The District 209 Board of Education seemed eager to test the limits of the Open Meetings Act in July when Board President Chris Welch’s majority allegedly plotted the firing of Superintendent Greg Jackson behind closed doors without informing the rest of the board.
A month later, if the board is no longer violating the letter of the law, it is shamelessly mocking, mangling, and stomping on its spirit.
Welch seems to think having three other members of the board present who would most likely vote with him takes precedence over democracy or the interests of the constituents he represents.
He speaks for the entire board during meetings with regional authorities on matters as important as hiring a new superintendent. And that’s just weeks after the last superintendent he hired on his own, Robert Libka, proved to be legally unqualified for the job under the Illinois School Code.
Then, with the district already under investigation for one potential Open Meetings Act violation, he reportedly instructed Libka to cancel the board’s regularly scheduled meeting for the second straight time last week, despite complaints both from board members and the public that they have been left out of the loop before major decisions.
The arrogance seems to have spread to others at Proviso as well. School board attorney Mark Sterk, whose law firm has donated generously to Welch’s campaigns, recently told the Review to take anything that opposition board members say “with a grain of salt.”
Last we checked, Sterk works for the entire board, just as Welch works for all of Proviso Township, not just the recently appointed (and politically connected) administrators he plans to move to luxurious new offices at Proviso’s new magnet school.
Welch says there is $7 million left from the $40 million bond set aside to fund the magnet school, but he has offered no evidence. Meanwhile, his opponents say that a detailed expense report shows the amount is closer to $1 million.
No matter how much the school cost, the money has already been spent, and the school may well turn out to be an academically superior institution providing a wonderful opportunity for a select few whose test scores are high enough to escape the district’s other failing schools.
We can only hope that when the district requests a referendum to keep the magnet school open, as it almost certainly will have to, taxpayers will not feel too betrayed to chip in.
At some point, accountability always kicks in.