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U-46 Board conducts policy review at meeting

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 held a policy review at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 15.
  Miguel Rodriguez, chief legal officer, wrote in a memo that a committee meeting was held to discuss changes to Section 1 concerning school district organization, Section 2 regarding school board and Section 3 regarding general school administration of the board’s policy. Recommended changes will likely be voted on at the Nov. 5 meeting.
  Board member Jeanette Ward chaired the committee meeting and said the changes to Sections 1 and 3 were “minor” and “pretty self explanatory,” Rodriguez saying “very, very minor changes.” Most of the discussion came under changes to Section 2.
  Changes to Section 2.128 came with disagreement concerning school board member code of conduct.
  Language was added to the section to state board members would support “educational programs which meet the individual needs of each student regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ancestry, marital status, disability, or any other legally protected status.”
  Ward suggested the policy “merely” state board members would “meet the individual needs of every student” without dividing students by subgroups.
  Board member Sue Kerr said she and board member Veronica Noland, who was not in attendance at the Oct. 15 meeting, both approved of the division of students at the committee meeting.
  “If we don’t name the list of classes there, if the list changed (under law) we wouldn’t have to change our code of conduct,” Ward said. “It is simpler to say that we will ‘meet the individual needs of every student.’”
  Similar reasoning was given for a change in another policy discussed that evening which the board unanimously agreed with, but none supported Ward’s suggestion for Section 2.128. However, along with Noland board members Donna Smith and Phil Costello, who did join the meeting via phone later, were not in attendance for the discussion.
  Board member Melissa Owens asked where the list of subgroups came from and Rodriguez said it was a suggestion from the Illinois Association of School Boards and was “a reflection of the law” and the district’s policy. Owen and board member John Devereux both said they supported keeping the list of subgroups in.
  Earlier, the board discussed a change to Section 2.110 concerning board officers which would allow board members to attend meetings via phone without a board vote if they are absent for “good reason as defined in the Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA).” Current practice for the board is to vote.
  Owens asked why the language solely deferred to the OMA rather than listing “good reason” (i.e. work-related absence) to which Ward said “in case the (OMA) changes, then we don’t have to change our policy.”
  Also changed in that section as well as a change to Section 2.210, board organizational meeting, would define that the board “assigns the duties of secretary to the Chief Legal Officer or his designee who shall serve at the discretion of the Board for an indefinite term” and the “treasurer shall hold Chief School Business Official credentials and shall serve at the discretion of the Board for an indefinite term.” Jeff King, chief operations officer, is the board’s current treasurer and Rodriguez the secretary.
  Currently the board votes on treasurer and secretary every year when it votes on board officers.
  “We’re not officers of the board so there is no need to elect us every year,” Rodriguez said.
  Ward said the advantage to the change was that it would save time on the nominating and voting process every year and the board would also be able to dismiss the treasurer or secretary at any time with the change if the board is unhappy, but she added she was “not anticipating” that currently.
  A change to Section 2.141, communications to the board, adds that board members “shall use their District issued email accounts to send messages concerning Board matters, and shall also provide this address for purposes of receiving messages related to Board matters.”
  Rodriguez said that the previous language was “not clear enough” and “personal email is for personal business.”
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said: “To be clear, the board members don’t conduct business via email… but when communicating with me essentially what you’re saying is that the board and the superintendent relationship would be conducted when using email through the U-46 email accounts, not personal email accounts.”
  Ward suggested the policy state “may” rather than “shall” copy the CEO/superintendent on emails.
  “I don’t think we have to have it in our policy that we ‘must’ copy our CEO” under the OMA, Ward said.
  Kerr and Owens agreed, Owens saying often board members receive emails with a “short thank you.” Sanders said he didn’t expect all responses to constituents be emailed to him but rather operational issues like bus route problems, and Rodriguez said he’d “make the change.”
  A change to Section 2.152, advisory committees to the board, would strike the word citizen from sentences stating that advisory committees and advisory groups can provide reports to the board. Ward said it was a clarification to note that all committees were able to address the board in an advisory role and not only the Citizens’ Advisory Council.
  A change to Section 2.160, chief legal officer, defines that the CEO and board’s president “are each authorized to confer with and/or seek legal advice of the Chief Legal Officer on behalf of the Board of Education.” Rodriguez said that previously there was “very unclear language” and this change is “essentially a restatement of what the law” states.
  There were 23 other sections under Section 2 with proposed changes that were not discussed, mostly with edits to “mirror state law” or clean up language according to Rodriguez’s memo.



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