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Open letter to the Board of Education and public in School District U-46


Dear Editor,
  I’ve come to realize that there are certain board members who are incapable of handling questions. I won’t re-hash the litany of instances I referenced in my email sent out on Wednesday, Feb. 10. What I will point out is the childish behavior of Traci Ellis. Instead of responding to those questions, she has decided to post that email on her Facebook page with my email address. While she has the right to act like a child, I have a right to point out that childish behavior.
  In my nearly four years of covering School District U-46, I have witnessed Ellis chastise members of the public at meetings, chastise colleagues on the board and generally show a constant disdain for any who dares challenge her. All the while, I have never seen her called out for this boorish behavior by the “leadership” on this board. She is in fact now part of that leadership. Is it any wonder why you would be questioned on the lack of leadership?
  Donna Smith, the board’s president, said at the last meeting that the board should not be the news. Why is that Donna? Our system of government is set up to have checks and balances. In U-46, the board is to be a check on the administration, not a sure yes vote. The fourth estate, the press, represents a check on those elected to fulfill that role. The board makes decisions on how other people’s money will be spent.
  I understand my questions are tough and you probably don’t want to answer them, but your lack of transparency is a disservice to all of those who have given you the responsibility of spending their money. You should expect to be questioned, and the public should expect answers. You think my questions are unfair, that’s your right. But it’s my right to pose them, and the public can decide whether they are fair or not. If you don’t want the narrative to be written in the way you think it will, well I’m giving you the opportunity to give your own narrative. For those unwilling to answer these questions you may want to question if elected office is for you.
  To the public, many of whom have weighed into my questions since Ellis chose to place politics ahead of doing what’s right, I am not the story. The Examiner is not the story. One comment from failed board candidate Larry Bury thanked Ellis “for pulling back the cover and exposing this darkness to sunlight.” Let’s get this clear, the U-46 board makes decisions on how hundreds of millions of your tax dollars are spent but a free press is the one that needs shining a light on?
  The job of the press is not to make friends, not to make enemies. The job of the press is to inform the citizens of this nation. I will report on the good, the bad and the ugly in U-46. My job is not to promote the school district, it is to inform those who fund it.
  For those compliant, obedient citizens who choose not to question their government, I don’t blame you for your desire to be ignorant. You have been led by a U-46 administration that constantly chooses to blame others for their problems. From financial problems to poor test scores, the administration always comes up with an excuse. It’s always someone else’s fault. Rarely does it take accountability for its own decisions.
  While all this takes place, there are some who wish to demonize The Examiner. I will point out that not once has one of our detractors contacted The Examiner to say we got the story wrong or we’ve misquoted anybody. Not once has anyone spoken to me about getting the story wrong. Instead, they choose to publicize it as such on social media in the court of public opinion. I would say that means we’re getting the story right. In fact, the public has followed the lead of Tony Sanders who last year used his weekly message to staff to claim there was misinformation in The Examiner. First off, the information was accurate and was directly from the U-46 budget. Sanders didn’t contact The Examiner to ask for a correction or to add clarity to the data used, he chose to publicly state we got the story wrong.
  Mrs. Ellis and the U-46 supporters, if you want to try and intimidate others into being silent, know that those efforts will be fruitless with me. I will not be intimidated. I will continue to ask questions. I will continue to inform the public. Maybe it’s time to start scrutinizing the elected officials for not answering questions rather than those who are asking the questions in order to inform you.
Seth Hancock
Examiner Publications

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