Taft HS, foundation ‘amicably parting ways,’ ending lawsuit brought by school board
by BRIAN NADIG
The Taft High School Foundation has given its final $7,500 in funds to the school and is dissolving itself, bringing an end to a lawsuit that the Chicago Board of Eduction filed in 2019 against the fundraising organization.
“William Howard Taft High School and the foundation are amicably parting ways,” said a Jan. 6 lawsuit resolution statement signed by school board senior assistant general counsel Ryan Evans and foundation president Richard Winge. The lawsuit had asked for an injunction prohibiting the foundation from representing Taft.
The lawsuit was dismissed on Jan. 21 in Cook County Circuit Court. After a review of the foundation’s financial documents provided to the school board by the foundation, the law department did not find evidence of financial wrongdoing or mismanagement, according to the lawsuit resolution statement.
The foundation, which was formed in 2013, had donated more than $67,000 in goods and services during a five-year period to Taft.
However, the school and nonprofit foundation reportedly had disagreements in recent years, and Taft principal Mark Grishaber has said that he would like to see a new fund-raising group be formed.
In July of 2019, the school cut its ties with the foundation, posting on the school’s website that it no longer recognizes the Taft foundation.
Two years earlier controversy arose when Taft was notified that the Norwood Park School Educational Foundation was donating $45,000 (check made payable to the Taft foundation) to the high school. At the time many Norwood Park parents objected, arguing that the money should go toward their school instead of Taft since those funds had been originally raised for the elementary school.
In March of 2018 Winge met with the Norwood Park Local School Council and gave the $45,000 to the elementary school. Winge has said that he did not understand why the Taft foundation was asked to be the conduit for the donation instead of the funds going directly to Taft and that Norwood Park School was the rightful beneficiary of the money.
The Norwood Park foundation stopped raising funds in 2010 following a dispute with the school and had been dispersing its remaining funds to the school based on a payment schedule which reportedly had been recommended by the Chicago Public Schools Law Department.
In a July 5, 2017, letter to Grishaber that was included with check, the Norwood Park foundation said, “Due to the squandering of some of our gifts, we did not feel it was warranted to gift any further monies to Norwood Park School, which is why (one of our representatives) originally reached out to you and the Taft foundation.
“As a board, we felt it important to keep the funds local and under the state of Illinois statutes we were within out rights to give the money upon dissolution to another 501(c)3. Being that Taft receives a good portion of students coming straight out of Norwood Park School, we were comfortable with this alternative.
“After much discussion and consideration about our remaining $90,000, we passed a motion to split the amount between Norwood Park and Taft. This remaining balance stems from gains realized by the board’s prudent investment strategy.” The Norwood Park foundation reportedly had raised close to $1 million for the elementary school.
Winge said that the ordeal surrounding the $45,000 donation contributed to the end of what was once a productive, friendly relationship between the Taft foundation and the school.
Winge said in a statement: “Taft alumni donated funds to the foundation that accomplished (the following) projects at Taft High School:
“Refurbishing the boys’ football locker room, refinishing and repainting lines and new logos on the first floor large gym and the two smaller gyms on the second floor, removing black paint from and refinishing the wood floor of the Black Box theater located in the 1976 addition of the school as well as completely refurbishing the original auditorium stage floor.
“All these floors had not been refurbished for many years and in some cases several decades. The foundation also purchased a baby grand piano for the school and an electronic portable piano for use throughout the school and outside events.”