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D161 Board Runs Afoul of State's Open Meetings Act Again

A workshop to discuss Summit Hill school district programming was adjourned Monday after a parent pointed out the special meeting broke state law by being held on a holiday.

After weeks of tense debates over the budget cuts facing , Monday's board workshop was a chance to move discussion toward education and curriculum and away from finances and controversy.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans.

For the second time in three consecutive meetings and the third time this school year, the D161 board was challenged over whether it violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act. In this case, a district parent pointed out that the workshop was being held on a legal holiday--Casimir Pulaski Day--which is against state law.

The result: Monday's workshop was immediately adjourned by the board after Supt. Barb Rains talked to the district's lawyer. It is unknown if the workshop will be rescheduled, and if so, when that would be.

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Labeled a workshop, Monday's forum is considered a special public meeting and falls under the provisions of the Open Meetings Act. According to the state law, a public meeting can't be scheduled on a legal holiday. The only exception is if a board's regular meeting day coincides with a holiday.

There have been two other instances this school year when the board's adherence to the Open Meetings act has been questioned:

  • In September, , the minimum time allowed by state law. The district's attorney, however, .

  • Last month, , claiming the agenda item from the original meeting that contained the closure vote was too vague. That item was labeled "Planning for the Future" under old business on the meeting agenda.

In a phone interview Monday night, Rich Marron, the Tinley Park resident with three children in the district who brought up this violation during public comments, said the board's recent issues with the Open Meetings Act prompted him to look into the legality of the workshop after he heard about it last week. He said he didn't finish his research until Monday, which is why he didn't notify Rains or any board members earlier.

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"The community has been very clear that it wants more transparency," said Marron, adding that Rains thanked him after the meeting for bringing the possible violation to the board's attention. "It's a pattern that keeps coming up. When you put something on the agenda that says planning for the future and you close a school, you have to wonder what else could happen going forward."

Marron also said he thinks the board holds too many special meetings to discuss important topics that would be better handled during the regular board meetings. The added assemblies each month aren't just an unfair burden to parents who want to attend to stay informed, but also to board members, he said. Since July, there have been seven special meetings or workshops held, only one more than was held during the same period last school year.

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Going forward, Marron said he wants to see how the board polices itself in the face of these possible infractions. During his public remarks, Marron said board President Mary Kenny had violated her oath of office to uphold state laws by allowing this meeting to be scheduled on a holiday.

"I would just hate to see the board ignore these violations," he said.

Patch will continue to update this story throughout the day.

Rose C March 08, 2012 at 02:25 AM
FYI Community Member, after a community advisory meeting, I complained to Stacy about no longer receiving her e-mails about board meetings. She told me that she is no longer allowed to legally send her 'summaries' of the meetings. I wish there was someone who would pick up where she left off. However, she did say that since getting on the board she has encouraged Mrs. Rains to include more information in the board minutes. Also I personally think it's great to have our Superintendent sending us updates on what is going on in the district. Stacy was very approachable at the meeting, I'm sure if you had questions to be asked she would welcome them, as she did mine. Plus, I thought everyone in the community had her e-mail address after she started 'sharing' her point of view.
Community member March 08, 2012 at 02:28 AM
I don't think my comments were attacking anyone. The rules of the open meeting act were not followed and that's a fact. I'm not sure why you felt you needed to go on about Stacy, but you did. I was just asking to see if the e-mails were still on going. But I guess you assumed the worst in my question. Going forward I will have my eyes wide open and ask many questions and try to be part of the process that is about the children.
Rose C March 08, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Seriously Come On? Do your own math. I wasn't ready to see a building closed but every minute that board members sit on their hands & do NOTHING when the community starts screaching (even though they haven't been paying attention to anything in the district because everything seemed great on the surface) the further we get from solving our financial problems. Mr. Gerdes, Mrs. Raines & Mr. Martin all spoke as to why it had to be Mary Drew. So sad, but they backed up the decision with evidence. Of course teachers' jobs are on the line Come On! There are only 3400 students in the district, there will be less next year and less the year after that. It would be great to have classrooms with 20 kids or less, but that would cost even more money. I would rather may taxes go to a reading specialist (that thankfully my kid doesn't need but someone else's kid does) than towards utilites on a building at less than 50% capacity.
Rose C March 08, 2012 at 02:48 AM
I have to ask you Come On - what is YOUR personal agenda. You have no ideas to solve any problems, but you seem to enjoy stirring the pot. As for the comment that a board member may or may not have said they 'don't want to be there' - I get it. No matter what they do or say, they will be wrong from someone's perspective. I think the idea that they are 'breaking laws' is a stretch. However, slander and defimation of character come to mind after reading many comments that have been posted on the patch in recent months or shouted at board meetings. Not to mention the verbal threats made to board members as they were trying to leave the building after last week's meeting. I guess we know where the kids get the idea that it's ok to 'bully' people.
Stella Nyder March 08, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Community member yes I overreacted and jumped to conclusions when you simply asked a question. Your understanding is appreciated and I especially loved your reply about going foreward. Your reply I would say made my day because you sounded honest and sincere.

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