?
Harold Brown page 25
Q.† Can you think of any examples or if it was
kind of backing up to the conflict at Rich Central and
A.† No.† Just before I was looking at something; if you pardon me, I think I have it right here.† (Walking away from the microphone).† It was a newspaper article that I had, somehow or other fallen out.† Well, the United Taxpayerís Council, I think I meant them.† Is that what youíre talking about, some of the problems?
A.† There was a commemoration of course for
Martin Luther King and, just glancing at this because it recollects some of it, we had a Martin Luther King assembly in the high schools
because of what he stood for.† The board
was taken to task because they said that we were honoring Martin Luther King
for breaking the law.† Well, this isnít
true.† There was a letter from one of the
members of the United Taxpayers Council, that our children were being
ďindoctrinated.Ē† Indoctrinated about
what?† You know, weíre not sure, but the
fact that when they say we are honoring Martin Luther King for being a
lawbreaker and indoctrinating the children, this is the type of charges that we
had with the United Taxpayers Council.†
They were talking about that, of course, in .† That was in 163 that that happened.† And letís see, on May 21st three
of the United Taxpayers Council went to
Harold Brown page 26
what was happening here in
††† They even picked up on some of the teachers, individually. Attacking them, which really brought on a great wave of resentment.† One of the teachers had a personal problem and really did not do the correct thing.† But it was a personal thing, away from the school, and they attacked him because they felt that he was not fit to teach in the schools because of this.† And of course, our position was that it was his teaching we were concerned with, not his own personal problem.. And as I say, these are the type of things that were happeningóthe picking up of every possible thing they could but what they were looking for.† If they had won the election, what they could have done, I donít know, because I know this:† with the seven members
On the school board, my feeling is that, if one or two people get on the board with divergent attitudes, or nuts, they canít control the board.† As a matter of fact, sometimes, I say they let them get on the board, so they really see what the problem is, because I have never seen any person get on a school board that has not swung around to the point where they can see that thereís only certain avenues you can follow, unless you just take everything and turn it upside down.† But, in order to keep things moving, to keep things in the same order, youíve got to do certain things at certain times, and they require some forethought.† And sometimes you donít have more than one way to do it.† By letting them get on the boardóI donít hesitate at all, letting someone of a different opinion come on
Harold Brown page 27
the board, because theyíre going to change.† They really are.† Not only that, they might bring some new ideas into the board.† But yet, when you get potshots about individuals, programs, thatís fine, as long as you can be constructive.† But these people were more destructive than constructive.
†††† But this was the times.† This was the time of the flower children, the
time of the first drugs.† Heck, I even
had my oldest son, he started into it, and luckily he grew out of it and turned
into a teacher because of it basically, and teaches emotionally handicapped
children now in
Q.† Okay.† One, didnít you once mention that there were a few teachers that they wanted to try to fire at the high school?
A.† Well, as I say, they took potshots at particular teachers, which didnít work, because the board was only interested in what the teachers were doing in school, how they ran their classrooms, and what they did within the school boundaries.† We never could be responsible for a teacherís actions out of school.† When youíve got teachers on tenureówe used to say that the only reason that you can fire with tenure is for moral turpitude.†
Harold Brown page 28
And, unfortunately, that doesnít even go today, you couldnít even fire them for that.† Whereas if they, for example, letís use an extreme case; if a teacher took up with a student, you know, immediately afterwards or what have you, you could possibly fire that teacher.† Thatís moral turpitude.† Well, that happens today, believe meóand I can quote it if I have toóand you canít fire them, because the laws will now say that no way can their outside interests give you any reason to fire them.†† Itís only can they teach or they canít teach.† Itís become, perhaps, more business-like, but the educators look upon themselves.† One of the things I fought in the district, each teacher had a file and each year they were supposed to be reviewed.† And no matter how bad the teacher was, the file was never bad, although the superintendent, the principal, the division head would privately say terrible things about the teacher, you went in to the file, you never found these.† Coming from business, where we couldnít condone or wouldnít condone things like that, we finally, as a board, got them to start putting some, a little more, direct information into the file, rather than protecting each other.† Itís starting to get a little more business-like, when they even started talking about teaching by objectives, a new buzz word.† Education always has new buzz words.† Itís called ďeducationalese,Ē I guess, these words that they use.† Itís something Iíve learned; I donít know if I can still speak the language they speak today, because itís gone so beyond me.
††† It was one thought that passed me, going back where you were talking about teachers.† You know, Iím just roaming around now.†
Q.† Fine, okay.
A.† Raving or roaming, but if you want recollections.
Harold Brown page 29
††† The District 227 pay schedule, when I first got on the board, was one that dealt with each teacher as an individual.† It was the type, not a bonus, it was not a bonus arrangement as suchóbut the better the teacher was, the more money they got the next year.† They werenít lock-stepped.† However, it was a very expensive way to pay teachers, because you had to really grade the teachers; and this one would get so much and the next one would get so much, the next one would get more.† Nobody really got the same for being there another year.† At the beginning this was a great way of doing it and the teachers that we got into the district, the better ones got paid better, like in industry.† But I said it was a very expensive thing and not only that, when the teachers started to organize, any organization will not allow something such as this, because theyíre talking about being recognized, and finally we had to put an end to that method of payment and instead go into a method of payment which was lock-step, a salary schedule so that we can, instead of as we were at the beginning or f our negotiations, we were talking about apples and oranges.† They were talking about school districts in which a beginning teacher got so much money, and our school district, the beginning teacher got a lot less, and how could we bring in new teachers?† We were able to bring in the better teachers because we showed, although youíll start lower, by being a good teacher, youíre going to wind up higher within three or four years, youíll be way ahead of your peers on a salary schedule.† And we didnít have that much difficulty at first bringing the teachers in.† But as the bottom rate stayed down as low as it didóbecause every time you raised the bottom rate a hundred dollars, there was a hundred dollars for each teacher in the schedule.† You got two hundred teachers, thatís two hundred people that get a hundred
Harold Brown page 30
dollars, and you start talking about money.† So we had to keep raising the base in order
to get teachers to even come and look at us.†
If we were too far below, they wouldnít even come to talk about getting
more money in three or four years.† So
finally we really bought our way out of that.†
It costs us a little more that we wanted to, but we had to get out of
that and into a salary schedule, so that we can compare our district with
Q.† How does the pay compare to the....?
A.† Well, (laughs) I guess it must be alright.† 227 settled.† [District] 163, theyíre still out on strike, as of today, that I heard.† I havenít kept pace with it.† I read in the papers, but of course, not being at the negotiating committee meetings, I donít know whatís being offered.† I do know this, that teachers around here donít know how fortunate they are, because, as I say, my son, who teaches an emotionally handicapped course, has been in the school district for four years, and they even built a wingóthis is trueóa three room wing on the school for him for his program.† Now this is a public school, not a private school, but he is teaching three classes of emotionally handicapped children with three aides.† Now I think he was offered thirteen thousand, five hundred, or fourteen thousand.† So they reallyómaybe they are aware of what other school districts are paying.† Weíre talking about other school districts away from here or some of the surrounding school districts; I would say, from what Iíve heard, weíre on a par right now.† But, donít quote me because I donít know for sure.† [Illegible word or words.]† And Iíve only heard these from the school board members.†
Harold Brown page 31
††† Okay, you wanted me also, when we spoke earlier, to talk about some of the other things in the village that Iíve been interested in.† You want to go into that?
Q.† Sure.† No-partisan elections really, I think, are pretty fascinating.
Well, itís called the Committee for Non-Partisan Elections [Government]
Harold Brown page 32
close to forty people here in my own home at a coffee.† All I did was supply the coffee and cookies.† The candidates came in, sat down in a corner, those neighbors that I invited came and sat down in chairs, and there was a moderator who was supplied by the non-partisan committee.† And a moderator then lets every one of the candidates have a few minutes to talk to state their position, their background, whatever they want to say, to make a statement, and then the rest of it was open for questions.† Everyone was given an opportunity to answer any question that was asked of any one candidate.†
††† But the fact is, there is a forum that they can be seen at, and by the citizens of the community, so they really donít have to spend a penny.† All they have to do is devote their time.† We have certain restrictions, and the restrictions are, basically, that no political party can endorse them.† This is a non-partisan type think.† This does not say that they can not be a member of a political party; itís just that it can not enter into our program.† If they want to do it independently on their own and run, well, theyíre more than welcome to do that.† But as long as they join our group, †theyíve got to go along with our rules.† And our rules are very simple.† Our rules are just that they will not become an official party in the election itself, not represent themselves as a party, or that they will not well, in other words, they can not be at any individual coffee. For example, if one of the candidateís friends wanted to run a coffee for him only, he can be there, but no more than he.† In other words, they canít run as a pair or three.† It has to be as an individual, either an individual or everybody.† Sometimes, Iím sure itís quite restrictive, a couple of people feel that they want to run as a pair, well, theyíre welcome to, but they have to do it away from the non-partisan committee, and weíre very jealous about itó
Harold Brown page 33
about some of the things that might come up, because as I say, itís perhaps the only thing like this around, and it has worked for all these years, and weíve gotten good people to run and gotten the people to run that donít have to come up with any money in order to participate or become candidates.
Q. Can you tell of, like a specific example of an election year, some people who ran, naming how the non-partisan coalition worked?
A.† We... take this past election.† Now let me see, we had three openings; two incumbents were running and there was one vacancy because the incumbent had resignedówas not going to run again.† And I believe we had three others running for those two vacancies.† Now, one of the men who was running, had run the year before, and was defeated, so that he was running again for one of the board seats.† We sponsored coffees and forums for these candidates and they all came, presented their statement, answered questions, whatever they had to do, and then met with the people afterwards.† As a result, two incumbent positions of the three positions were filled with non-incumbents.† Whatever you may sayóthey threw the rascals out?† Well you know, this is the way the people felt they wanted to doóthey did it.† What did it basicallyóit started here at my house, coincidentally.† When we do have a coffee at someoneís house, we also publish in the paper where the coffee is.† And an old acquaintance of mine, one of the teachers at the high school, as a matter of fact, called and wanted to know if he and his wife can come over.† ďCertainly,Ē you know, ďFine.Ē† Well he came out and he was talking about all the kids being out on the streets, what happened to the restrictions about coming in at eleven
Harold Brown page 34
oíclock and what have you, and started the questioning here.† He hit a very popular note, because all of a sudden everybody became involved, very spiritedly.† And it continued on after that point, coffee after coffee after coffee, until it became the position that the candidates had to take.† Are you for it or against it?† And really, this is what they won and lost on--on that one particular thing that happened at a coffee.
Q.† Can you think of any other, incidents that might have happened?
A.† That, happened to be this past election....
A....but no one ran as a party and itís just people who were in agreement with the philosophy of the people who wanted to have the restrictionsóthey got in.† And the others, the incumbents, thought that, well, they really had to look at it more and, you know, they were hesitant about it.† Being in office makes you more hesitant about taking a position that being out of office, because, being out of office you can, you know, ďHey, Iíll be glad to! You get me in office and Iíll show you what I can do.Ē† So we have that and itís past.† Thatís the noon-partisan committee.† As a matter of fact, they have a meeting tonight Iím missing on this thing because of the [interview.]
Q.† Weíre grateful.
A.† Well, it happens.† Letís see. Oh, I was briefly on the Traffic and Safety Commission, very briefly, about a year or so, but as long as you want me to give my honest opinion....
Q.† Your honest opinion....
A.† Okay, I believe that we have in
Harold Brown page 35
the community on commissions.† The Traffic and Safety Commission, they have the Recreation Board, they have a Commission on Human Relations and so on, down the line.† A Zoning Commission, and these are all lay people.† Unfortunately, some of the commissions are listened to and others arenít.† For example, I can only speak of the Traffic and Safety Commission, but we were, as a commission, asked to make certain studies.† And of course, some of those studies crossed with some of the zoning studies as far as areas of safety and traffic and what have you were concerned. And it seemed to me at the point that every time the commission made a recommendation to the board, the board did what it wanted to and then went on its merry way, and then gave us another charge and that was not why I wasóI got off the board, but that was an observations.† I feel that if the Village wants people to come out to their commissions, they should listen to the recommendations of the commission instead of letting them spin their wheels, because itís ridiculous other than that.† But yet, I firmly believe the commission idea is great.† It becomes a place where people that want to help can come to participate.
I remember that they put an ad or a notice out in the paper asking for people to sign up if they were interested in working on a commission, and I understand they just got swamped with applications.† The people want to work, just five them a chance to.† Okay, what else have I done in this community, other than raise five children, which is enough?
Q.† Do you think
A.† Yes, I do.† I love this town.
Q.† What reason?
Harold Brown page 36
A.†† Let me tell you how much I love this
town.† About two years ago, I came to the
point where I was just readyóI could make the decisionóthe noise incidentally
is my wife coming in.† (laughter)† Two years
ago we came to the point where we just had our mortgage paid for, and not many
people get that opportunity, although we have been lucky.† And in the years, we could have moved out of
Q.† Thatís what we want.
A.† Iíve always wanted a swimming pool, but I never would put a swimming pool out in my back yard, because a friend of mine has a pool and maybe uses it twenty-one days a year because of the weather.† Itís filthy dirty all the time because of the leaves and everything else that comes in.† And what I did is kind of took the amount of money that I was paying on our mortgage and multiplied it times and additional twenty years and saw what kind of a lump sum I would have at that point and then went out and checked to see what an indoor swimming pool would cost me.† And I found out that it wasnít going to be enough so I raised my rent, found that I didnít have enough land to build on.† Now Iím one of those building kind of people.† I keep building on to my home as with five kids you have to.† When mother-in-law came to live with us after we moved here, I converted
Harold Brown page 37
the porch into a bedroom and built it out.† When my three boys started to getting too big in the small room, we built that thing way out.† In fact, we have three little rooms within that room.† It came time, we needed a little more room, we put on a family room and pushed the garage out, so that weíre talking about three buildings on to our home.† And here itís time to maybe quiet down and go to a smaller place, I found that by raising my rent, I could build a swimming pool and I found that I didnít have enough land left, because you can only build, I think itís thirty, about thirty odd percent of your land.† So I went to the Village and wanted to find out about a variance, and they said theyíd have to have the Zoning Board of Appeals look it over.† And lo and behold, I found that there was no Zoning Board of Appeals, because they hadnít met in so many years that there was only one person left in the Village. (laughing)† so they had to reconstitute a zoning board of appeal, just to hear my appeal.
Q.† To build a swimming pool?
Yes.† So I came there and I explained to
them what I wanted to do, and I wanted to stay in
Q.† God! (laugh)
Now does that answer your question about what I feel about
A.† Okay.† Thereís no two ways about it.
Harold Brown page 38
Q.† Well, do you have anything else youíd like to add?
A.† No, thatís it.† Really, I found this very interesting.† I want to thank you, Mark.
Q.† I was real fascinated; I appreciate the time.† It is a good interview.
A.† This is your first, how can you say it was a
good one?† I appreciate it, but it was
your first!† Wait until you talk to the
rest of them.† Some of the people whose
names I gave youótheyíve got fantastic memories as to names, dates, times,
happenings.† Youíre going to find this an
extremely fascinating thing.† The people
who I understand are on your list are fascinating people.† Itís been a pleasure being with them.† Itís been a love that Iíve had with this
community, my wife and I bothóour whole family.†
In fact, the other day when, not too long ago, we mentioned about the
fact of possibly moving, the kids wouldnít hear of it!† As a matter of fact, they discussed if we
die, who gets the house that kind of thing.†
This house is very important to our family, and the people that youíre
going to be interviewing, are very important to us, because they are
A.† Thank you very much, Mark.
Q.† Thank you.