Elsewhere in this paper you will find a “Letter to the Editor” sent by Hillsboro School District Superintendent Curt Bisarek. It is certainly well worth reading whether you have children in our school district or own taxable property that is supporting it.
My wife, Jane, and I had a similar reaction. To us it had a surprising familiarity.
The Bisarek family apparently went through a similar experience as us, although it happened about 20 years apart.
When we discovered this one-in-a-million community in 1989, it was because we were looking for a business that fit our occupational background and our wallets. Our broker discovered the fact that the Sentry-Enterprise was on the market and suggested we visit the area.
At the time Jane was a charge nurse at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights (near O’Hare Field) and I was completing my 28th year working in the editorial department at the Chicago Tribune.
Our most important criteria, however, was feeling certain that our three young daughters would feel comfortable living here and attending the local school.
The current editor and seller, Larry Huebner, owned the newspaper, but former owners Al and Eileen Evans held a loan on it.
We spent a weekend here with our oldest daughter, Meg, who was then in junior high school. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed with the friendliness of local folks and all the very clean and well kept town and all that was part of it.
I had a cousin who was a journalism professor at Northwestern back then and did some consulting work for small newspapers during his summer. Naturally, I asked for his advice, and I’ve never forgotten it. God bless him.
He stated, “Don’t think that you’re buying a newspaper … think that you are “buying into” a town. The business is a small part of the decision if it is still breathing and you think you can help it. The town and the area is really what will matter in your future.”
Part of the sales agreement was a trip back to Illinois for a visit with Al and Eileen Evans, both for approval and even more important …advice.
We had a lunch in their home and “hit it off,” as they say, and enjoyed their company very much. It was the start of a wonderful friendship and even more important plenty of “schooling” from the perfect mentor who had actually learned on the job right here.
They told us all the great things about Hillsboro, and just for authenticity, a few dull ones, although they probably had to make those up.
Other than the people, I clearly recall that the main thing they stressed was the marvelous school district, and believe me they were experts on that subject. I can’t remember the exact number but I think they had about 14 children! They should know a good school when they see one.
Al told us to go there the first chance we have and talk to the administration the teachers, and even the students and their parents. He said the building looks like it was built a month ago.
We did that, and sure enough he was totally right about everything. With three children, the oldest in Junior High and the youngest in kindergarten, we were more than impressed and we closed the sale. We have never regretted it....not for a second.
How many others feel that way about our school and its value to our entire town?
When we offered the newspaper to Morris Multi-Communications Inc., they sent some impressive brass all the way from Georgia to take a look at the town, knowing full well, just like my cousin, they were actually buying a town, and its school, among other things.
Here’s what they told me really impressed them:
1. The Firemen’s Community Center and their impressive field on the edge of town.
2. The lake and the park alongside it.
3. The many nice looking churches.
4. The friendliness of the folks in the downtown area, and far and away the most important thing...the school buildings and surrounding area. That was the clincher because they were smart enough to know that a good school district is the best investment for any town in the country.
Surprised? We weren’t.
There were other things but those are the ones that still stand out 25 years later.
Morris now owns nine papers in Wisconsin and who knows how many nationwide? I have no doubt they are pleased with the report filed by their “scouts” back then.
The voters of the Hillsboro School District should also be pleased now.
The text of Bisarek's letter, "School funding trumps school accountability," can be found on the Letters page.