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Old issue flares around U-46 meeting calendar
By Seth Hancock
Chalk one up for hanging onto a grudge for probably too long even after being proven wrong.
The Board of Education in School District U-46 was presented with the proposed 2017-18 board meeting schedule on Monday, Feb. 6. The board will likely vote on it on Monday, Feb. 27.
While U-46 CEO Tony Sanders discussed some “notable” changes and board member Jeanette Ward tried to get information on the calendar, board member Traci Ellis decided to rehash a spat she had with board member Cody Holt back in December.
Board member Veronica Noland had asked if the May meeting on the calendar in which the board recognizes the top 2 percent of high school seniors was just used for that recognition ceremony, and Sanders responded that if there’s “a new board, then we typically would do the closed session board self evaluations.”
That’s when Ellis sidetracked the conversation by saying “just to clarify, that is not a board self evaluation in May. It’s board orientation.”
That comment appeared to be an attempt to try and prove herself correct after calling Holt “dishonest” back in December, a personal attack by Ellis that has been proven wrong since then.
In discussing the merits of the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) board self evaluations, a meeting that comes at an extra cost to taxpayers which has always been done behind closed doors but will be in open session this year, Holt had said that he’d been “through a couple of these” and did not see the merit. Ellis said that Holt was “intellectually dishonest” because there had been only one board self evaluation since he had taken his seat.
However, The Examiner reviewed all board meeting agendas since Holt has been sworn in and found that there have been three board self evaluations since he’s taken his seat, and Holt posted those agendas on social media. After being proven wrong, Ellis didn’t let it go by playing semantics because two of those board self evaluations did not include the board taking a survey.
The current board has been marred by the board’s leadership, led by president Donna Smith, allowing Ellis to sidetrack conversations to make petty and personal attacks as well as allowing her to interrupt colleagues, and this conversation was no different.
After Ellis rehashed this, Holt asked: “Are we going to put that on the agenda, board orientation? Because in the past we’ve marked them as board self evaluations.”
Smith said “I think IASB labels it” to which Ellis interrupted “that may be how, but everybody who’s there knows it is not a self evaluation since you’re there you see what happens.”
“That is the reason that we can go into closed session because we are evaluating the way we work together,” Smith said.
“We’re evaluating the board, correct?” Holt asked.
Smith responded: “Yes, well the way we work together. Yeah, I mean it’s all, it’s the board and the way we work together and everything else.”
“To be distinguished from what we normally do in January,” Ellis said, and Smith said “it is different. Ellis said it’s “totally different. It is when we bring new members, we talk about the board agreements, we talk about how the board operates and it orients newly elected board members into it”
Ward entered the fray to say, “but it has to be called a board self evaluation otherwise we wouldn’t be allowed to hold it in closed session.”
Miguel Rodriguez, the district’s chief legal officer, confirmed that they are board self evaluations saying “not only that, but that’s what it has to be. It has to be a board self evaluation.”
Ellis still didn’t let things go: “All I’m saying is we don’t evaluate the board.”
Holt said “well the board president just said we evaluate ourselves” to which Smith replied: “Well no, the difference is the survey. That is the big difference in it. We don’t do the long survey.”
Ellis said “it doesn’t matter what you call it” because it’s not a board self evaluation, but Rodriguez said “well it does have to matter because pursuant to the Open Meetings Act it’s got to be” which garnered another interruption from Ellis: “All I’m saying is it’s not the same thing we do in January.”
Holt confirmed that Ellis was correct that there is a difference in the board self evaluations which Ellis retorted “I didn’t ask for your approval.”
On the “few changes” Sanders referred to, they include holding three straight meetings in August and holding two meetings in December and one in January, which is reversed from this year.
Sanders said the August meetings are necessary “in order to meet the budget requirements of state law, and to have firmed up numbers.”
Ward said “that’s a lot of meetings in August” but added “if there needs to be three then there needs to be three, that’s fine.” She asked why there was not a need for three meetings this year, and the administration said they would follow up.