The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 Board evaluations continue to feed debate
By Seth Hancock
The public in School District U-46 will get a chance to see the Board of Education’s self-evaluation with the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) as some details were given at the board meeting on Monday, Jan. 9.
The board also took action on several items all receiving unanimous votes, but only at 4-0 as Donna Smith, the board’s president, said three members (Phil Costello, Traci Ellis and Veronica Noland) were not in attendance due to work or personal commitments.
Smith said Noland was in Springfield because her husband was “retiring.” Noland’s husband, Michael Noland (D-Elgin), lost his reelection bid for his IL-22 state senate seat during the Democrat primary last March.
Regarding the upcoming self-evaluation, Smith said: “My recommendation is going to be that we do a workshop on board relations and working together.”
Board member Jeanette Ward asked if it would be public and held on a weeknight, and Smith said it would. Ward and board members Cody Holt and Sue Kerr all agreed to that.
No date has been as yet.
At the previous meeting on Dec. 12, 2016 Smith asked if the board wanted to do a self-evaluation, which comes at a cost with the IASB, and both Holt and Ward said they did not see the value from attending previous self-evaluations. All previous self-evaluations have been done in closed session.
Ward said “I felt it was kind of a waste of time” and that she saw a “lack of discipline” as discussions “strayed into other topics that were not appropriate for closed session.” Holt said he hadn’t “gotten anything from them personally as a board member.”
Ellis said that this board is “dysfunctional” and “to walk away from (self-evaluations) is to say to the public ‘we’re dysfunctional and we’re proud of it.’”
However, much of that dysfunction appears to emanate from Ellis and the board’s majority as illustrated at the Dec. 12 meeting as Ellis and Kerr had a side conversation as a colleague had the floor, and Ellis called Holt “intellectually dishonest” because Holt said he’s “sat through a couple of these” self-evaluations.
Ellis claimed there had been only one board self-evaluation since Holt had been elected, but as The Examiner reported there have been three closed session meetings listed as self-evaluations on their agendas since he’s taken his seat.
After that was reported Holt took to social media and posted the three agendas on Dec. 14 to defend himself against Ellis’ attack as he wrote: “As you can see, she was not correct and was probably confused, because we have sat through at least 3 of them.” Holt did not mention Ellis by name in the post.
Despite the facts clearly backing up Holt, Ellis responded on social media calling him out by name writing “He's been to ONE” and using semantics to backup her continued attack saying there’s only been one in which a “self-assessment survey” has been taken by the board.
Ellis continued to levy attacks against Holt as well as Ward. She wrote against Holt: “Minimal effort. You get out of these sessions what you put into them, and he put very little into the process (as he does into his board work), so it’s no surprise that he got little out of it.”
Against Ward, Ellis wrote: “And once again, Jeanette Ward accused me ‘of coming close’ to violating the Open Meetings Act. Same tired tactic. Same tired accusation. The fact is that she didn’t like my comments during the self-evaluation. That I offended her personal sensibilities does not equate to an OMA violation.”
Ellis has on several occasions claimed herself as a victim at board meetings because viewpoints she doesn’t agree with are expressed and has made several personal attacks against colleagues and members of the public while Ward has never appeared to personally attack a colleague or members of the public. In contrast, Ward has thanked members of the public for speaking even when they have attacked her including one meeting in which Ellis asked her supporters to come out to personally attack Ward for her point of view.
Smith has allowed Ellis free reign to levy personal attacks and interrupt colleagues while publicly reprimanding Ward for simply expressing a different opinion from the majority on the board.
The board did approve on Jan. 9 an expenditure of $99,815 (to come out of the education fund) with School Health Corp. to replace 72 defibrillators, the process to put out for bid with energy companies to provide electricity, $12.7 million in itemized bills and an intergovernmental agreement with the Carol Stream Park District.
The intergovernmental agreement with the Carol Stream Park District was first made in 1995, and this was a renewal that will last for 20 years and expires in 2036. Spring Trail Elementary School is allowed to use athletic facilities next to the school and Carol Stream can use the school’s gymnasium while it will maintain the schools grounds.
Kerr asked “will we be seeing similar” agreements with other communities which Jeff King, chief operations officer, said “it depends on their expiration date” as “the dates vary between a lot of them.”
A digital literacy curriculum proposal was expected to be voted on at the Jan. 9 meeting but will be moved to Jan. 23. Ward has publicly posted evidence of one-sided, biased material among some of the resources within the proposal.
With four board members present the meeting was at its minimum requirement for a quorum and a 2-2 vote would have meant the proposal would have been voted down. Both Holt and Ward have voted against one-sided resources in the past.