PEORIA, IL -- Public comments at the Peoria District 150 School Board meeting ranged from criticism to praise concerning what's been taking place lately.
Here is a recording of the comments.
The board heard a presentation on the new contract with the charter school Quest. To its credit, the Quest board is ditching the Turkish management company, and planning to run it with staff to be hired.
Bob Gates, a volunteer head of the Peoria Area Chamber of Cocmmerce led a delegation to support Quest, saying it gives parents a choice. A parent also praised Quest.
A District 150 staff member praised the now notorious $10,000 student trip to the Bradley basketball game, saying it was "a once in a lifetime experiece" for some students.
Brenda Wilson, who is running for a seat on the board in the April election, said the trip should have been funded differently (it came from the district's education fund), and added the only way it came to public attention was through Freedom of Information Act filings.
Sharon Crews, who filed the FOIAs that revealed the costs, said the $4,500 in tickets was never voted on by the board, though it was over the limit that required a vote. Her written report will be posted below later.
Terry Knapp described the now notorious incident at a student basketball game involving Supt. Grenita Lathan, who fired a long time referee because he turned his back on her and didnt listen to her comments. He later said he didn't recognize her.
The superintendent is alleged to have told him: "don't you turn your back on me. I'm the superintendent," Knapp said.
Afterward board president Debbie Wolfmeyer said "others at the game...had a different version of the events."
She also defended the Bradley basketball game trip, saying "we send students to many events," from the symphony to hockey games. "This is nothing new."
-- Elaine Hopkins
Here is the comment from Sharon Crews:
Again about the November Bradley game, I admit it’s overkill, but I couldn’t resist the urge to write a FOIA request to find out, by name, the employees and board members who sat in special seats away from the students and how much the tickets cost and who paid for them.
I was amused to learn that my request was too burdensome for the usual five-day response time. I believe that the request was burdensome only because the powers-that-be did not want me to receive any more data about this event—at least, until after this board meeting.
I must admit my own surprise that the initial report caught the attention of a Peoria Journal Star reporter, the editor, and a columnist. I wish the PJS, especially the sports writers, had caught wind of the ref. vs superintendent controversy at the Harrison vs Mark Bills game, and the attack on the ref by parents at the Von Steuben vs Calvin Coolidge game. Quan Chaney is yet another victim of “my way or the highway” leadership.
I continue to have questions about the way District 150 spending is not reported to the public or voted on in public. The November 20 receipt states that District 150 paid $4500 to Bradley for 900 tickets. $4500 does fit the category of Purchase Orders over $2500, right?
Yet the Bradley tickets did not appear in the minutes for the November 23 or December 15 meetings. Why has this expenditure and, in fact, the event itself never been approved? I am quite convinced that if Terry and I had not sought information (and received unsolicited info) and reported the data, few would have known about the event and only those on Wisconsin Avenue would have known about the $10,000 price tag.
Neither James Rainer nor the Balanced Literacy Program is mentioned on the 2013-14 Statement of Affairs, yet the program was paid over $100,000. Again, if we had not requested and reported this data few, if any, would know that the District has sunk over $300,000 into a program that couldn’t keep Harrison and Roosevelt from being the two lowest performing primary schools in Illinois. When will transparency begin?
Prior to this year, the Statement of Affairs was headed with this statement, “This listing must be published in the local newspaper.” If that is a requirement, when was it published in the PJS?
By the way, someone please explain why James Rainer was almost totally ignored and spoke only during the public comment time. That was strange, to say the least. - 30 -
-- Sharon Crews