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Parents Rebuke School Board Over Recent Closed Meetings

District 308 Board President Bill Walsh said human error to blame for lack of mandated recordings of closed sessions.

The Board heard from upset parents Thursday night over what some say are recent violations of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

At issue is the lack of audio recording of closed session meetings in recent weeks in which the board has interviewed candidates for open administrative positions. The Illinois Open Meetings Act requires public bodies to audiotape or videotape all closed meetings.

Before another such meeting Thursday night, Board President Bill Walsh said human error led to recordings not being made for closed session meetings dated April 14, 16, 19, 20, and 21.

“I acknowledge that the tape recordings didn’t work,” he said. “But I can assure you that it wasn’t on purpose.”

Walsh said minutes were taken by him during the meetings and he plans to present them to the board for approval at its May 7 meeting. When asked if he was concerned with possible violations of the act or if he feared an investigation into the matter, Walsh reiterated only human error was at play.

“I understand that we are all human and make mistakes,” said parent Karin McCarthy-Lange during public comment. “I can even accept that this could happen once or twice, but the fact that it happened at all five meetings when the only person taking minutes is a board member is completely unacceptable.”

Thursday night’s meeting was called to interview more candidates for the Assistant Superintendent of Administration to replace the outgoing Todd Colvin. Like other recent closed meetings, no members of the district’s administration were present for the interviews.

Parent Mary Zarembski, who last week started an online petition asking for board officers to step aside, told the board the lack of current administrative input on new hires was troublesome.

“Given that the administrative staff will be working with the new assistant superintendent on a daily basis, does the board feel it would be in the best interest of the district to afford the candidates and staff the same opportunity?” she asked.  

Besides Colvin’s position, the board also is currently searching for a replacement for retiring Assistant Superintendent for Learning Marsha Hollis and Superintendent Dan O’Donnell, who resigned in February. 

Robyn Vickers May 07, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Quote: "I don’t think the our country’s founders who developed The Constitution and The Bill of Rights ever thought that freedom of speech would be used by anyone who would not use their lawful name." The third most important document in American history is considered to be the Federalist Papers, which were published in 1787-1788 under the under the pseudonym "Publius." Since the authors were later found out to be Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, I'm guessing at least three of our founding fathers wouldn't have an issue with people not using their "lawful name." As for the rest of your posts, since I don't keep a spreadsheet of people I agree and disagree with, I really can't say whether or not those in support of this petition were in favor of the third high school or if they've ever complained about their taxes. In any case, people are entitled to change their minds and/or voice their opinions. Ain't America grand?
Walt Hines May 07, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Lee, I appreciate your opinions and comments. If the BOE was interviewing or discussing a possible new employee then it would have been okay to do this in private? Do they still need to record that meeting or no because it's regarding personnel? Sorry for questions that might seem ignorant but I'm at my wits end trying to make heads and tails out of this one. I agree that the last BOE spent like fools. Yes we had the kids coming but I think we let the cart get ahead of the horse. I'm all for education but it needs to be done within our means. I've always been able to pay my bills and patronize the businesses but the taxes are killing me. $400.00 this year $800.00 next, when does it end. I can't continue and have no choice but to walk away. Thanks for your time and ear!
Just Sayin May 08, 2012 at 04:45 PM
I agree with you, Mike! Why are the Oswego School District boundaries so big?? We have students from Aurora, Joliet, Plainfield, Montgomery...when I went to OHS, all we Oswego kids had was other kids from Boulder Hill. I have always thought Montgomery should get their own schools, they want to be a big city and compete with Oswego for business and housing, they should get their own school district and build their own schools!!! Let's change the boundary!
Leland H. Hoffer May 10, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Robyn, Enjoyed meeting you after the BOE meeting Mon. You point regarding the authors of the Federalist Papers is correct; however, since there were three authors we don't know if all three or the publishers made the decision to use Publius as the author. I will conseed that it is an example of using a pseudonym. Walt, All closed meetings are required to be recorded by the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, (IFOIA). There is little to be gained by recording personnel interview if there is no action taken but the requirement still exists. You seem to realize that the tax increases we are now seeing are a result of the overly optimistic revenue projections, (that did not materialize), which was required to support the building and operation of the many schools built. This year 27% of the school tax is for bond and interest and is 1.81 of the 6.67 tax rate. Bond and Interest is not a capped by the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, PTELLL, which explains why the tax rate is more than 5.00%. I sympathize with everyone having difficulty because of these taxes. Give me a call I would enjoy talking with you.
Herm May 11, 2012 at 07:18 PM
On the subject of 5 meetings without proper recording devices, the school district has a LARGE staff that works on computers and other technical divices. Their job is to keep these things operating. After the first failure, where was the phone call, e-mail or whatever to get the thing up and running. The main thought is that there should not have been any more closed door sessions until the recorder was back on line. Common sense!!!!

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