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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

U-46 Board primed to vote on proposals, policy


By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 is set to vote on six expenditure items totaling just over $1 million, as well as a concussion policy at its upcoming meeting on Monday, July 18.
  When presented at the board meeting on Monday, June 20, a membership renewal with the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) at a cost of $41,039 was met with skepticism from three board members. If approved, it would be paid for out of the education fund.
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders claimed the membership “actually reaches that $40,000 value” mostly from the IASB’s legislative briefings.
  “The administration does find a lot of benefit in our membership with the [IASB], most notably the policy services that we receive,” Sanders said.
  The IASB appears to have a monopoly as the only organization that is allowed to offer board self-evaluations, which comes at an added cost, per state law and it offers Open Meetings Act training at a cost which it successfully lobbied the state to require board members to receive. The IASB lobbies for new educational laws which would also help force the need for its “press briefings” which Sanders finds the value in.
  Last year, three of the four newest board members (Phil Costello, Cody Holt, Jeanette Ward) expressed hesitation but voted for the renewal at the behest of Donna Smith, the board’s president. Those three said they would give the organization a year to decide if there was value.
  “Last year, I supported this and that was mainly because I wanted to give it a year to take a look and see if I saw any benefit in it,” said Holt who added he did not find the value in membership after a year and agreed with opposition raised by both Costello and Ward who earlier said the IASB supports the status quo and plays partisan politics.
  Ward said: “I don’t think that we get $40,000 worth of value from IASB from my perspective, and they worked against, I think, some interests I hold dear.”
  The IASB supports the expansion of full-day kindergarten as well as pre-school, which Ward opposes, and actively opposed House Bill 4630 which allowed elected officials across the state access to closed session meeting recordings from previous boards. An IASB representative previously told The Examiner it supported that bill with an amendment, an amendment Ward said weakened HB4630 to allow access only for orientation purposes. That bill is now law, but another amendment was made stripping the weakened amendment and affirming the rights of elected officials to previous recording regardless of purpose.
  On board self-evaluations, Ward said they “are a waste of time in my experience, and they contain the potential for straying into Open Meetings Act violations based on my observations,” and she said at an IASB meeting she attended, the organization blamed the budget mess in Illinois on Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The state’s general assembly is controlled by democrats, and the legislative branch is responsible for spending.
  “I’m at odds with [the IASB], and I’m not going to be voting to give them their dues this year.” Ward said.
  Costello said the he was “very leery” of the IASB’s value and that “we need to look at changes constructively, not dogmatically.” He said the only value he could see in it was from the policy reviews, but he asked that the district seek other options for that.
  “I don’t see the IASB even looking at” changes Costello said. “They have a center of power by having insights into all of the school districts yet they fail to provide that information to us.”
  Board member Veronica Noland said she was hesitant when she first took her seat in 2013 but has come to see the value.
  “I still believe that some skepticism is healthy, I don’t have a problem with that,” Noland said. “I have come around to accepting the cost of our membership because of the value our administrators have placed on some of the benefits of membership.”
  Board member Traci Ellis said board members should use their personal judgment “because this board is to look out for what’s best for the district and not our personal idiosyncrasies,” and then went on to make it personal while making accusations.
  “I think everyone who has spoken, with the exception of Ms. Ward, has at least availed themselves of IASB benefits such as the annual conference,” Ellis said. “And there were two board members who signed up for the annual conference and then did not attend even though the district had paid for hotel rooms and the conference fees.”
  Ellis did not name the second board member or how much U-46 taxpayers spent for her hotel room only a little over 30 miles away from Elgin at that convention which was held on Nov. 20 to 22, 2015 in Chicago. According to the IASB website, registration for the convention is $445 which may leave some wondering why that’s not included in the $41,039 membership fee. Earlier in the meeting Ellis questioned why the board was spending time discussing a $5,000 increase to an administrator’s contract.
  Ward did not ask taxpayers to put her up in a hotel room, and she reiterated that where she heard the IASB blame Rauner was at one of their meetings which means she has availed herself to what the IASB offers.
  “I did not sign up to use a hotel room, so that wasn’t the case. I was planning to attend one day and there was a snow storm which is why I couldn’t attend,” said Ward who added the “IASB refused to refund our money, which is another reason I will be voting no.”
  According to weather.gov, that snowstorm  was recorded as the second largest November snowfall in Chicago’s history.
  “Well there were a gazillion other board members who came, from not Elgin, to Chicago from around the state and made it to Chicago by train, bus, car, whatever,” Ellis responded. “That conference is one of the seminal events.”
  The other expenditure items to be voted on will be a pair of contract renewals, $93,704 with CDW-G and $40,000 with Versifit Technologies, both to be paid for out of the education fund. Also out of the education fund are bid proposals with Mira Via, LLC ($37,200) for professional development and with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ($32,650) for software.
  If approved, the nation’s taxpayers would spend $803,778 through Title I funding for computers and iPads in a bid with Heartland Business Systems, Apple and Tiger Direct.
  The board will also vote on a change to its concussion policy which Miguel Rodriguez, chief legal officer said: “The changes that we are recommending to the concussion policy come straight from the law, and will go into effect the first day of the 2016-2017 school year.”
  Rodriguez said state law requires the development of a management plan for student athletes with concussions and the creation of a concussion oversight team. An athlete’s parents must sign a concussion form and a concussed athlete can neither practice nor play until being cleared after meeting certain protocols.

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