SD 227

SD 227

These are the LWVPFA observer reports of Rich Township High School District 227

Board (10/21/10) | Board (11/16/10) | Board (11/4/10) | Board (10/7/10) | Board (9/21/10) | Board (9/9/10) | Board 8/17/10) | Board (7/20/10) | Board (6/15/10) | Board (4/20/10) | Board (4/6/10) | Board (3/4/10) | Board (2/16/10) | Board (2/4/10) | Board (1/12/10) | Board (12/15/09)

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting Dec 21, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The regular board meeting was called to order at 7:37 pm by VP Brunson. In attendance were Vice-President Tony Brunson, Secretary Jacqueline Upshaw, members Betty Owens, Emmanuel Imoukhuede, and Alyssa Hernandez. President Sonya Norwood and Dr David Morgan were absent. Superintendent Donna Simpson Leak also sat with the board. The meeting was held in the auditorium of Rich South High School. A special meeting had proceeded this meeting.

There were about 50 people in the audience so the auditorium was a larger venue than needed. The agenda, with details of the subject being discussed, was projected on a screen on the stage where the board and staff members sat (a long distance from the audience). The distance made the projected information difficult to read.

After the pledge, roll call, and board goals, the Director of Communications of Aunt Martha's gave a lengthy presentation information on their programs. It was noted that the district's students benefit from Aunt Martha's services.

The consent agenda, including meeting minutes, bill payment, and "personnel items," was approved.

Citizens were then recognized to speak. Several, including two students, complained about the treatment of a Coach Oliver Speller who was recently relieved of his coaching duties. Mr Brunson explained that personnel issues are not addressed in the public portion of meetings in order to protect the employee's privacy.

Dr. McDonald, Director of Human Resources, then gave a staffing update, including a time table for hiring a new principal for Rich Central.

Next on the agenda was Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations, Ilandus Hampton. Prior to Mr Hampton's report Mrs Owens moved to table the last agenda item he was to propose, a recommendation for approving the supplier for three 10-passenger vans. He then requested adoption of the 2010 tax levy as proposed in November, which the board did. He also requested resolutions to instruct the county clerk how to apportion the levy and the distribution of property tax receipts, which were passed. Finally, resolutions were requested and passed regarding continuing tax abatements for businesses for which the abatements had been committed earlier. There was then discussion of the practice of giving tax abatements.

Dr. Norrell then requested approval of new courses and approval of the Rising Star reports.

Dr. Leak reported of FOIA requests, a recent parent coffee, and the advisory council meetings. She also reported on Jesse Jackson, Sr's visit and performances and invitations for the Rich South Jazz Quartet and Rich Central band.

Vice President Brunson gave the first reading of the proposed board policy on food allergy management. He reported on the coffee with the board on Saturday 12/11. Mr. Imoukhuede expressed displeasure with the poor attendance.

Under unfinished business a statement was read regarding the district's investigation of the "St. John incident," including the information that the person who took the picture of Mr. Rainey is being disciplined and that the matter is considered closed. The full statement can be read on the district's website.

Under new business, the board approved a notice of remedy regarding Employee B and the expulsion of Student B. Other announcements were made.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:24 pm.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting Nov 16, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The regular board meeting was called to order at 7:30 pm. In attendance were President Sonya Norwood, Vice-President Tony Brunson, Secretary Jacqueline Upshaw, members Betty Owens, Emmanuel Imoukhuede, David Morgan, and Alyssa Hernandez. Superintendent Donna Simpson Leak also sat with the board The meeting was held in the Media Center of Rich Central High School at 7:30 pm. A special meeting had proceeded this meeting in a different room.

There were about 35 people in the audience. The agenda, with details of the subject being discussed, was projected on a screen at the front of the room. After the pledge, roll call, and board goals, Dr. Leak announced that 11/15 had been School Board Appreciation Day for which the board had been recognized by two communities. She read a declaration of appreciation for the board.

Next Sargeant First Class Charles Alexander, III, a SD 227 alumni, who is serving our country, was recognized. Dr. Leak announced future Novembers will be used to honor alumni service personnel and veterans.

The consent agenda was approved unanimously without discussion.

During the public forum Jeff Cusic questioned the agenda showing this as "public comment on agenda items." He was told this was a misprint -- comments on any subject are to heard at this point in the agenda (only).

Mr. Mnyofu then spoke about having been harrassed for passing out informational flyers. He stated that Dr. Leak had requested Olympia Fields police intervention. He then began yelling about Mr. Imoukhuede's driving and told him to "go back to Nigeria." He even kept shouting over Dr. Leak's explanation. He was helped to calm down and allowed to remain in the meeting room.

After Dr. McDonald introduced a new teacher, Ass't Superintendent for Finance, Ilandus Hampton explained the 2010 tentative tax levy. As the proposed levy of $47,337,000 is only 4.9% greater than the previous year's tax extension, no truth in taxation hearing is required. He proposed the board approve the tentative levy at the meeting, with a plan to adopt the levy at the 12/21 meeting. Mr. Imoukhuede (speaking without a microphone) asked if a referendum was required, to which Mr Hampton said, "no." A motion to approve the tentative levy passed with no further discussion.

The Superintendent's report and the President's report both were primarily about new efforts to connect with the community -- parent coffee, board coffee, and community forums. All were reportedly very successful.

Mrs. Owens also reported on the closing ceremony for Snowball II with which she was very impressed. There was discussion about the value of this program and of how funding can be found to continue it in light of the current funding source not being available in the future.

Mrs. Owens also mentioned having attended the opening of the Richton Park Community Center which prompted informal discussion of the anticipated opening of the center in Matteson which is for have an indoor track. The board would like to see the track made available to SD 227 students.

As there was no request for closed session, the meeting was adjourned.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting Nov 4, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The regular meeting of the board was scheduled to be held in the Media Center of Rich Central High School, beginning at 7:30 pm. However, a special meeting had been called for the same location beginning at 6:30 pm in order to go directly into executive session to discuss disciplinary and/or legal matters (as shown on the agenda available on the website).

At 8 pm the board returned to the Media Center to begin the regular board meeting. In attendance were Secretary Jacqueline Upshaw, members Betty Owens, Emmanuel Imoukhuede, David Morgan, and Alyssa Hernandez. Vice-President Tony Brunson was also in attendance and chaired the meeting due to the absence of President Sonya Norwood. Also at the front table was Superintendent Donna Simpson Leak.

The room was very full with about 100 people in the audience, over half of whom were students. Some board members and other speakers used functioning microphones; others didn't. This observer could adequately hear all speakers except Mr. Imoukhuede. The agenda, with details of the subject being discussed, was projected on a screen at the front of the room. Most, but not all, attendees could see it.

Mr. Brunson began by thanking attendees for their patience. The pledge and roll call followed. (I had expected resumption of the special meeting for a vote on decisions made in the closed session but that was done under item 15, "Return to Open Session....")

Board goals were announced and principals from each campus recognized outstanding students and teachers. Rich East's student of the month was the entire Student Council which explained some of the students being there.

Noteworthy in the reports from student representatives was Jamille Jamison of Rich Central including her feeling that protesters at the school are disrupting the learning environment and that the students are supportive of the teachers there.

The consent agenda was approved and Mr Brunson announced that "students are excused," although many remained.

Item #5 on the agenda was Public Forum. This observer was surprised to learn that the two public comment agenda items from past meeting agendas had been merged. Although I had attended the previous publicly announced board meeting and heard discussion of this as a possibility, I hadn't heard the board decide to make this change. Again, a three minute limit for each speaker was announced, although the policy adopted 3/19/07 shown on the district's website states, "Ordinarily, such comments shall be limited to four minutes."

Because of the large number of cards VP Brunson asked speakers to address one topic only. Six community members (all parents of current or former SD 227 students) spoke about the alleged "St John incident." Most complained about the lack of disciplinary action toward the teachers who allegedly burned a picture of former principal Rainey and/or about the treatment of those protesting about this incident. It was mentioned that Dr Leak had, that day, issued an email response acknowledging "the fact that an incident did occur, based on the statements in the St. John police investigative report, that is in direct conflict with our values and beliefs in terms of respect, tolerance and conflict resolution." The message said there will be a re-calibration... that will re-center us on our values and beliefs in tolerance, respect and positive conflict resolution" and that the district continues to work with legal counsel to finalize an internal investigation.

The members of the public who spoke mentioned resenting those protesting being referred to as "outsiders" when all live in the district, which 85% of teachers do not. One asked that everyone keep the best interests of the students in mind. Others referred Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. A FOIA request was given Dr Leak asking specifics about anyone who had investigated the incident in question.

One person spoke on other subjects. Mr. Baxter Stewart mentioned concerns about students who are not passing tests to meet standards; a concern about the elimination of indoor track; and a demand to have the bylaws and other information from the Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO).

The last speaker, Fred Veazey, was chastised from the chair for mentioning names, the names of the board members he hopes to see defeated in the April, 2011, election.

After those who had turned in cards spoke, VP Brunson found the cards of two students and allowed them to speak, using his "executive privilege" although the cards were apparently turned in late. Marla Johnson and Brent Whiteside, Rich Central students, both said they stand with their teachers regardless of what they have done, and that the protests "disrupt the learning environment" at the school.

Next Dr. Selma McDonald introduced new teachers and staff, followed by Dr. Norrell giving an update on assessments conducted recently. By taking tests comparable to the ACT's monthly, the percentage able to reach AYP gets better each month. Dr. Norrell reported that students are learning to "play the game," meaning take the test.

The Superintendent's Report included requests for approval of a Rich South College Tour Field Trip to many colleges and a trip to Washington, DC, for juniors taking literature and history. Both trips were approved unanimously after some discussion of cost, fund-raising opportunities for the DC trip, and number of chaperones. Board policy requires one adult for every ten students, which will be followed.

Dr. Leak reported that the only new FOIA request had been given her at this meeting.

VP Brunson then gave the president's report, highlighting upcoming events including the Community Forums at each campus on 11/15 at 6 pm (rescheduled from original date due to weather). He reported that district goals had been "tweaked" to revise the language. Mr. Brunson was selected to be the district's delegate to the Joint Conference November 19-21, 2010.

He asked Mrs Owens to report on a Technology Conference which some board members had attended in Phoenix, AZ. She reported being very impressed with the extensive use of technology at a school they visited. She also mentioned that Mr. Imoukhuede had won "600 accounts" which will be for students' use. (The report did not include who else had attended.)

Under new business, Mrs. Owens reported that Mrs. Norwood's mother is in hospice. Mr Imoukhuede chastised people in the audience for being disrespectful and interrupting students who spoke. Mrs. Owens stated that "adults shouldn't confront and intimidate students."

At this point, the board entertained a motion to take action on an issue discussed in the earlier closed session. Mrs. Owens moved that Student A be assigned to Ombudsman for the rest of the school year with returning to regular school to be re-evaluated at the end of the school year. The motion was seconded and passed unanimously.

The board then planned to go back into closed session and began a discussion of whether the earlier closed session had been adjourned or not.

They were going back into closed session when this observer left at 9:38 pm.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting Oct 7, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The meeting was held in the media center, Rich Central HS, 3600 W 203rd St, Olympia Fields. The board meeting was called to order at 7:30 pm. All board members were present. Superintendent Donna Leak was also present There were at least 50 people in the audience.

After the usual preliminaries, there was no public comment on agenda items. Students from each campus were then recognized for achievements, followed by recognition of achievements of a teacher from each campus. Student representatives then reported on recent and upcoming events at each school.

The consent agenda was approved. It included the approval of minutes of meetings and hearings, the paying of bills, destruction of old audio tapes, and personnel items.

Next Dr Jennifer Norrell, Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning and Accountability, reported on Discovery Education Assessment, a new tool for understanding and addressing students' skill deficits. She reported that it is a predictor of students' college readiness by predicting scores on the ACT exam. Tests taken this fall predict that 36.9% of juniors in SD 227 will score a 20 or higher on the ACT test. Scores for sophomores predict 56.1% at that level; freshman, 44%.. Dr Norrell explained that this assessment tool pinpoints specific areas in which a student needs work and that this information is accessible to each of the student's teachers. Dr Morgan commended Dr Leak and Dr Norrell for incorporating this tool for "formative evaluation." Other board members commented on the importance of sharing the information with parents. During this report information was projected on a screen for the audience to view, although the print was small with poor color contrast. Each display held more information than this observer could digest in the amount of time shown.

Next Dr Ramey, Director of Special Education, reported on the Alpha program which is for academically challenged students. The plan is for all Alpha students to be taught at their home campuses and 95% of them currently are + with Rich East handling the "overflow." Currently of the 78 Alpha students, 38 attend East; 19, Central; 21, South. Dr Ramey described the program as leading to a diploma and also including a transition component for students through one day before their 22nd birthday. This program focuses on independent living and employment. Ten local business and SD 163 provide employment opportunities. A grant from the Federal government will provide three vans to transport students to jobs. The Alpha program also encourages involvement in the Special Olympics and regular school activities such as sports and band. Dr Ramey also described a growing Best Buddies program which pairs students in regular classes with Alpha students.

Dr Leak then reported. Her report included Freedom of Information Act requests; an update on Advisory Councils; the Articulation Meeting with "foundation districts" (the new term for feeder districts); all school testing on October 18; and a request for approval of Rich South's dance team's field trip to Alabama A&M University, where they were invited to entertain at homecoming. The board unanimously approved the field trip with no discussion.

Dr Leak announced that Rich East had been included in a list of outstanding schools in US News and World Report magazine, for the second year in a row. She praised the school profusely and announced that banners celebrating this honor will be displayed in Park Forest. Rich East teachers were recognized for their achievement. Dr Leak then referred to the importance of the foundation district, SD 163, and invited representatives of that district to the podium at which time she read a proclamation recognizing the contribution of SD 163 to the success of Rich East. Dr Carmine, SD 163 Superintendent, then extolled the great working relationship of the two districts, citing access to algebra and Spanish for students as young as fourth grade.

Mr Imoukhuede then praised the positive relationship between Rich East and SD 163, followed by explaining how disturbing it is to him to hear people criticizing the school district.

Next President Norwood reported on upcoming meetings and public and student forums. There was discussion of assignments of board members to be at the various campuses for the 10/26 forums. She invited Mrs Owens to report on a meeting about increasing school safety, which she did at length, including many suggestions. Mrs Norwood then requested approval of district goals for 2010-2011 which included providing a positive learning environment and improve instruction. The goals were approved unanimously.

Under new business Mr Imoukhuede announced that he went to the Rich South homecoming dance and saw students behaving well, which he assumes means students in all the buildings are well-behaved.

Under public comments, Fred Veazey spoke about the alleged incident of the burning of a picture of former Rich Central principal Rainey. He explained that he'd obtained a copy of a police report of the incident and expressed outrage that the district's administration hadn't investigated more fully and disciplined the teachers involved. When Mr Veazey's three minutes had expired, Dr Morgan wanted to respond but was stopped by Mrs Norwood, saying, "We don't do that." Another parent, Mr Woods, then expressed outrage on the same topic. Dr Morgan was again stopped from responding.

Mrs Garrett complained about the elimination of indoor track. Mr Durrell spoke about meetings at each campus about PSAE scores and questioned whether parents had been informed about them. Dr Leak said only 5 people attended one of the meetings. Others mentioned confusion as to the meeting dates and the means of communicating the meetings to parents.

Mr Mnyofu then spoke, remarking that the SD 227 website states that public comments by an individual can be four minutes, not the three to which individuals have been limited. He complained extensively about the lack of investigation of the alleged incident of picture burning. Mrs Norwood threatened to have Mr Mnyofu removed but told him he would be contacted regarding the public comment policy.

Mrs Mayes, a Rich South parents, requested that the district's sports playing fields be better maintained in order to improve athletes' performance and scholarship opportunies and to prevent injuries.

Mr Mnyofu again requested the floor which he was denied until he announced that he wanted to introduce his son, a SD 227 alumni and Iraq veteran who received a standing ovation.

The board then went into closed session for "student discipline matters. This observer left at this point.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting Sept 21, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The meeting was held in the media center, Rich Central HS, 3600 W 203rd St, Olympia Fields. It began with what was called a "public hearing" on the Career Preparation Network" budget. However, there was no budget projected or available for the public to read in printed form. Mr Ilandus Hampton reported that the district has no control over the budget but has an obligation to hold a hearing and to approve a budget. There was no public comment and the board voted unanimously to close the hearing.

Next, they held a "public hearing" on the SD 227 budget which also was not available for the public to see, although it may have been available on the district's website. Mr Hampton explained that the budgeted deficit of $3.6 million in the proposed budget is smaller than the $4.2 million deficit in the budget proposed in August. He explained that $1,014,000 in Federal job funds had been received, which were offset by some related expenditures. He again explained causes of the deficit that he had reported in August. Board members asked some questions which were answered. There was no public comment. A board member moved the budget be adopted and they began voting. However, one of them realized they should be voting to close the public hearing instead so that motion was made and carried unanimously to close the hearing.

At 7:43 pm the board meeting was called to order. All board members were present. Superintendent Donna Leak was also present There was a small audience.

After the usual preliminaries, there was no public comment on agenda items.

The consent agenda was approved. It included the approval of prior meeting minutes, the paying of bills, destruction of old audio tapes, and personnel items.

Next Ilandus Hampton, the Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations, requested the board approve the 2010-11 Career Preparation Network budget and the 2010-11 Rich Township District 227 budget. Both passed unanimously.

Dr Leak then reported on Freedom of Information Act requests which include requests for test scores, existing contracts, pending contracts, compensation of union and nonunion employees, and names of members of advisory councils. (She listed them all specifically with the requester's name.) Ms Upshaw asked about how the district handles the responsibility of filling all the requests without detracting from educating students. Discussion ensued, including President Norwood's suggestion that the district's attorney be asked to fill the requests and the requester be billed. They decided to explore how other districts deal with this question, at the suggestion of Mr Imoukhuede.

Dr Leak announced campus-based PSAE meetings and requested the board approve the district's schools' application for recognition as public schools, which she explained is a formality which must be followed each year at this time. The board voted approval unanimously.

Dr Leak reported that advisory councils including community members, students, local business people, parents, teachers, or local educators are beginning to meet and make plans.

Dr Leak also reported that on Oct 26 each campus will host a community forum instead of there being a board meeting. Dr Morgan thanked Dr Leak for a "new leaf" of community involvement.

President Norwood announced the October 7 board meeting and requested a motion to cancel the board meeting 10/19. The motion passed unanimously. It will be replaced by the 10/26 community forums.

Under new business, President Norwood requested staff re-visit the issue of closing down "indoor track" which was eliminated for this school year. Mr Hampton explained that "indoor track" is not safe because it was actually students running in the hallways as the schools do not have an indoor track. Alternative winter activities are being explored, including contracting for students to use community recreation centers which have swimming pools and tracks. Talks have begun with the Village of Matteson for use of its new facility.

Under public comments, Mr Anoufue (I apologize if the spelling is incorrect) asked to speak on three topics. President Norwood began to deny him the opportunity to speak on two of the topics as she said he'd addressed them recently. He denied the topics being the same and began demanding Dr Leak announce the findings of an investigation into an alleged incident he'd brought up at the last meeting + an alleged hate crime against a former principal. Dr Leak stated it would be inappropriate for her to answer. Mr Anoufue then demanded information about the firing of a teacher who had been convicted of rape and the recent firing of a teacher who had reportedly taken students to a Gay Pride parade and then back to his home. Mr Anoufue asked how parents could know their children are safe when these teachers continued on staff for months after the incidents. President Norwood tried to explain the legal constraints and referred Mr Anoufue to the district's attorney. As he kept speaking Mrs Owens moved the meeting be closed and the board voted unanimously to go into closed session.

The board then went into closed session for "personnel items, for pending or threatened litigation, and negotiations strategies."

This observer left at this point. The agenda item shown after the closed session was "request for approval of certified staff union negotiations agreement." The newspaper stated that this agreement was approved.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting Sept 9, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The meeting was held in the media center, Rich Central HS, 3600 W 203rd St, Olympia Fields. It began at 7:40 pm. All board members were present except Vice President Tony Brunson. Superintendent Donna Leak was also present There were at least 50 people in the audience.

The agenda, goals, and later presentations were projected clearly on a large screen. Many of the speakers' names were shown on the printed agenda.

After the usual preliminaries, one citizen asked to speak during public comment on agenda items. He addressed item 4.02 teacher recognition and asked that two teachers not receive recognition of achievements because they allegedly participated in a racially motivated incident which is under investigation. (This received no response from the board.)

Next student representatives of each campus articulately reported on recent and upcoming events. President Norwood then realized she'd taken items out of order and the building principals each presented a "student of the month." These were all impressive young people and included representatives of the Rich South girls track team who'd won a gold medal at State. Outstanding teachers were then recognized by the principals.

Next Tom Hysell of the Career Preparation Network (CPN) gave a presentation on that program which helps its member districts, which include SD 227, provide technical education and dual credit programs to their students. (Dual credit refers to getting college credit as well as high school credit for a course.)

Hope Henderson, the summer school director, then reported on summer school which offered two sessions and was attended by a total of 757 students.

Ruth Rich, a teacher at Central and the school's 50th anniversary celebration chair, then reported on plan for that event.

Then the consent agenda was approved, followed by Dr McDonald, the Director of Human Resources, introducing new staff members..

Next Ilandus Hampton, the Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations, spoke. He requested the board adopt a resolution designating his secretary Robin Nettles as the board secretary for the school board election. (Law requires someone be designated.) A motion was made, seconded, and passed unanimously. He then recommended the board approve a proposed settlement in a lawsuit stemming from 2003 and 2004 real estate taxes which related to "excess accumulation of funds in the IMRF fund." The attorney for SD 227 recommends paying a settlement of $26,000. (The lawsuit had demanded $400,000.) A motion to agree to this amount was made, seconded, and approved unanimously (after it was explained to the president that the district has to pay this amount, not receive it).

Next Dr Jennifer Norrell, Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning and Accountability, gave a new report on the Prairie State Achievement Exam with different details from those presented at the previous meeting. The report showed that in reading 56.7% of SD 227 students who took the test were below expectations, including 7% in the "warning" category. In math, 65% were below, including 11% in "warning;" in science, 44% below, including12% in "warning." The emphasis was on the detail that many of the students who did not meet expectations had scores which were CLOSE to meeting expectations.

Dr Leak then reported on Freedom of Information Act requests and the recent successful open house events at each school.

President Norwood then reported on upcoming events, including the moving of an October board meeting from 10/19 to 10/26 at which time community forums will be held. She also brought up an issue suggested by a citizen at the previous meeting + that the public comment portions of the board meeting agenda be reversed to allow comment on non-agenda items early in the meeting and those on agenda items later, after the public knew what the agenda items addressed. There was brief discussion of making different, significant changes to the public comment portion of each meeting. As board policy dictates this matter, it was decided to put this on the agenda of the next board meeting. President Norwood also assigned three board members (Betty Owens, Tony Brunson, and Jackie Upshaw) as an ad hoc committee to develop goals for the superintendent.

Under new business, Alyssa Hernandez announced two Park Forest Good Egg award recipients.

Under public comments, Mike Elliott, a Rich East parent and booster club member, inquired on the status of that school's music program and was told Mr Cramer would contact him. Mrs Jackson, a Rich South parent, questioned the $250 fee for a student to participate in band + what the funds are used for and if the other schools charge the same.

Fred Veazey expressed surprise that the board is only now developing goals for the superintendent and also requested a copy of the agreement to be offered to the teachers' union. He also asked if another lawsuit was being filed against the charter school and was told "no." His final remarks related to the PSAE report--that if those who almost "met" expectations were pointed out, those who almost "didn't meet" expectations should be shown also. At this point he was told his time was up.

Next another parent spoke (the man who had spoken in the first public comment portion, whose name I cannot spell). He again spoke of Rich Central teachers having allegedly behaved in a manner which was being investigated by police in St John, IN, as a "hate crime" against the Rich Central former principal. It was then alleged that Mr Motton, SD 227 security chief, was sent there to intervene in the investigation.

The board then went into closed session for "personnel items and for pending or threatened litigation." The agenda stated that after the return to open session there would be "approval of teacher dismissal" however I did not stay for this portion of the meeting.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting Aug 17, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The meeting was held at the District 227 office, 20000 Governors Highway and began promptly at 7:30 pm. The board had been in executive session beginning at 7:00. All board members were present except President Sonya Norwood. Superintendent Donna Leak was also present There were about 25 people in the audience. Vice-president Tony Brunson presided in Mrs Norwood's absence.

After the usual preliminaries, no one asked to speak during public comment on agenda items. Then the consent agenda was approved, followed by Dr McDonald, the Director of Human Resources, announcing the appointment of several new staff members, none of whom were yet in attendance. The consent agenda included approval of minutes, paying of bills, personnel items and destruction of audio tapes more than 18 months old. (None of these items were discussed.)

Next Ilandus Hampton, the Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations, gave a presentation beginning with the district's financial performance for the 2009-2010 schoolyear, which showed a surplus of $4.3 million (revenue of about $74 million; expenditures, about $70 million). He explained that almost 78% of the district's revenue is from property taxes; 16.5% from the state; 5.7% from the Federal government.

He explained that external influences will prevent a balanced budget for the coming year, citing the charter school which will receive funds otherwise due SD227, the lack of growth in expected property tax revenue, and the failure of the state to make timely payments to the district. He presented a budget projecting a $4.2 million deficit, based on expenditures remaining fairly steady but revenues decreasing from the prior year. He explained that both the surplus for '09 + '10 and the deficit for '10 + '11 were impacted by the county's decision to remit 55% of property tax in the spring and 45% in the fall during 2010 instead of the usual 50/50 split. (This change explains $2.5 million being shown in '09-'10 instead of '10-'11.) Mr Hampton then explained necessary steps to address the projected deficit and reminded the board that SD227 does have a positive fund balance or reserve (he later told me it is $38 million).

After discussion of past efforts used to eliminate a deficit in prior years, the board unanimously adopted the report which included the proposed budget which must available for public viewing for 30 days. (It will be on the district's website.) It was announced that Dr Leak will put together a task force on the budget.

Then Mr Hampton reported on the Career Preparation Network (CPN) budget. CPN is a consortium for providing vocational education for which SD227 is the fiscal agent. Although no actual budget figures were presented (at least none which the public could see), the board voted unanimously to "adopt the proposed budget." Mr Hampton explained that CPN's only source of funding is the State of Illinois which only sent a fraction of the funds due last year so is expected not to adequately fund the consortium in the upcoming year. In answer to board members' questions, Mr Hampton said CPN would either function with funds from the districts or "fold" if the State doesn't provide needed funds.

Next Dr Jennifer Norrell, Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning and Accountability, reported on results of the Prairie State Achievement Exam. (The agenda refers to presenters by title. Despite the presence of an audience, they were not introduced by name.)

A report, consisting of several slides of various bar graphs, was projected on a screen. One slide showed that district scores for reading were lower than the previous year's but it went by very quickly with little explanation. The slide for math also showed a decrease in scores. At least some of the drops were drastic + from 55% to less than 40%. However, I can't report specifics because of the similarity of the colors of the bars; the complexity of the subject; and the short time each slide was shown.

More time was spent showing slides of students' ratings when they entered SD227 and the progress that was made based on the scores during their junior year. (The percentage of students in the "warning zone" was smaller; those at or need at grade level, greater.) Dr Norrell spoke in an upbeat manner as if the entire report was positive. She also explained that the state is now using standards ("common core") like SD227 has been using. She emphasized that "formative assessment" will be used to help the progress of freshmen and sophomores. Board members made some comments about the "common core" and the preparedness of incoming eighth graders (who have been tested on "Explorer" not "common core."). They voted unanimously to accept the report. No one mentioned the obvious drop in scores.

Dr Leak then reported. She told of Freedom of Information Requests, Institute Days, and Advisory Councils which she said needed more teachers and parents. She then introduced (not by name) each principal who told of the first days of school. Each had a special day for freshmen prior to the start of regular classes and the reports were largely positive. Mrs Hudson reported that the Rich South band had led the Bud Billiken parade. Having freshmen involved in activities at the school before the first day is seen as very helpful to adjustment.

In lieu of a president's report, Mr Brunson asked Dr Morgan to report on Board Self Evaluation held 8/13 and 8/14. He spoke for over 10 minutes on the merits of the meeting. The next board meeting and plans to have groups "host" future board meetings were announced.

Under public comments on non agenda items, Jeff Cusic spoke, actually ON an agenda items. He suggested the public comment segments be reversed because he didn't know what would be said under an agenda item until after it had been presented. He asked why state average PSAE scores hadn't been released and why scores at East had dropped. Dr Leak said the state needs to wait until all districts' score are resolved; that each principal would analyze his/her building's scores. The big increase in scores into junior year was also questioned, which Dr Norrell said "formative assessment" would address.

Dr Morgan then spoke in defense of Dr Leak, saying she shouldn't be held responsible for the recent test scores. The next speaker was Fred Veazey who said, Dr Leak was Assistant Superintendent for Learning and Accountability," so she is the one responsible. He also suggested that as enrollment in the district is decreasing, consolidation should be considered. He also explained that the big increase in scores for juniors is because ALL freshmen and sophomores were tested; not all those students were tested as juniors.

As their closed session had been held earlier, the meeting was then adjourned.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting July 20, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The meeting was held at the District 227 office, 20000 Governors Highway and began promptly at 7:30 pm. The board had been in executive session beginning at 7:00. All board members were present except Emmanual Imoukhuede. Superintendent Donna Leak was also present There were several members of the public in attendance, as well as new teachers so the room was overflowing. The board members did not consistently use microphones or provide them to members of the public, so it was difficult to hear at times.

After the usual preliminaries there was public comment on agenda items. A citizen requested the minutes of the board meeting held June 30 be published on the website. (This meeting had been announced as a closed session but, about one day in advance, was changed to a public meeting.) He mentioned the hiring of Dr Jennifer Norrell as Dr Leak's replacement and complained that her previous two positions were in school districts also described as "failing." (Despite attending many meetings, this observer has not heard motions to go into executive session for the discussion of hiring or lawsuits, which I have learned of through other means.)

Next the consent agenda was approved, followed by Ilandus Hampton requesting the board approve a resolution to "set the prevailing wage rate." This resolution was approved.

Dr McDonald, the Director of Human Resources, then introduced new staff members, including Dr Jennifer Norrell who is replacing Dr Leak as Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning and Accountability.

Next the Director of Special Education reported on research into a new online learning program for night school and the "School within a School" program. She requested the district purchase the Aventa Learning system. After some questions regarding its applications, the request was approved.

Then the new superintendent, Dr Donna Simpson Leak was welcomed. She reported on a Freedom of Information request about the district paying for buses being used to transport people to protest and/or attend hearings against the charter school. She also requested approval of a "field trip" which two teachers then described as a trip to France and London. The trip was approved, after discussion of which students could go, but no discussion of financial or legal implications of the trip. She also reported that the board should set a time to meet with parents and students about the "Rich Central incident" (which wasn't explained).

President Norwood announced upcoming meetings and events. Board members then addressed some unfinished business. Dr Morgan asked that Dr Leak use her report to address the district's progress toward goals. Mrs Upshaw mentioned all Rich East students being given laptop computers and said she wants the district to offer more vocational training and counseling, the addition of which she said was to have been studied. Ms Hernandez said she wants more information on community involvement. Citizen committees were then mentioned with no announcement on how to get involved. The amount of publicity they'd been given was mentioned. The summer "bridge" program, to help students make the transition from junior high to high school, was praised.

Next, public comment on non-agenda items was allowed. A district parent told of having been threatened with arrest for protesting Mr Rainey's dismissal At that point, Mrs Norwood told him he was being insulting and therefore no longer given permission to speak.

The meeting was then adjourned.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting June 15, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The board meeting was held in the Rich South auditorium although it had originally been scheduled for the district office. It began at 7:45 because the board had been in executive session beginning at 6:30 All board members were present except Jacqueline Upshaw. Superintendent Howard Hunigan was also present There were well over 100 in the audience, apparently in support of Maceo Rainey, principal of Rich Central who had reportedly been reassigned to an evening school program. Although they had moved the meeting, they did not have enough agendas for that large an audience. The agenda projected on the stage was too small to read.

After the usual preliminaries (including honoring a retiring teacher), Alyssa Hernandez was elected to serve as board secretary pro tem. She explained the public comment process, telling the audience that board policy allows the president to deny the right to speak to a citizen who had spoken on the same subject within the last two months and that there is a board policy that insulting comments will be considered out-of-order.

President Norwood announced the twenty minute period for public comment on agenda items. Fred Veazey began speaking on Mr Rainey's reassignment because he assumed it was on the agenda under 5.03 "personnel." President Norwood told him that issue wasn't on the agenda so he should wait for comment on "non-agenda" items at which time he would be first to speak. Then Jeff Cusic, chairman of the newly formed Matteson Education Commission spoke, introducing commissioners and explaining that the group's goal is to work with the school district towards the best interests of the children. He explained the group does not intend to be political.

Next the consent agenda was approved, followed by Ilandus Hampton requesting the board approve a resolution to pay bills up to $1 million for the period until the end of the current fiscal year, a practice recommended by the district's auditor nine years earlier. The resolution was adopted, as was a similar one to pay bills up to $1,200 for the Career Prep Network. Mr Hampton also requested, and received, board approval to purchase kitchen equipment for Rich East. The equipment is funded by a grant received because of the large number of student on free or reduced price lunches.

Mr Hampton also requested, and received, board approval for purchasing a document scanner for $39,929 which is being funded by ARRA money, of which $600,000 remains available to the district after this purchase. He said special education students' records would be the first scanner.

He also asked board approval to transfer interest earnings from the account in which it has been earned to wherever funds are needed. After discussion that this is an annual request for a one time transfer, the motion was made, seconded, and passed.

Superintendent Hunigan reported on a Freedom of Information request about school buses. He mentioned that this is his last report.

President Norwood reported that the next board meeting will be July 20, 2010, at the district office. She mentioned a conference in AZ that some board members will be attending. (Ms Hernandez mentioned that she will not attend in protest to a recent law passed there.)

Dr Morgan requested there be a specific procedure for board members to have items placed on the board meeting agenda. President Norwood said there is one + "call me or the superintendent." A copy of the policy on this topic was requested by Ms Hernandez.

There was brief discussion of the need to schedule disciplinary hearings because of incidents the last day of school ("at Central"). There was mention of some students being expelled.

Next, public comment on non-agenda items was allowed with a strict total time limit of 15 minutes, three minutes for each speaker. Mr Veazey spoke first to complain that Mr Rainey had been reassigned in deference to a "core group of teachers who don't respect students." He said that board members "who bow to the teachers' union should resign" and made further remarks to which President Norwood responded that he should "be cordial." Audience members called out in support of Mr Rainey and a police officer spoke to some of them.

Robert Nale then spoke and asked the board to answer his questions: 1) If Mr Rainey is being reassigned but continuing his $130,000 annual salary, will a replacement principal for Rich Central receive that pay, too, and how will you find the money to pay him/her? 2) Is Mr Hunigan going to continue working for SD 227 as a consultant at the pay of $100,000 rumor has it, and if so, why? 3) Is an administrator from another failing district (SD215) going to replace Dr Leak? At that point, Mrs Norwood told Mr Nale to sit down; that his questions would be answered in writing.

Four other citizens, all either parents or teachers, then spoke in favor of Mr Rainey being retained as principal of Rich Central. Audience response indicated agreement with their remarks.

Finally Gail Nicholson, the President of Dollars for Scholars, spoke to request the board support the efforts of that organization which gave $5,000 in scholarships to SD227 students this year and $80,000 in the last ten years!

The meeting was adjourned at 8:40 pm.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting April 20, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The meeting was held in the Rich East auditorium. All board members were present. Superintendent Howard Hunigan was absent due the death of his father. There were over 100 in the audience, some of whom were newly tenured teachers who left after being introduced.

After the usual preliminaries, board secretary Jackie Upshaw explained the public comment process. She told the audience that board policy allows the board president to deny the right to speak to a citizen who had spoken on the same subject within the last two months. (The subject is to be shown on the card one submits to request to speak.) She explained there is a board policy the making insulting comments about another individual will be considered out-of-order.

Many citizens spoke. Fred Veazey requested a new superintendent search, stating that SD 227 is seen as a "closed district rife with nepotism, cronyism, and patronage." Larry Roberts spoke in favor of the completed search process, stating, "Mrs. Leak has the credentials." Isaac Hayes criticized the board president for, in an earlier meeting, stating that residents who don't like her board leadership should move. Beve Sokol was allowed to speak, after some consideration, and described the unprofessional handling of the "stakeholders" meeting she attended. Gerald Madison spoke in favor of the superintendent choice, stating that a new search would take too long. Dr Taft challenged Dr Leak to prove herself as superintendent and said he is tired of the board not listening to the public. Finally Katie Armstrong said she is amazed the board went ahead with a decision on the superintendent before the results of an Attorney General investigation into whether they defied the Open Meetings Act.

Next Sonya McDonald, the district's Human Relations Director, introduced 23 district teachers who were just awarded tenure, after teaching four years in the district. Board members and principals congratulated them.

A teacher then presented information and slides on the SECME (Southeast Consortium for Minority Students in Engineering) program. She explained that two district students from the group have been awarded Exxon Mobil scholarships. She described the mousetrap contest, a conference for girls in engineering, trips to Kraft foods, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

Next the consent agenda was approved, followed by Dr Leak presenting the 2010-2011 school calendar. After discussion of how dates were determined, the board approved the calendar.

Next the board heard a report on recommended changes to the Discipline Section of the Parent-Student Handbook. Some changes were minor wording changes such as the addition of "mixed media" to restricted devices; electronic devices "must" be off instead of "should" be off; and the elimination of "shower shoes" as improper footwear because "slippers" are already listed. There was a change in consequences for tobacco use, with "intervention" to occur after a second or third offense (not the first). The most controversial change was the recommendation that students not be allowed to wear ski vests in class.

There was discussion as to whether intervention should be provided earlier for students who use tobacco. The teacher responded that tobacco use is not a big problem in the schools. Both Ms Hernandez and Ms Upshaw expressed reluctance to approve the ski vest prohibition, largely because the only reason given for it was "a lot of students wear them." A motion was made, seconded, and unanimously passed to table approval of the changes to the Discipline Section of the handbook.

Sonya McDonald then introduced teachers who were newly hired. Ilandus Hampton gave the superintendent's report in his absence. He announced upcoming events including Prairie State Achievement Exams "in 6 days." The principals were then each asked to explain PSAE preparation and student support on his campus. Mr Hampton also explained the recommended summer board meeting schedule - one meeting on the third Tuesday of each month (June - August) to be held at the district office. After discussion that meetings could be added if needed, the board approved this schedule. Scholarship winners were announced.

In her report, President Norwood requested approved of a contract with Dr Leak. A motion was made, seconded, and passed to approve this contract. Tony Brunson, after describing members of the public calling for his resignation and for a school boycott, abstained. Dr Morgan voted "no." All other board members votes "yes." There was then discussion on when to have a reception to honor the new superintendent, which was eventually tabled.

The next agenda item was "Request to Change Vote on Resolution Regarding Censure of a Board Member." Unfortunately this observer did not understand what the motion actually was because President Norwood announced that the district's attorney had advised that no discussion should be allowed. After the vote I understood President Norwood to say, "motion passed." (The motion may have been to allow Dr Morgan to change HIS vote, from "yes" to "no" on censuring himself.)

Under unfinished business, Ms Upshaw complained that her son had been given a flyer recommending a school boycott which on the back featured her picture with a line through her face.

Under new business, Mr Imoukhuede recommended quarterly community meetings. He announced that he would recommend a structure for these meetings. Ms Hernandez then remarked that she agrees the board needs more communication with the public which she would like to accomplish by allowing expanded public comments at one meeting per month and eliminating that portion at the second monthly meeting. Dr Morgan agreed that he also wants to hear from the community.

Dr Leak then spoke, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to serve the 4,000 students in School District 227. She expressed confidence that the district would become the best and would be recognized globally.

This observer left at 9:50 pm although the meeting hadn't adjourned.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting April 6, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The meeting was held in the Rich East auditorium. All board members except Tony Brunson were present. Superintendent Howard Hunigan was also there. There were approximately 200 in the audience.

After the usual preliminaries, President Norwood announced a change to the agenda and introduced Attorney Anthony Scariano who had been asked to prepare a resolution to censure board member David Morgan for publicly revealing the four finalists for superintendent. The resolution accused him of divisive and destructive behavior, violating his oath of office, and harassing Dr Hunigan with freedom of information requests. The resolution was approved by a vote of all members, including Dr David Morgan.

Dr Morgan then spoke in his defense, saying his only purpose was to represent the community and to ensure the hiring of the best possible superintendent. After he exclaimed that he'd been denied the right to have access to information and to express his opinion, President Norwood threatened to have him removed from the meeting if he did not stop speaking.

President Norwood then announced that the two public comment portions of the meeting would be next, combined and limited to 15 minutes. (The agenda item public comments were listed next on the agenda for a period of 20 minutes; non-agenda items later for 15 minutes.) However after lengthy discussion, board member Alyssa Hernandez's suggestion was accepted that each citizen who turned in a card be allowed to speak with a strict 2 minutes time limit.

Many citizens spoke, many in defense of Dr Morgan. Many suggested that the superintendent search process had been flawed and should be started over. There were comments about the harm done to students' morale and behavior by all the rancor and about the importance of the Open Meetings Act. State Representative Al Riley spoke of the cuts to the Illinois education budget and the need to change the way in which our state funds education. Willis Pennington, an Olympia Fields trustee, read part of an opinion from the Illinois Attorney General which found a public body does not have authority to sanction a member for disclosing the substance of deliberations. Also, a citizen cited a rumor about the relationship between Assistant Superintend Leak and one of the board members.

After the public comment section Alyssa Hernandez denied that she had been given an expensive gift by Dr Leak, the substance of the rumor. Board members Betty Owens and Jackie Upshaw also defended their actions during the search process. Board member Imoukhuede said the board was elected to do a job and they have done it. Finally President Norwood spoke at length about events of Easter Sunday and the damage rumors can do.

The student representatives from each campus then were given an opportunity to report on current events at each school. The representative from Rich Central stated that he had a petition requesting the board conduct a new superintendent search.

The board then recessed and this observer left. It was almost 10 pm.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting March 4, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The meeting was held in the Rich East Media Center with all board members and the superintendent present. There was a very large crowd in attendance (maybe 100).

After the pledge of allegiance and roll call, Dr Leak described the board goals and said that her later presentation on the "restructuring plan" would relate to the goals.

The public forum on agenda items included two citizens presenting questions about the plan, including where to find the data mentioned; how much consultants were paid; how to measure progress toward AYP; and what has happened to the "honors academy."

Next, officials from Richton Park presented the district with a "mock up" of a check for $861,743 which represents surplus TIF money which the Village hadn't spent.

Next there was recognition of teachers and students who had participated in the SECME program (South East Consortium for Minorities in Engineering).

Then Dr Hunigan spoke, alluding to an award to Rich East which he sees as evidence "the hard work at all the district schools is starting to pay off." He said, "It bothers me that the community is not proud of our schools + we should be proud." He then announced that Rich East received a 2009 academic improvement award and a grant for each student to receive a laptop computer.

Dr Leak reported that Rich East was one of the ten most improved schools in Illinois and was listed in US News & World Report as one of the top 1500 high schools in the nation. She introduced Mark Kramer, the principal of East, who then very graciously introduced and highly praised the school's teachers and staff.

Other teachers and students were recognized and then Mark Crawford the ProStart Culinary teacher at South explained his program and introduced his students who then brought out food for the board.

After students representative reports, the consent agenda was passed.

Dr Leak then addressed the Rich Central Restructuring Plan which will actually affect all three schools. The plan was adopted in 2007 and is in its second year. She responded to questions posed earlier. She explained that the Honors Academy concept was replaced by "career pathways." She said the emphasis now is on "small learning communities" within the schools. There will no longer be "tracking" of students (all students will start as freshmen taking college prep or honors language arts) and the bell schedule has been updated so lunch hours do not split a class. It seemed to this observer that a lot of time is spent making elaborate plans.

I left before Dr Hunigan's report and public comments on non-agenda items.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting Feb 16, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The meeting was held in the Rich South Auditorium, beginning at 7:30 pm. with President Sonya Norwood and members Tony Brunson, Alyssa Hernandez, Betty Owens, Jacqueline Upshaw, David Morgan, and Emmanuel Imoukhuede present, as well as several staff members including Dr Hunigan.

The meeting began with the Rich South choir singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" after the pledge of allegiance

The public forum on agenda items included a person presenting a petition in opposition to the charter school proposal and another speaking in favor of the proposal.

After passing the consent agenda, Dr Leak reported on new textbook recommendations. After some questions, the board approved the recommended textbooks.

Dr Hunigan reported that there had been a Freedom of Information request for the tapes and cards (used to request an opportunity to address the board) for the board meetings of January 7, January 19, and February 4, as well as for the board's rules on participation.

Dr Hunigan then presented background on the Southland College Preparatory Charter School Corporation proposal which the SD 227 board received on Dec 14. He stated that information would be presented to the board on 1) requirements for special preference for charter schools; 2) the financial impact of the proposed charter school on the district; and 3) how the district is already offering courses that should meet the needs of a college-bound student.

Attorney John Fester first described factors which would, under law, require a charter school be given special preference. They are the intention to serve "at risk" students and a high level of support from the community. He explained that the school would not be for "at risk" students but for those college-bound. He said a high level of support was demonstrated from residents of SD 162 but not from residents of the other feeder districts.

Mr Fester also stated that, in his opinion, elements of the proposed schools goals, physical plant, transportation plans, and timelines for student achievements were lacking. He mentioned the failure to guarantee special education as a problem and said that the admissions policy which requires agreeing to a "code of conduct" is impermissible.

Mr Ilandus Hampton, the Assistant Superintendent for Finance, and Mr Rob Grossi, Bloom Township Treasurer, then described the district's current financial situation and explained how the charter school plan would affect the district. They reiterated problems with the state's failure to make timely payments and low inflation rates which prevent real estate tax revenue increases. (Sixty-six per cent of the district's revenue comes from real estate taxes.) Given that the district faces financial challenges now without a charter school, they explained that losing $16,300 per student (the amount requested in the charter school proposal) would cause damage to existing district schools even if a reduction in staff could be accomplished. The amount requested per student ($16,300) is more than the state's "per capita" amount (the amount the state is supposed to provide) of $13,363. A detailed chart demonstrated their conclusion that in four years, having the charter school would cost SD 227 almost $14,000,000.

Dr Leak than presented a list of 65 existing classes offered at the SD 227 schools which support those college-bound, including honors and advance placement classes. She also described a full range of sports, clubs and other activities. She said that students from the 2009 graduating class are attending 66 different colleges, including Yale and Drake, although she did not mention how many or what percentage of students have gone on to college.

After these presentations, Dr Hunigan made the recommendation that the board reject the proposal for a charter school in light of the legal, financial, and educational reports. The board voted in favor of the recommendation to deny the proposal for a charter school with only one board member voting against the recommendation. Dr Morgan explained that he voted against the recommendation because of the district's being on the "watch list" and the board's failure to be more receptive to stakeholder input regarding the superintendent search. Before the vote, Mr Imoukhuede spoke of 70 + 80 % of students from SD 162 coming into high school unable to pass the "explorer test." He described the charter school proposal at a racist attempt to marginalize some students. Dr Hunigan then explained that scores of students from SD 162 were like those of students from other feeder districts taking the "explorer test."

Betty Owens then reported on the law seminar for school board members.

President Norwood then announced that all those interested in being on stakeholder committees to interview superintendent finalists would be invited to an orientation and to meet with candidates for the job on February 27.

Public comments on non agenda items were then allowed. After two other speakers, David Mekarski explained that the office of the Illinois Attorney General had been asked to investigate the board's conduct in two areas + if the board had violated the Open Meetings Act in deciding specifics of the use of stakeholder committees in the superintendent search and if the Illinois School Code is being violated by the practice of denying citizens the right to speak during the public comment section of board meetings.

President Norwood responded by saying the board felt harassed by the comments of some members of the public and singled out an individual for not residing in the district but often requesting to speak. There were then more public comments on the subject.

Presumably the meeting was soon adjourned. (I left at this point.)

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting Feb 4, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The meeting was held at Rich South. All board members except Secretary Jackie Upshaw were present. Superintendent Howard Hunigan was also there. In Ms Upshaw's absence, Alyssa Hernandez was chosen secretary pro tem.

After the usual preliminaries, citizen Jeff Cusic, VP of the Rich Central Band Boosters spoke in support of the Rich Central Band trip to Orlando, FL. Next, students and teachers from each campus were recognized as "Student/Teacher of the Month" and student representatives reported.

The consent agenda was approved.

The Director of Special Education gave an extensive report to the board in which she reported that "intellectually challenged" students are known as "Alpha" students in the Distict. This group had previously all been taught at Rich East but a program for Alpha students was held at Rich Central this year and will be extended to Rich South soon. She reported that SD 227 Special Ed received a grant of $800,000 through the American Rebuilding and Recovery Act.

Dr Hunigan then reported, recommending approval of the Rich Central Band field trip to Orlando, FL. The board approved the trip after discussion of the number of adults attending per student (one per 8 or 9).

Under unfinished business Dr Leak gave a report on "classification," comparing the rate of students moving from one class level to the next (Freshman to Sophomore, for example) for Rich 227 and other area districts. She referred to a distinction of how long each district had used "classification." She and Dr Hunigan assured the board that the number of Sophomores moving up to the level of Junior would soon be much higher than the 58% shown recently. Dr Hunigan remarked this issue is not about testing or who takes the PSAE exam.

Under public comment, a resident thanked the District for allowing his organization to offer a sports and academic camp at the Rich Central campus; two students from the Rich South Band encouraged attendance at their upcoming fund-raiser; a parent spoke against a charter school, asking the board what those against it could do.

David Mekarski, village administrator of Olympia Fields, then rose and asked to be recognized on the subject of the peer review committees' role in the superintendent search.. Trustee Imoukheude immediately called out, "I move to adjourn." President Norwood then said, "There is a motion on the floor." The board then had a voice vote and adjourned the meeting. (It was not obvious they all knew on what they were voting.) Bob Nale, another citizen who had submitted a card to speak, said that they should be allowed to speak, as did another audience member. President Norwood then said the board has a policy that a citizen cannot speak on a subject he/she has spoken on in the last two month, although she has the discretion to allow this. Both Mr Mekarski and Mr Nale explained that the subject they wanted to address was not the same as they had addressed recently. The meeting ended.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting Jan 12, 2010 by Barbara Sturges

The meetings scheduled for 1/7/10 were re-scheduled for Tuesday 1/12/10 due to weather so I was able to attend.

The special meeting about the superintendent search began at 6:04 with President Sonya Norwood and members Tony Brunson, Alyssa Hernandez, Betty Owens, and Jacqueline Upshaw present. David Morgan arrived at 6:10; Emmanuel Imoukhuede, at 6:26 pm.

Ms Upshaw began the meeting by distributing copies of surveys, sample interview questions, and timelines to each board member. Various stakeholders had been surveyed as to factors relevant in the selection of a new superintendent. Ms Upshaw's goal was to get the group to develop interview questions for candidates which would address the most highly rated factors. However, there was virtually no progress toward that goal because there was apparently not agreement with the process. Discussion was held on points which it later came out had been decided earlier. Dr Morgan often mentioned that he was seldom allowed to speak despite the fact that he actually spoke a lot. Mr Imoukhuede said the consultants should develop the questions. They finally decided that some of the sample questions developed by the ISBA would be used and that board members could add questions of their own. The suggested questions are to be sent to Ms Upshaw. She and Ms Owens were appointed as an ad hoc committee to formulate the interview questions, with the input from other board members.

Next several board members presented proposals on methods of involving community members ("stakeholders") in the decision-making. Mr Brunson first suggested a plan for seven groups of stakeholders (each group having 15 members) to each interview the finalists for the superintendent position and provide feedback to the board. The groups would include students, staff, local elected officials, business people, other educators, etc. Mr Imoukhuede proposed a very small group of "stakeholders" (to be chosen by the board) be allowed to give input to the board on the superintendent selection. Ms Owens proposed a moderate size group of stakeholders also to be chosen by board members.

Mr Brunson's plan was adopted by the board by a vote of 5 -2 with Ms Owens and Ms Norwood voting "no." (Mr Imoukhuede changed his original vote of "present" to "yes" after the motion carried.) The board then voted (6-1 with Dr Morgan dissenting) to involve the stakeholder groups after the field has been narrowed to 2 or 3 finalists. Mr Brunson agreed to provide plan specifics to the board and on the SD's website. The special meeting was adjourned.

Regular Board Meeting began at 7:55 pm with all board members and Superintendent Hunigan present.

Mr Ilandus Hampton, the Assistant Superintendent for Finance, and Mr Rob Grossi, Bloom Township Treasurer, gave an excellent presentation on SD 227 finances. (Mr Grossi also serves as an adviser to school districts.) Mr Grossi explained school district finances are affected by the state, by real estate tax payments, and by interest rates. He said that SD 227 is owed $1,580,279 by the State of Illinois. (In the past, approved vouchers were paid in 1-3 days; now the State is 123 days late.) Foreclosures haven't impacted real estate tax payments as much as had been feared because mortgage holders have been paying taxes to avoid losing properties in tax sales. Low interest rates also hurt the school district. They explained that SD 227 needs to be vigilant but has a larger fund balance (reserve) than most south suburban school district. Mr Hampton said that a charter school might drain income from existing district schools without lowering expenses.

Mr Hampton next explained the District "green" initiatives, in keeping with a state mandate to be more efficient and eco-friendly.

The next agenda item was the report from the Superintendent. After reports on FOI requests and meetings of the strategic planning committee, Dr Hunigan announced that the community forums which he'd promised would be held at 6 pm 2/2 at Rich South; 2/3, Rich East, and 2/10, Rich Central. He said the superintendent search would not be addressed at these meetings.

Dr Hunigan then introduced Attorney John Fester who explained SD 227's submission for a "Race to the Top" grant which emphasizes curriculum in science, technology, engineering, and math. The board voted to approve the grant application.

Mr Fester then explained the process and timeline required by the recent proposal to establish a charter school in SD 227. The board received the proposal 12/14; a public meeting is required within 45 days of that date. Notice of the meeting must be published no more than 10 or less than 5 days prior to the meeting. The group (from SD 162) proposing the charter school will give a presentation; the SD 227 board then asks questions; then public comment will be allowed. Within 30 days of this meeting, the 227 board must decide whether or not to approve the proposal and within 7 days of the decision, notify the State Board of Education. The State Board, within 30 days, can affirm or overturn the decision made by the local school board. If the local district approves the charter school and it's affirmed by the state, the charter school is the "chartering entity" and oversees the new school. If the local district denies the request but the state approves it, then the State Board of Education is the chartering entity and has the authority to oversee the charter school.

The board voted to hold the public meeting Wednesday 1/20/10 at 6:30 pm, at Rich South.

The next agenda item was new business. A parent then was given the floor. He described and praised the Fathers Club at Rich Central and recommended that each school in the district have a Fathers Club. He also praised the "All Male Symposium" held at Rich Central. I did not stay to learn if action was taken.

Report on SD 227 Board Meeting Dec 15, 2009 by Barbara Sturges

Here is a summary of the Rich Township SD 227 Board Meeting December 15, 2009

The District received an award from Revere Consulting for technology usage. Students and teachers from each school were honored.

The consent agenda, including items of formality, was approved.

The recommendations of the Assistant Superintendent for Finance were approved. Discussion included his reporting that 70% of the District's real estate tax revenue comes from residences because most of the businesses in the District have been granted abatements. Recommendations from the Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning were also approved.

Ms Upshaw recommended the board schedule a special meeting to flesh out plans for the superintendent search. It was scheduled for 6 pm before the next regular board meeting January 7, 2010, at 7:30 pm at Rich South.

Ms Hernandez recommended regular updates from the board, including updates on the superintendent search, be included on the District's website. The discussion included the issue of whether the board could present a consistent message. The recommendation was referred to Superintendent Hunigan.

Under public comment, many residents expressed the desire for increased community input regarding the superintendent search. Another resident expressed disappointment that honest reporting in the newspaper was seen as unfair by the board (as had been expressed by the President) instead of being taken as constructive criticism.

See below for a full accounting.

Observer Notes: Rich Township SD 227 Board Meeting Tuesday December 15, 2009 (The numbers refer to the agenda item numbers.)

The meeting was held in the Media Room of Rich South. In addition to the board, an audience of at least 60 attended. The meeting was called to order at 7:30 pm.

1.0 After the Pledge of Allegiance, roll call was taken with the following members in attendance: President Sonya Norwood, Secretary Jacqueline Upshaw, members Betty Owens, Emmanuel Imoukhuede, David Morgan, and Alyssa Hernandez. Vice-President Tony Brunson was absent. Also at the front table was Superintendent Howard Hunigan.

2.0 Board goals were read.

3.0 There was no public comment on agenda items.

4.0 Mr. Jeff Revere of Revere Consulting gave the district his company's "Customer of the Year" award as a leader in technology. The principals of each school then presented "Student of the Month" and "Teacher of the Month" awards as follows: Rich Central: student, Ashley McCray; teacher, Steve Walker Rich East: Sairey Pickering, Sandra Franklin Rich South: Dakari Akorede, Mark Crawford. Each student was praised and accepted the award with his/her parents.

4.04 Next a student representative from each campus gave a brief review of recent events at her school. Each representative then responded to a question from Ms Upshaw regarding recent media coverage of the District by praising the teachers. One representative mentioned that some students do not seem to take school seriously. President Norwood then remarked that she hopes the newspaper mentions the achievements of SD 227 and its students (like the technology award from Revere Consulting and scholarships to the University of Arkansas for Rich South band students) and characterized recent coverage as unfair.

5.0 Mr Imoukhuede moved and Ms Owens seconded a motion that the consent agenda be approved. Motion passed. The consent agenda included approval of the minutes of the previous meeting; approval of payroll and bills payable; personnel items; and the approval of destructions of old audio tapes.

6.0 Mr Ilandus Hampton, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations then presented his report of the 2009 tax levy which is $46,898,000. Resolutions were adopted by the board to adopt the levy; to authorize certain tax distributions; to instruct the County Clerk how to apportion taxes in the event tax caps limit the amount the District will receive; and to approve tax abatements for certain parcels.

6.04 - Prior to approval of the resolution on tax abatement Mr Hampton explained that many businesses had been given abatement of real estate taxes for a period of 10 years. He listed the business properties (most of them in the Village of Matteson) and explained in what year of the process they are. He also explained that if property owners don't pay as expected, they lose the abatement. In response to questioning, Mr Hampton explained that about 70% of property taxes to the District come from residential properties because most of the businesses in the District have been granted abatements.

7.0 Dr Leak, Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning and Accountability, then presented a recommendation for five new courses to be offered at each school, each of which are already in the Five Year Plan adopted earlier. The courses are Freshman Social Studies Honors, Architectural Computer Aided Design Honors, Engineering Design, Video Editing, and Marketing. The recommendation also included changing the name of an existing course. After discussion, including disclosure that no new teachers would be required, the recommendation was adopted by a motion passed by the board unanimously.

8.0 & 9.0 No reports from Directors of Human Resources or Special Education

10. Dr Hunigan reported that there had been an information request regarding lawsuits involving the District and that the information and copies of correspondence had been provided. He said a Strategic Plan Implementation meeting had been cancelled and that an evaluation form for the new superintendent is being developed. Dr Morgan expressed interest in the superintendent search and remarked on the need for focus, vision, and listening to others as a part of that process.

11. President Norwoord reported on the next meeting (1/7/10 at 7:30 pm at Rich South) and the upcoming Law Seminar (2/6/10 at 8:30 am in Woodridge, IL).

12. Under Unfinished Business, Ms Upshaw requested a special board meeting be held to solidify specific steps in the superintendent search process, including expectations of the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), the interviews, and community input. It was decided to have this special board meeting at 6 pm before the regular board meeting 1/7/10 at Rich South.

13. Under New Business, Mr Imoukhuede asked that funds be found to purchase professional stoves for students who are learning to bake.

Ms Hernandez, as Community Liaison, mentioned adult education efforts at Rich East known as "Rich East Saturdays," the well-attended breakfast with Santa at Rich South, and the upcoming Big Dipper tournament. She proposed "combating negativity" with board meeting and superintendent search updates on the District's website to improve community relationships and trust through a "consistent Board message."

There was discussion of the logistics of implementing this suggestion AND of whether there IS a consistent Board message. Dr Morgan remarked, "The District is dysfunctional." Ms Norwood responded that the discussion should continue in closed session. The resolution of the recommendation was that the superintendent was asked to develop a plan to implement it as part of public relations for the District.

14. To begin the Open Forum on Non-Agenda Items, Ms Upshaw read the rules governing public comments. Ms Norwood explained that there were many cards on the same subject which was the superintendent search.

Jeff Cusic spoke first, representing the Rich Central PTSO. He asked that a Stakeholders Interview Review Committee be established to HELP, not usurp, the IASB and the Board in the superintendent search. The proposal includes specifics regarding the inclusion of parents, students, teachers, union representatives, local municipal officials and local business and community leaders on the committee. A Peer Group Review Committee was also recommended to assist in the final superintendent selection, including other educators. (Mr Cusic's written proposal suggested that these recommendations be Board agenda items but they had not been placed on the agenda.)

Bev Sokol of the Olympia Fields Educational Commission spoke in favor of the PTSO's recommendation; thanked the board for considering it and thanked Ms Upshaw for recommending the inclusion of more community input in the search process. She also requested a meeting with President Norwood who agreed to telephone her to arrange a meeting.

Lee Langdon, Olympia Fields resident and David Mekarski, Village Manager of OF, also spoke in favor of increased community involvement on the superintendent search.

Anthony Young then spoke, asking board members if they all agreed that recent media coverage was unfair. He encouraged the board to consider news stories about the percentage of SD 227 juniors having taken and/or passed the PSAT's as honest, constructive criticism instead of unfair reporting (and cause to cancel one's subscription as Ms Norwood said she had done).

15.0 Ms Norwood responded to Mr Young's remarks by describing her recent visits to the schools where she said students complained about being insulted in the newspaper. The board then went into a closed session.

This observer then left.

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