#12: Mr. Turek does not believe in open governance for “others” as mandated by Illinois law. As we discussed in our November 3, 2013 post (click to open post), one of the"absurdities" that took place during the October 28, 2013 board meeting was Turek pontificating on his plans to meet with Illinois Representative Patricia Bellock to ask for reform of the Freedom of Information Act in order to limit the public’s right to access public records. If you haven't listened to the Podcast of the meeting, we encourage you all to listen to the FOIA discussion that took place. It begins at 2:15:20 (or with 8:05 left) on the time counter. It is important to hear how ignorant Turek is about the realities of the Freedom of Information Act and the reforms that the Illinois legislators implemented in 2010 to EXPAND, not LIMIT, the public's right to access public records. Illinois legislators realized that there was a need for more "sunshine"laws (as FOIA laws are commonly called), not darkness! Mr. Turek said: "I, as a board member, and possibly as a individual am going to be contacting Representative Patti Bellock who has historically spearheaded FOIA reform to get us out of this business of FOIA reports that take up our staff 60+ hours and over $4,000." In our opinion, Turek is exactly the kind of public official that FOIA reform was intended to protect the public from, rather than see re-elected into office.
Running List of the Daily Reasons:
Reason #1: Four years ago the Hinsdale Caucus got it right when they did not endorse Mr. Turek.
Reason #2: As the board president for the last 2 years, Mr. Turek's job has been to preside over the board meetings, however, his actual authority during said meetings is no greater than the other six board members. (Board Policy 2:110.) Rather than facilitate discussions during the meetings, listen to and take his fellow board members' opinions on issues into consideration, he has attacked them and tried to shut them down. Case in point, suggesting during the 12/9/13 board meeting that well respected Board Member Brendan Heneghan was going down a "rat hole" when he suggested there should be a curriculum committee similar to the finance committee. Less than one year later, a curriculum committee called the Learning Committee has been formed. We guess Mr. Turek got it wrong when he called Mr. Heneghan out.
Reason #3: Mr. Turek failed to oppose Dr. White's promotion of Kurt Schneider into the position of SOLE Assistant Superintendent of Learning, on July 8, 2014 (or at any meeting since then). (Link to 7/8/14 Superintendent's report.) Schneider is now responsible for both the curriculum and special education departments. In our opinion, D181's curriculum chaos is the direct result of the lack of true leadership in the Department of Learning and Mr. Turek's support of poor leadership decisions evidences his inability to act in the best interests of D181's students. We would be remiss in failing to point out that one reason Mr. Turek failed to publicly oppose Dr. White's critical organizational change in the Learning Department was because he did not even attend the 7/8/14 board meeting, the only board meeting scheduled last July.
Reason #4: During his tenure on the BOE, Mr. Turek approved Dawn Benaitis' promotion from principal of Monroe School to Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction in the Department of Learning. He also approved her raises. As we previously reported, in less than three years (from 2012-2013 to the 2014-2015 school year), Benaitis' base salary increased 18.8% from $109,660 to $130,250. Further, despite community concerns regarding Ms. Benaitis, on May 29, 2014, Turek voted to approve a multi-year contract for her. (Sources: 3/18/13 Consent Agenda, 5/6/13 Consent Agenda, 3/24/14 Personnel consent agenda, Benaitis Multi-year contract) In our 6/4/14 Post we raised serious concerns about the multi-year contracts, including Benaitis', that Turek voted to approve on 5/29/14. More on that tomorrow......Until then, in our opinion, Mr. Turek's votes to approve outrageous raises and promotions for Benaitis are further examples of poor leadership decisions that establish Turek's inability to act in the best interests of D181's students.
Reason #5: In our opinion, Mr. Turek showed a lack of fiduciary duty and disregard of D181 taxpayers, when he voted (on 5/29/14) to approve multi-year contracts for 6 administrators that had effective dates of 5/30/14 (during the 2013-2014 school year). See 6/4/14 Post. As we explained in that post, the beginning date of the multi-year contracts was May 30, 2014, just one day after they were approved and overlapped with those administrators' 2013-2014 contracts approved on 3/18/13. Benaitis, for example, was given a multi-year contract that had a term of 3 years and 1 month, with an end date of 6/30/17. Click to open 5/29/14 agenda item with links to each contract. In our opinion, by approving multi-year contracts that overlapped with existing contracts, Mr. Turek (and the BOE majority) circumvented the intent of the Illinois Pension Reform Act for existing staff, negatively Impacting D181 taxpayers. How? Under the Illinois pension reform act, pensionable salary is capped at $110,000 OR the highest salary specified at the end of an administrator's contract in effect on May 31, 2014. By starting the new multi-year contracts prior to 5/31, the administrators' pensionable salary will be based on the highest salary specified in the last year of each of their contracts. By entering into multi-year contracts with a start date of 5/30/14, rather than 7/1/14, the administrators avoided having their pensionable salaries be their lower 2013-2014 salaries, as would otherwise have been required under the pension reform law. Instead, their pensions will be based upon their highest salary contracted during the term of the contract. This will directly impact D181 and all Illinois taxpayers whose taxpayer dollars fund the pensions. This will cost everyone more money to fund the existing administrators' pensions in direct contravention of the intent of Illinois legislators whose intent was to "stop the bleeding" by capping pensionable salaries. Is this really what our taxpayers want?(Note: On 11/21/14, an Illinois court struck down the pension reform act. It is unclear at this time what impact the ruling will have, if any, on the existing administrators' pensionable salary calculation when they eventually retire. However, when Mr. Turek voted on the overlapping contracts, the negative impact to the taxpayers was clear and he approved them anyway.) (Click to open Chicago Suntimes article.)
Reason #6: As we reported in an earlier post, we are concerned that Mr. Turek does not adequately prepare for meetings or spend the necessary time reviewing and reflecting on board materials in order to be able to participate in a meaningful way. During the 9/9/13 meeting, Turek, referring to his review of the annual ISAT data presentation included in the Board docs for that meeting, stated “I hope my boss isn’t listening because I read it today at work.” His “admission” was greeted with laughter by some of his fellow board members and administrators. Board members receive their meeting materials via Board Docs at least the weekend before a Monday meeting so they have time to review and prepare. We know from past board discussions that members are urged to submit questions they have to the superintendent by Monday morning. How reflective can Turek be, especially in his role as the board president, when he waits until the day of a meeting to review board materials, and then does so while he is supposed to be working? The community should elect members who are willing to adequately prepare for meetings, not do so at the last minute and not shirk their other responsibilities in the process.
Reason #7: Mr. Turek has violated the board agreement that all board members are to have the same information from the Superintendent. One example we discussed in an earlier post was that during the 8/26/13 board meeting, Turek acknowledged that he had known ahead of time that during the summer, 7 administrators had attended an all expense paid trip to a Social Justice Institute in Milwaukee at which Dr. Schneider was a presenter, and which at least one board member asserted could have been given internally, saving the district and D181 taxpayers thousands of dollars. (See: Meeting minutes.) In spite of the board agreement that the seven board members agreed to follow, Turek did not share the information he received from Dr. Schuster. By not correcting Dr. Schuster's violation of not providing all board members the same information, Turek also violated the agreement and showed a lack of respect towards his fellow board members.
Reason #8: Mr. Turek has been absent from critical board meetings. For example, he missed the November 24, 2014 Board Meeting at which the board discussed Dr. White's 2013-2014 Achievement and Goals Review Presentation. As we explained in our 11/25 post, last year the board approved 3 performance goals that it directed the administration to track and assess at the start of this school year. At the 11/24 board meeting, the administration finally presented the board with its formal report on the indicators tracked and measured to determine if the 3 goals were met. In addition, the administration presented this year's individual School Improvement Plans. As the Board president, Turek works directly with Dr. White to set the meeting agendas. Turek scheduled these two important matters on a date that created a conflict for principals and parents who might want to attend, but could not due to parent teacher conferences or Thanksgiving travel plans. Even worse, in our opinion by failing to attend and particpate in the meeting, Turek showed a complete disregard to his board member duties spelled out in Board Policy 2:020 and in particular Subsection 10 that requires a board member to "[e]valuat[e] the educational program and approv[e] School Improvement and District Improvement Plans. Presenting the District report card and School report card(s) to parents/guardians and the community; these documents report District, School and student performance." Why was Turek absent? Was he on vacation? Was he attending evening parent teacher conferences, rather than schedule his for the next day? Turek could have directed Dr. White to schedule these agenda items for another date much earlier in the school year, rather than the last meeting in November during a week that guaranteed poor attendance by the community and apparently by him. The board needs members and a president who will comply with the board policies and schedule agenda items in a manner that will promote transparency and community, staff and board member participation.
Reason #9: Mr. Turek is rude to community members who attempt to participate at board meetings as committee members or who wish to make public comments. He conveniently "forgets" that board meeting procedure allows for public comment at the end of each board meeting. One example was during the 8/26/13 Board Meeting at which the Board attempted to set the performance goals it wanted the administration to track and measure. As we previously reported, a committee had been formed to develop the goals and included a community member, Matt Bousquette, who is highly respected in our community and currently serves as the D181 Foundation President. Despite his service on the committee, and Member Heneghan's and Garg's requests that he be allowed to address the full board regarding the administration's recommended goals, which Mr. Bousquette believed were inconsistent with those developed by the committee. The administration and Turek (who as president runs the meetings), denied him permission to address the full board during the goals discussion. Not only did Turek refuse to acknowledge Mr. Bousquette and give him a forum to speak, at the end of the meeting, Turek attempted to adjourn the meeting without allowing public comment. Fortunately, this did not happen and Mr. Bousquette finally had an opportunity to express his concerns, albeit, not in a timely manner that allowed the board to his issues during their goal's discussion. Mr. Bouquette pointed out that refusing to allow him to participate during the discussion, and question the administration's recommendations that did not match those developed by the committee, proved that the committee a "sham." Appointing a parent to a committee, only to prevent his full participation and then to treat him with disrespect at the public meeting at which the committee's work is discussed, is the polar opposite of involvement, does not create an environment of trust and is precisely what Mr. Bousquette called it -- a "sham." The community deserves to have board members who respect all community members, especially those who provide a public service by participating on committees, take time to attend board meetings and desire to make public comments. In our opinion, Turek's action show his disdain for community member input and establish yet another reason why he should not be reelected.
Reason #10: In our opinion, Turek has made no effort to accommodate community members' requests to participate meaningfully in community engagement opportunities; in the process he has violated board policy by failing to ask his fellow board members what their positions are before he announces "board" decisions. One example was at the 10/17/13 board meeting which was run as a round table "Visioning Workshop." Participation during the "workshop" was by administrative invitation only, although public comments were allowed at the beginning of the meeting. (See Post on the 10/17/13 board meeting.) During public comment, one parent asked the board to allow community members who were in attendance to join a workshop table. Another community and former school board member, Ann Mueller, asked to be allowed to join a round table as a member of the Facilities Committee, pointing out that there would be room at one of the tables, since Board Member Michael Nelson, who was also on the Facilities Committee, was absent again. At the conclusion of all comments, without seeking input from any of the other board members, Turek simply denied the requests, saying it would not be possible to add additional chairs to the round tables. His rationale for denying the request was proven false by community members who stayed at the meeting and reported that there were empty seats at some of the tables. Turek's failure to accommodate any of the non-invitees and allow them to fill empty seats at the workshop tables, along with his complete lack of engagement with his fellow board members to seek their opinion on the public's requests, show that Turek has assumed powers and authority not allowed by Board Policy 2:110. That policy states that while the president "presides" over the meetings, "[t]he President is permitted to participate in all Board meetings in a manner equal to all other Board members" and does not afford him the right to make individual decisions. The community deserves a board of SEVEN EQUAL members, all with the same decision making authority, not a board member that behaves as if he has more authority than the rest.
Reason #11: At the same time that Mr. Turek has limited the public's ability to participate in a meaningful way during board meetings (see #9 and #10) and shown that he waits till the last minute to prepare for meetings (see #6), he has also downplayed the importance of people's actual participation in meetings. Case in point, at the same 10/17/13 board meeting referenced in #10, he made the following (in our opinion) inappropriate statement: "I am confident that everybody had something better to do tonight than to come here but I do appreciate it." We couldn't believe the board president would actually make such a ridiculous statement. Is it too much to believe that all of the community members, teachers, PTO presidents, Finance Committee members, administrators and other hand picked invitees actually wanted to be at the meeting and viewed it as a priority? We do believe that everyone who participated in the round table discussions took their job seriously and if they showed up, they wanted to be there. Perhaps the disrespect Mr. Turek showed them in his comment was reflective of his own lackadaisical attitude towards participating as a board member, an attitude that no board member should have if they really want to be reelected.