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Select session minutes to be destroyed in U-46

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved the minutes of eight closed session meetings held this year as well as the destruction of audio recordings from nine closed session meetings in 2017 at its meeting on Monday, July 23.
  The item was approved by a 5-1 vote as board member Jeanette Ward voted no and board member John Devereux, who was just seated at the June 18 meeting, abstained.
  Donna Smith, the board’s president, read the motion which stated that “all closed session minutes, with the exception of the minutes already released including audio recordings, remain confidential. In addition, all audio recordings more than 18 months old having been put into writing and approved, may be destroyed.”
  Ward has consistently sought more transparency from the board to the public with regards to closed session meetings since taking her seat in 2015. As part of that effort for greater transparency, Ward has opposed the destruction of closed session recordings and she also stated that one of the meeting minutes approved was not fully accurate.
  “I appreciate the progress that we’ve made in making closed session minutes available to the public,” Ward said. “I’d like us to also do that with recordings and examine what recordings could be released to the public.”
  Ward added: “I’m not going to vote to destroy any recordings, and furthermore I don’t think that the Feb. 3, 2018 minutes accurately reflect what happened in that particular closed session.”
  The Feb. 3 meeting referenced was a board self-evaluation which stirred some controversy at the time as the board’s majority crafted board member agreements which specifically targeted Ward to attempt to silence her, members of the majority admitting to that when the agreements were approved in March. Ward also opposed self-evaluations being held behind closed doors as the previous year the board held such a meeting in public.
  At a Feb. 5 closed session meeting, the board for the first time began “discussing what could be made public” from closed session meetings Ward stated at the time.
  Board member Phil Costello has consistently sided with Ward regarding more transparency, but he did vote for the July 23 resolution.
  In November 2016, the board approved a change to its policy concerning closed session meetings. At the time, both Costello and Ward argued for an open and transparent government and that nearly all of board discussions held in closed session should be made public except for those legally required to remain confidential, such as student disciplinary discussions.
  The change to that policy came from a legal necessity to do so as prior to the change the board’s majority not only denied access to closed session information to the public but also fellow board members. The board’s majority, along with the U-46 administration, claimed board members did not have a right to access that information and denied access to minority members, Ward specifically, to it until the Illinois General Assembly unanimously approved a bill clarifying that local elected officials always had the civil right to access such information.





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