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U-46 conference approval triggers minority opinion

By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46 will host an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) conference the first two days of June, but the administration rushed the vote leading to a 4-2 vote at the special meeting held by the Board of Education on Monday, May 9 at Elgin High School.
  The meeting was meant to honor the top two percent of high school seniors, but at the May 2 meeting U-46 CEO Tony Sanders requested some items be voted on at the special meeting before the May 16 meeting. Cody Holt and Jeanette Ward voted no, Phil Costello was absent, on the proposal that will cost $82,260 and will come out of the education fund.
  Holt and Ward both said they see merits in the AVID program and were set to vote in favor of the proposal, but responses to questions in between meetings raised further questions that would not be answered due to the last second vote. Sanders did not ask for the items voted on to be included on the special meeting agenda until right before adjournment on May 2.
  “I’ve heard a lot of great things about AVID” said Holt who asked if it could be voted on at the Monday, May 16 meeting.
  Sanders said “it would be a challenge” due to the conference being held early next month. Holt later said he’d like to support the plan but felt there needed to be more time given to ask further questions.
  Ward, who asked before the meeting that the vote also be moved to May 16, said she likes the focus on individual achievement from AVID, but a pair of planned sessions at the conference seeks to label people by groups which is divisive. Those sessions are on “culturally relevant teaching” which will “address issues of race, class, gender and accountability.”
  “This is the dividing of people by different groups and focusing on what divides us instead of what unites us,” Ward said. “How is social, emotional and political empowerment applicable to getting more students to apply and succeed in college, unless they are majoring in community organizing? What is ‘collective development’?”
  Ward added: “How are conversations about race, gender, class and sexual orientation relevant to encouraging students to apply and succeed in college? The descriptions of these sessions are vague, leftist-speak and I cannot support them.”
  Donna Smith, the board’s president, asked the new student advisor Eric Loera, who is an AVID student, to describe the program which he said “it’s really about pushing yourself to be better,” but Ward noted that the vote was not on AVID but rather the conference to be held.
  Board member Sue Kerr said that “U-46 is a majority minority school district” with a majority of teachers being white, Sanders later saying it’s 70 percent non-white, as a reason for those sessions. Board member Veronica Noland said it was fiscally prudent to hold the conference in U-46 as the administration estimated a $416,120 cost to send participants out of state.
  However, board member Traci Ellis proved Ward’s contention of the divisive nature of the group-think mentality from such sessions as she called Ward’s views offensive, shortsighted, narrow-minded, arrogant and bigoted.
  Ellis said “I think I’m an expert” on race because she’s a minority, whites “are about to become a minority” and “as a black woman, I can speak with some degree of certainty… that I bring to the board a different lens.”
  “How dare someone marginalize the lens that I see through,” Ellis added as well as “what is divisive is not to see my color.”
  Since the new board was seated last spring, Ellis has questioned Ward’s intelligence and has asked her supporters to come to a meeting to criticize Ward for her beliefs. Including this latest attack, the board’s leadership has yet to reprimand Ellis while Smith has reprimanded Ward for merely having an opinion different from hers.
  After the special meeting, Ward spoke to The Examiner and said: “I noticed that a certain board member cannot disagree with me without calling me names.”
  “She can never make a simple statement on the basis of facts. She always has to resort to name calling,” Ward added. “And I do not do the same thing to her, ever.”
  Sanders has also played the race card along with Ellis as more successful districts have been used as a punching bag in regards to so-called “equitable funding” by the state. At the Black History Family Festival in February, Sanders said “we have a school funding problem” due to structural racism which “is why I can’t sleep at night.”
  At that festival, Sanders complained about CUSD 220 in Barrington and CUSD 303 in St. Charles losing less money from the state due to proration than U-46 without providing context. As previously reported by The Examiner, U-46 receives $3,153 per student compared to only $1,226 per student for CUSD 220 according to Illinois Report Card data, and CUSD 303 receives $1,164 per student which would account for why those districts lose less to proration.
  At the special meeting, several dual language teachers came to criticize the members of the board (Costello, Holt and Ward) who voted against expanding dual language to the middle school level.
  Ward clarified after the meeting that “I’m not against people learning another language…but to dedicate a whole student’s career to the study of another language is costly, we can’t afford it and it’s not appropriate.”
  Pointing out that dual language is only offered in Spanish, Ward said: “Should we start having dual language programs for everybody across the globe who are immigrants to our country? No, I don’t think so.”
  Approved that evening by 6-0 votes were a contract renewal with Catalogic for backup software and extra space at a cost of $41,700, a contract with Demoulin Brothers and Company for new band uniforms at Larkin High School costing $58,044.80 and a contract renewal with Athletico Physical Therapy at a cost of $267,800 for athletic training services all to be paid for out of the education fund. A bid of $2.3 million, to be paid for out of the transportation fund, with Midwest Transit Equipment to purchase 25 30-passenger buses and five wheelchair passenger buses was also unanimously approved.
  At the May 16 meeting the board will vote on expenditures of $49,614 for Writing Pathways resources and $8,400 for professional development for an elementary literacy proposal as well as $209,069 for three contract renewals with Gale Cengage Learning, Encyclopedia Britannica and Newsela.



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