In our 07.07.14 post we criticized the completely gratuitous secrecy with which the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 School Board shrouded its deliberations that resulted in the appointment of Robert Johnson to fill the chair Terry Cameron gave up when he moved out of state.
To be clear, our criticism was directed solely at the Board and its unacceptable process, not at Johnson.
At that time we called D-64 “the closest thing to a secret society among any of our four local governmental bodies.” We discredited D-64 propaganda minister Bernadette Tramm for clamping a lid down on the identities of the 12 applicants for the vacancy, and even keeping the names of the 8 finalists secret until six hours before the “public hearing” at which those finalists were to be interviewed by the Board – which she did with either the express direction or tacit approval of the D-64 Board.
Not surprisingly, Tramm provided no biographical information about those 8 finalists. Worse yet, the D-64 Board apparently didn’t care whether any members of the public showed up to bear witness to those interviews, much less contribute meaningful information or ask questions that might aid in the vetting process.
But this week we learned that Ms. Tramm’s secrecy has been eclipsed by her counterpart at Maine Twp. School Dist. 207, David Beery, who ratcheted up Tramm-style concealment by hiding the identities of the reported 7 applicants for the seat of departing School Board member Eric Leys, who also is moving out of state, until AFTER the Board made its decision.
Hmmm…is local school board members moving out of state a trend we should start tracking?
Beery and the D-207 Board, doing its best Star Chamber impersonation, kept the names of those 7 applicants completely under wraps through the special meeting held last Sunday (August 24) at 2:15 p.m. (gee, was the 2:15 a.m. slot already filled?) that, according to the meeting agenda, featured a closed-session during which that Board deliberated the appointment which culminated in the announcement of Park Ridge resident Pablo Morales to fill Leys’ seat. And even now that the announcement has been made, the identities of the 6 other applicants still appears to be a closely-guarded secret.
Unlike D-64, even the D-207 Board’s applicant interviews must have been conducted in closed session – based on that August 27 agenda and a Chicago Tribune article (“District 207 seeks to fill board vacancy,” 08.07.14) in which Beery was quoted as being “almost certain” that both the interviews and Board deliberations would be conducted in closed session. So, even more than with D-64, the D-207 taxpayers were deprived of any meaningful ability to judge the qualifications of the applicants for themselves, and to contribute to the selection process of either Mr. Morales or his anonymous competition for that vacancy.
For a School Board fixated on minimizing scrutiny and avoiding accountability for such dubious “achievements” as the continuing decline in the academic rankings of D-207 and Maine South, sharing the identities (and, heaven forbid, the applications and resumes) of applicants for such an important position in advance of the selection just wouldn’t be prudent. Consequently, unless a D-207 version of Edward Snowden leaks that information, D-207 taxpayers will have to blindly accept the glowing assurances of Board president Margaret McGrath (in the announcement of Morales’ appointment) that D-207 “had seven outstanding candidates from which to choose”; and that Morales was the best of the bunch.
Just like D-207 taxpayers had to blindly accept McGrath’s glowing assurances that D-207 “had nine outstanding candidates from which to choose” the replacement for a departing Donna Pellar (who only moved outside the district) in announcing the appointment of Paula Besler after a similarly stealthy selection process that culminated in another Sunday afternoon closed-session interview process and deliberation last April – according to the agenda for that meeting.
Whether Morales and Besler truly were the best choices among the applicants is a question that likely will never be answered because, now that both of those kangaroo courts have rendered their verdicts, even a FOIA request for those names-that-must-not-be-spoken and their applications/resumes doesn’t appear to be worth the effort.
But we believe it’s worth mentioning that Morales currently has two sons attending Maine South. And Besler has two children at Maine South, with another one likely to go there upon graduation from D-64. If that causes D-207 taxpayers to wonder just how aggressive Morales and Besler might be in holding Maine South teachers and administrators accountable for their performance, or in overseeing negotiations of the next teachers’ contract, or in considering raises and benefits for administrators, it should.
Over the years we have repeatedly heard parents of Maine South and D-64 students express anxiety aplenty about whether and how to voice complaints about curriculum, books, materials and personnel for fear of retaliation or other repercussions against their school children. And we’ve heard anecdotes about such retaliation and repercussions actually occurring.
Whether those anecdotes are legit or pure hooey is effectively meaningless, however, because the prospective chilling effect on parents appears to be real.
Accordingly, filling the School Boards of both D-207 and D-64 with arguably “vulnerable” members whose duty to look out for the taxpayers’ interests might very well be compromised (if not outright conflicted) by their desire to look out for the interests of their own children, creates a risk - and maybe even a likelihood – that such vulnerable Board members will just be more bobble-head rubber stampers for whatever the teachers and administrators want. It also raises a legitimate question of whether these opaque selection processes are being orchestrated by D-207′s and D-64′s Board presidents, each of whom have children in schools within their respective bailiwicks.
Meanwhile, these Star Chamber selection processes are big-time whacks on the derrieres of the taxpayers by their elected and appointed officials whose governmental bodies consume, collectively, over TWO-THIRDS of our property taxes.
Thank you, Boards…may we have another?
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