Darien School Group fights for money


DARIEN, IL – Students in the group at Eisenhower Junior High in Darien had planned to take a trip to Atlanta last year, but authorities canceled it due to the pandemic.

Prior to the cancellation, the school and its group boosters had paid the tour operator $ 17,400. This money has not been returned. The trip was scheduled for April 2020.

The travel company, Lisle-based Vanguard Tours, said it would refund much of the money when suppliers returned the amounts the company had already paid.

In an email to Patch last week, Eisenhower principal Jacob Buck said the school didn’t know how much money it was going to get back.

“The district will continue to work with the Band Boosters and the vendor to come to a fair resolution,” Buck said. “The district is committed to creating the best experience for our students involved in the group and to working with Group Boosters to ensure that any loss of money does not affect the lineup, offers or opportunities put up. available to students. “

Recently, Patch filed a request in the Darien School District 61 public records for documents related to the efforts to recover the money. The district provided a number of records.

In a July 7 email, Eisenhower group director Danny Tedeschi asked Vanguard Tours about the state of the money. He said he knew things were on hold due to the closure of businesses and cities, but believed he would hold hands again as many places reopened.

“I know the last time we met you said refunds would be given because of something beyond our control,” Tedeschi said. “I told my principal and the school has already made progress in reimbursing family expenses because of it.”

In a response two days later, Bob Reich, owner of Vanguard Tours, said he was trying to get money he had already paid to contractors in Atlanta.

“Atlanta has been a mess. First, most places (museums, aquarium, etc.) remain closed and their group divisions were not functioning, then all the unrest and protests have helped nothing to return to some semblance of normalcy. ! ” he said.

Tedeschi contacted a few weeks later to again request the status of the money.

Reich replied that the pandemic had severely affected tourism activities, which had no income. Some large companies, he said, have closed or filed for bankruptcy. He described Vanguard, which specializes in school trips, as struggling.

In other cases, Reich said, Vanguard was able to reimburse customers 60-70%. But he said the company’s operating costs could not be recovered.

“Eisenhower is in a separate situation,” he said. “Less than 35 percent of the cost of the tour had been paid to Vanguard prior to the cancellation. It will take some time to resolve this issue.”

In a subsequent email, Band Boosters member Karen McPherson thanked Tedeschi for his “persistence” in contacting Vanguard. But she said she was worried and suggested possible legal action.

“I know this is a hardship for all small businesses, but our organization cannot take another blow to our finances,” she said. “The fact that we paid only 35% of our total cost compared to other organizations paying a larger (percentage) of their travel is irrelevant to our organization. If Vanguard is creditworthy, they should pay us back immediately.

In a recent interview, Reich told Patch he was working with vendors to get the money paid before the pandemic.

“It was very difficult for travel, especially student travel,” said Reich. “We are not seen as an essential entity. We have not been able to secure outside help with the government.”

He said that as a former group director he would do whatever he could to make sure that money was returned that did not belong to Vanguard.

“We are a business and we have to stay solvent. We have costs,” Reich said.

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