The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 delegate comments on his IASB experience
By Seth Hancock
School District U-46 Board of Education member Phil Costello was not impressed by the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) when he gave an update at the board meeting on Monday, Nov. 21.
Costello, who along with Cody Holt and Jeanette Ward opposed the board’s membership with IASB at a cost of $41,039 back in July, was the board’s delegate at the IASB convention on Saturday, Nov. 19 and although he said there was “enthusiasm and evident growth potential,” the focus of the organization appears to be one of how to protect the current education system rather than looking at how to fix problems plaguing it.
One of the sessions Costello attended had to do with the creation of Dashboard systems in school districts, a system he has worked with at the park district level in his day job.
“I was disappointed with the presenter’s core knowledge and expressed interest in charting only positive news, which seems counter-intuitive to me,” said Costello. “Dashboards are meant to provide all readers with a clear and concise picture of the school district’s current path and direction, not a rose-colored snapshot of landscape.”
Costello said an “even more disturbing” session dealt with pension reform as the IASB left questions unanswered and showed a fundamentally flawed way of thinking.
“This panel group of attorneys and politicians essentially said it was just a matter of plugging the $71.4 billion unfunded pension liability with new revenue from convenient, yet undetermined sources,” Costello said while he told the public at the board meeting: “Hint, look around this room. You’re the sources.”
The presenters, according to Costello, said they didn’t think pension burdens will be shifted to local taxpayers in the near future, and they showed a lack of understanding that taxpayers will be picking up the bill for pension liabilities regardless if it is through property taxes or state income taxes.
There were questions on how pension reforms will affect taxpayers and employees as well as on “districts that artificially spike career-ending earnings to generate even richer public pensions, all of which went unaddressed by the IASB panel,” Costello said.
Although Costello said he wanted “to maintain an open mind about the potential values of membership including networking,” he’s “still apprehensive about relegating our voice to a group that cannot hold our legislators individually responsible for their voting records. They implicitly do not represent the interests of our taxpayers which contradicts this group’s usefulness to me.”
Costello recommended that the board invite state lawmakers and officials to the district to hold public hearings on issues instead of relying on the IASB to do the district’s, including U-46’s taxpayers, lobbying for them.
While Costello raised concerns, the board’s majority that has consistently represented the status quo were happy with their experiences at the IASB convention.
Donna Smith, the board’s president, said she “went to a lot of leadership presentations” and Sue Kerr said she attended sessions held by school board members from other districts.
“It’s always interesting to see how other districts do some things,” Kerr said.
One of those sessions Kerr said was from Huntley High School regarding its medical academy program in which students work at a nearby hospital as part of the program.
“I’d love to see our academies, and maybe we do some of this already, to look into some of that,” Kerr said.
Board member Traci Ellis said she attended sessions that promoted collectivist group-think, something she has consistently advocated for on the board.
“I’m especially glad that I went to the preconference workshop on race and equity which had a deep and rich conversation about this multi-ethnic and diverse society that we live in, global society that we live in,” Ellis said.
Ellis said she went to a session concerning community engagement focused on “making sure that you tap into every corner of your district.” Those groups that you need to listen to, not taxpayers or the community as a whole but rather sub-groups based on race.
The comments from Ellis were partially spurred on by a member of the public who spoke during public comments.
A resident came to tell the board “our education level is pretty bad now” specifically noting the push on multiculturalism and racial divisions. He said his father “came from a failed country, which is Mexico, and he adopted our culture” and succeeded despite only having a fourth-grade education.
Ellis responded that there’s a “rich heritage of Mexico, which is not a failed country.”
The commenter noted he’s seen a lack of critical thinking in U-46 students firsthand when he attended a board meeting last spring when students came to ask Ward to resign simply for holding a different opinion. He said “we’re not teaching our kids properly anymore” noting that President Barrack Obama was able to say back in 2008 that he’s visited 57 American states (there are only 50) without correction and politicians in general call the nation a democracy when in fact it was founded as a republic.