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Two split votes among various U-46 approvals

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved several items, two by split votes, at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 15.
  Both the personnel report and workers’ compensation cases as well as closed session meeting minutes and audio destruction were approved by 3-1 votes, board member Jeanette Ward voting no. Board members Phil Costello, Veronica Noland and Donna Smith were absent. Costello did later join the meeting via phone.
  Regarding the personnel report and workers’ compensation cases, Ward said: “The personnel report includes a number of new positions, and I have expressed before that I don’t agree with the expanding of operations.”
  In March, both Costello and Ward voted against the same item. Both cited the same reason on the expansion of operations.
  Costello said at the time: “We do have to look at any avenue possible. I think that these are things that should be challenged any time we can to make sure that we are advancing this organization understanding that we’re in a very tight financial burden.”
  The Fiscal Year 2019 budget approved in September hiked spending by $40.2 million with an increase of $21.9 million in salaries and benefits alone. That included 54 new positions despite a projected 1.9 percent decline in enrollment this year, a trend over the last three years and projected to continue for the foreseeable future.
  Both Costello and Ward were the only dissenting votes on that budget, board member John Devereux was absent. Ward said she didn’t support “expanding operations while enrollment is declining” as part of her opposition.
  For the Oct. 15 vote on closed session minutes, the board approved the minutes of 10 total meetings from April 13 to Aug. 6 of this year as well as the destruction of closed session audio recordings for 25 meetings from July 18, 2016 to June 19, 2017.
  There was no discussion on whether any of the audio could be released to the public with Sue Kerr, the board’s vice president fulfilling the role of President Smith for the meeting, stating “the need for confidentiality still exists.”
  “I believe we should be reviewing that audio so that it could be released to the public, the parts that are not confidential,” Ward said. “I don’t agree with the audio being destroyed, and I’ve said that before.”
  Ward has sought more transparency from closed session meetings since taking her seat in 2015.
  Approved by a 4-0 vote that evening was an itemized bills list totaling $5.9 million.


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