There are two important meetings scheduled for Monday, March 24, that we encourage community members, parents and teachers to attend. Unfortunately, the meeting times have some overlap that may make in impossible for interested persons to attend both.
The first meeting, announced on March 17, is the superintendent search focus group led by BWP (the search firm). This meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Elm School. The purpose of the focus group (as stated on the D181 website) is "to further capture staff and parent input in the search process" beyond that obtained through the BWP survey.
The second meeting is a Special Board Meeting that will also be held at Elm School beginning at 7:30 p.m. This meeting was first announced to the public on March 21 in an email communication sent out by the Director of Communications.
The announcement stated that "[t]he meeting will begin at 7:30 to allow time for those interested in attending the Superintendent Search Focus Group at 7:00 p.m. to attend both events."
Nice attempt to dodge the criticism the BOE must have known would result by choosing to meet during the focus group. Does anyone really believe that the focus group will start promptly at 7 pm and then conclude within 30 minutes? If so, how interested is BWP or the board in providing a meaningful amount of time to gather input from community members? Even if only a few parents show up, 30 minutes is hardly enough time to let each person speak.
No, it is painfully obvious to us that the BOE intended to create this conflict and intentionally scheduled both meetings at the same time in order to keep the attendance down at its board meeting. You might ask, why would the BOE do this? Well, here are the reasons we have come up with:
The last few meetings have been very well attended by parents willing to step up and make public comments critical of the board, administration and the Learning for All Plan. By creating a scheduling conflict, it is likely more parents will choose to attend the focus group and stay away from the board meeting.
While there are only 2 items on the agenda for the special meeting (click to open agenda posted on Board Docs), Amended School Calendar and Personnel, both items are somewhat controversial and we are sure the board would prefer to address them quickly and quietly.
The Amended School Calendar is up for final approval. It will result in Hinsdale Middle School students attending school on Good Friday, while the rest of the district has the day off. There may be some parents who oppose this plan, but if given the choice between making a public comment at 7:30 or providing input for the superintendent search at 7, most parents will likely forgo attending the board meeting.
While we do not know what the Personnel item is, we can make a pretty good guess. The board must publicly approve the renewal of Administrator Contracts on or before April 1, or they will automatically be renewed after that date. Up for renewal are all of the Central Office administrators, the principals, assistant principals, deans and PPS administrators. We hope that the board will be formally voting on these contracts at this meeting, since no other meeting is currently scheduled to take place before April 1. Each board member should be allowed to vote yes or no on each administrator.
Parents have been quite vocal on this blog, and in letters sent to the board, about their desire that one or more administrator contracts not be renewed. We will not identify those administrators in this post, but we agree that change is needed in some of the Central Administrative positions. As a result of the public criticism, it is clear that by scheduling these overlapping meetings, the board is hoping to deter public comments relating to the administrator contracts.
Wouldn't it have been possible for Board President Turek and Dr. Schuster to pick any other date between Monday, March 24 and April 1 to hold their Special Meeting? If not, wouldn't it be possible to begin the meeting at 8 or 8:30 pm to allow people to attend both meetings?
In our opinion, not doing so is simply the latest in a series of attempts by Mr. Turek and Dr. Schuster to stifle open government and transparency. While the district can look forward to a new beginning (of sorts) on July 1 with the hiring of a new superintendent, there is also the BOE officers election to be held during the annual Organizational Meeting (in late April or early May)(Click to open Board Policy 2:110.) We hope at that time a new board president will be chosen. The non-renewal of some administrators is not the only change needed in D181.