The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Board member stand on curriculum supported
By Seth Hancock
Members of the public came out to support School District U-46 board member Jeanette Ward and addressed concerns with the district’s curriculum at a board meeting on Monday, Jan. 22.
There were 20 individuals who spoke during public comments where they were relegated to the end of the meeting and had their three minutes cut to two minutes as more than 20 had signed up to speak. One speaker, who spoke to praise the district for its work on “equity,” was allowed to speak during the earlier public comment portion because an “equity” update was on the agenda while the remaining speakers were not addressing an agenda item.
The speakers, who waited nearly two and a half hours to speak, came in response to four self-proclaimed “faith leaders,” among 18 who signed a letter condemning Ward for informing the public about a biased assignment her daughter received, spoke against Ward at a December meeting.
Ward made a motion to suspend the public comment rule, which was changed during the last school year after three straight meetings where the public, in large numbers, came out to disagree with the district and the board’s majority on a controversial change to practices, to allow the full three minutes and to make comments during the earlier public comment portion. Board member Phil Costello supported the motion, but it ultimately failed by a 5-2 vote.
Board member Veronica Noland dismissed the public’s concerns because “I think it’s drummed up by political issues,” Melissa Owens said “we have business that needs to be conducted” and Traci Ellis said “we have a board process on this.” A motion to suspend the rule is allowed under the process.
Mark Frusti, a Streamwood resident and pastor at Faith Lutheran Church, said the public was not there for political purposes. He was one of 12 pastors of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church to sign a letter supporting Ward and asking the district to reconsider the curriculum.
“My heart and my prayer is for you to listen to the people here today, that they are speaking out about a very heartfelt issue and it’s not just something that’s just flying in the wind,” Frusti said. “It’s not just a political issue, it is a faith issue and a faith issue is very important to a lot of people in this community. And that’s why we’re here, and that’s why we stayed and that’s why we speak from our hearts.”
Sarah Thompson, who was at the meeting to give the Citizens’ Advisory Council update, thanked the board for forcing the public to wait until the end.
“I have three events, two are CAC related, that will keep me out late this week,” Thompson said.
Those who had to wait included a sixth grader, Jerry Cortes, who spoke along with other children, on a school night, who were in attendance with their parents as well as one speaker who said he drove from Florida to address the board.
Ward’s husband, Bill Ward, said he found the objectionable assignment stating he was the “first one to encounter it from my sixth grade students… homework.” That assignment was from the Newsela resource, which Jeanette Ward was the lone no vote on in May 2016.
The assignment stemmed from an article by Philip Almond titled “Despite differences, Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God” which claimed God can be “evil” and reduced Jesus Christ to merely a prophet. Almond is an agnostic and professor of religion at the University of Queensland.
Bill Ward said the assignment not only got the three religions the article was about wrong, but it was also promoting a fourth religion, the “global one-world religion of atheism.”
“Our country was founded primarily on Christian ideals,” Ward said. “However, it established a secular government. The school district should be founded on these same principles. I do not reject secularism. It is secularism that gave us the First Amendment which allows for freedom of religion. What I do reject is atheism. While secularism celebrates freedom of religion, atheism sets itself up as the unseen judge scheming to free us from religion.”
Many speakers read from the Bible and Quran to show evidence of the differences between religions in contrast to what the article stated, and several questioned why an agnostic would be used to teach about religions he did not believe in.
“This week, it was that the God of the Old Testament is evil,” Hauser said. “Next week it’ll be that Jesus is just a good teacher among many. You want a real tempest, wait for that one.”
Norm Maw asked “why was an agnostic picked” for a lesson on religion and added: “Were children explained that this material is someone’s opinion, not someone’s religion’s holy book? Were they taught what an agnostic is? Do they even understand it?”
Usama Dakdok, of the Straight Way of Grace Ministry, said he drove from Venice, Florida and said he “actually drove nearly 1,600 miles to come and speak to you. Your two minutes is not enough.” He added that “political correctness or cowardice or maybe even ignorance” has led to falsely equating Christianity to Islam.
Rev. Mark Bestul, of the Calvary Lutheran Church in Elgin, said he was not there to “debate theology” but rather to point out that the 18 who signed a letter condemning Jeanette Ward agreed with her that the assignment was flawed but instead made the way Ward presented the flawed material the issue. He said the flawed material was the issue and theology is best left to “the clerics of the mosques and the rabbi’s of Judaism and the pastors of Christianity.”
“A large number of the faith leaders of this community are not very happy with it,” said Bestul who supported removing the flawed material.
Frusti said he was at the meeting out of love, not to condemn, asking board members to right a wrong in the curriculum, and he ended his statement: “Christianity is still here and it’s still strong. And we’re going to preach Jesus Christ until the day we die. Amen.”
Along with the 20 who spoke at the end, another seven names were called who did not speak.
Ward, as the board swiftly attempted to vote to adjourn after the public comments, said she had discussion and thanked those who came out.
“It’s interesting to me that some on a certain side of the ideological spectrum like to claim separation of church and state, unless a godless view of religion is taught,” Ward said. “And this isn’t just an isolated incident.”
After the meeting, Ward made a Facebook post stating that diversity of thought “is the most important kind of diversity” and took exception to board members dismissing concerns as “political” simply because they were opposing views.
“What is ‘political’ and HYPOCRITICAL is indoctrinating students with assignments like the one discussed last night, with a decidedly POLITICAL, non-scholarly, inaccurate, agnostic, and progressive ideology, expecting that those with an opposing view would have nothing to say about it,” Ward posted.
Ward added: “This unrelenting push to force a progressive agenda upon children, will only continue to divide us in the U-46 community where the interests of many parents and taxpayers are not only excluded, but attacked. I guess that is just fine with the majority of the board, where conservative views need no recognition. ‘All means all’ is nothing but a cliché.”