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Our view: Disturbing trend in District 155

Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 10:52 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 10:55 p.m. CDT

The Illinois attorney general’s office will determine whether late-night votes to give administrative raises and extend the superintendent’s contract after closed-session discussions by School District 155 board members was legal.

The district’s teachers’ union has filed an Open Meetings Act complaint with the attorney general. The teachers contend that unanimous votes to approve superintendent Johnnie Thomas’ recommendation of budget increases for administrative salaries and to extend Thomas’ contract should not have happened because the agenda item said the board would meet to identify assistant superintendent positions.

The district contends because neither vote included financial details, both measures will have to come to the board in open session to become official. It also says the teachers’ complaint likely referenced a preliminary agenda. An updated draft that included “administrative contracts” under closed session discussion items was distributed at the meeting and posted at the District 155 office 48 hours in advance, the district says.

Union leader Justin Hubly said the agenda distributed at the meeting to association members in attendance did not have that item included.

“Our members are just looking for this school board to be open and honest with the public and with us. We seem to miss that frequently,” Hubly said. “Why would you approve the superintendent contract without financial terms? What’s the purpose of that vote?”

School board members may not have violated the letter of the law regarding the Open Meetings Act, but they certainly broke the spirit of the law.

Keeping the public in the dark about school district business has become a disturbing trend with District 155.

Last summer, it was the bleachers expansion at Crystal Lake South High School that skirted the city of Crystal Lake planning process and was done with minimal communication to residents around the school.

Earlier this year, it was approving a new teachers contract that increased expenditures 7.1 percent for teachers’ salaries and benefits over the life of the contract. It did so without providing any details of the contract to the public until the school board voted on it.

We continue to encourage District 155 to do the public’s business with transparency and public involvement.

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