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U-46 board evaluation opens to pubic viewing

By Seth Hancock
  Should taxpayers in School District U-46 be paying Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) officials to administer personality tests and lead discussions on what the board wants their legacy to be? 
  The Board of Education held its board self evaluation by holding a workshop on managing effective meetings with two IASB representatives on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Because of the fight for greater transparency led by board member Jeanette Ward and supported by Phil Costello and Cody Holt, this marked the first time a board self evaluation was done in public.
  Barbara Toney and Lauren Martinez, both with the IASB, led the board through “activities” including asking the board what they want their legacy to be by the year 2020 and what the public would currently say their legacy is.
  The meeting came a day after a contentious three-hour meeting on Feb. 27 when board member Traci Ellis was again allowed to freely interrupt colleagues and levy personal attacks rather than engage in an open exchange of differing ideas and values.
  At the workshop, Toney told the board “respect is important” and “you have an obligation to express your opinion and respect other’s opinions.”
  “Your community wants to know that the decisions you’re making are well thought out, that you’re talking to each other, that you’re asking good questions and that if you disagree that’s ok,” Toney said and later added: “You don’t have to like each other to be on a board, but you’ve got to be able to get along.”
  Rick Newton, a resident of Wayne, spoke during public comments at the March 6 meeting saying that the Feb. 27 meeting showed the “intolerance of opposing beliefs from colleagues” exhibited by the board’s majority (Ellis, Sue Kerr, Veronica Noland, Donna Smith) as Ellis was allowed to call colleagues ignorant and bigoted while “the rest of the board said absolutely nothing.”
  “If you continue with this hypocrisy, the ability of U-46 students to transform information into knowledge and eventually into wisdom will be greatly diminished,” Newton said. “Further, the avoidance of this school district by prospective homeowners combined with the ever-increasing exodus and net loss of citizens from the state, unlike every single state that borders us, will continue and those who have bred this condition will deservingly be left to reap what they have sown.”
  At the workshop, U-46 CEO Tony Sanders complained about the board being “partisan” and that “it’s a distraction to the work.” Sanders is no stranger to making partisan statements himself from calling U-46 parents “fear mongers” for opposing controversial changes in practices to calling the state’s education funding formula “structural racism” in the past.
  “When I meet with principals … we will no longer have discussions on student achievement,” Sanders said. “The first question people will ask me about is the board.”
  Ward responded: “Well, you would be the guider of the discussion there …. If you want to discuss student achievement, which is what should be discussed, I would think you would guide the discussion in that direction.”
  “Well, we always get there, absolutely,” Sanders replied. “But it should start there.”
  Since the workshop, at least one member of the majority appeared to ignore the lesson of “respect” given as Noland took to social media to accuse Ward of “book banning” and “climate change denial.”
  Ward held an event recently with a speaker to offer a differing opinion than what’s taught in U-46 curriculum regarding climate change, and at the event there was no denial of climate change but in fact a full acceptance of climate change just a difference of opinion on how much man has an effect on it. Ward has also voted on several curriculum proposals by offering evidence that the resources are one-sided while the majority has yet to offer any evidence that the materials are not one-sided.
  One-sided resources are also against Board Policy 6.210 which states that resources are to “present opposing sides of controversial issues.”
  The Examiner asked Noland on why she was misrepresenting Ward and since she has offered no evidence that the resources she’s supported are not one-sided, does she support biased resources? She did not respond.
  At the workshop, Toney told board members they “have an obligation to explain” themselves when questioned by the public.
  At the workshop, Toney made claims such as liberty and equality being competing values when describing what values a board member may be following when voting on any given proposal. Toney said “one is not better than the other, one is not right or wrong.”
  Toney also claimed the role of the board is “to look at overarching global kinds of trends” and to simply “monitor” the administration rather than offer guidance on the direction that the district should go.
  Considering U-46 is a taxpayer-funded, government entity, shouldn’t voters have representation in providing guidance to the administration on how to do its job through their elected representatives on the board?



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