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Costello offers ideas to new District U-46 board

By Seth Hancock
  Phil Costello, an outgoing Board of Education member in School District U-46, has offered his top 10 recommendations for the new board “for what it’s worth.”
  Costello, who did not seek reelection, offered his thoughts on how to better the board’s relationship with the public and with the administration, which it is charged with holding accountable, in a blog post.
  “Most of these reflect earlier suggestions while others were never going to be seriously contemplated,” Costello wrote.
  Incumbents Sue Kerr and John Devereux, who was appointed to his current seat, and newcomers Eva Porter and Kate Thommes will be seated at a special board meeting on Tuesday, April 30 which will be the final meeting as board members for Costello and Jeanette Ward. Originally, the new board was to be seated at the regular meeting on Monday, May, 6.
  Ward, via a social media post, wrote: “This is changed from the originally scheduled May 6th meeting because IL law requires that ‘within 28 days after the consolidated election,’ ‘the board shall organize by electing its officers.’ Usually the first Tuesday in April (election day) doesn’t fall so early, so the 1st Monday in May is normally sufficient. But not this time.”
  For Costello, his recommendations center mostly around attempting to get more public input, especially taxpayers, and the board taking control over the agenda over the administration’s control.
  Costello has previously implied that the board’s agenda is set by the administration, not by the board.
  At a February town hall meeting, Costello said: “(The administration) need(s) a board, a strong board, that acts like the employers that we should be. And it’s a give and take, it’s not just a one-way street.”
  Costello recommends that each board member host at least an annual town hall in different areas of the district. He noted that 60 to 75 percent of property tax bills go to fund U-46, and the general taxpayer deserves more of a chance to have a say.
  For regularly scheduled board meetings, Costello suggests a change in format that could provide more public interactions.
  “Change the format of the first Board meeting of the month or at least one per quarter to focus on the public by lengthening the public comment session and holding hearings with state and federal representatives,” Costello wrote. “Questions concerning U-46 could be directed at attendees to offer the public insights into public policy by those charged with protecting our interests. Too often, the District insulates itself from the outside politics that directly relates to U-46 residents and taxpayers.”
  Agendas should be set at least a week in advance, Costello recommends, in order to give more time to digest the material it will be staked to question and vote on. Currently, board members have only a weekend to study the agenda prior to a board meeting.
  “Without adequate advance notice, Board members will defer on proper vetting due to limited time and out of respect for staff’s investment,” Costello wrote.
  Costello suggests that the district should promote strengthening the economy locally when possible by giving some preference to local businesses when entering into contracts.
  U-46 should better utilize its properties, like buildings and buses, “to better serve the local community and create earned income opportunities with higher utilization,” according to Costello.
  Regarding legal and financial services, Costello suggests the district should seek more competition.
  “Most of the financial and legal services are fixed with long-term, unchallenged business relationships that are not subject to competitive conditions,” Costello wrote.
  The board should focus the district on negotiating for merit based contracts rather than automatic pay raises Costello stated.
  “Focus contracts on individual value of services provided measured by supervisors in performance evaluations and demonstrated positive outcomes rather than arbitrary increases based on length of employment,” Costello wrote.
  Costello suggested the board push for more balance within the curriculum.
  “Broaden perspective to recognize the historical role and reliance on; capitalists, entrepreneurs and military leaders that contributed to our nation’s greatness,” Costello wrote. “Too often, the focus is critical on the achievements of successful individuals who have amassed wealth and ignores the impact on socio-economic engines to benefit society as a whole.”
  Costello recommends that a disclaimer be added to the district’s website on the schedule of staff salary and benefits page because it currently is “misleading” as he noted approximately only 60 percent of compensation is included with many employees not included at all, and “most employees on the list have multiple sources of U-46 compensation beyond the amount listed.”
  Annually the district should publish a one-page dashboard “of high-level critical success factors (what we need to do) and key performance indicators (targeted, benchmarked performance when we’re at our best) that provides the public with clear and objective evidence of return on investment,” Costello recommends.




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