After electoral loss, District 214 parents slate renews calls for transparency
Coming off one of the most contentious Northwest Suburban High School District 214 board elections in recent years, supporters of the losing slate of candidates renewed calls Thursday for increased transparency from the board and administration.
But the board president maintains that the district is transparent.
Those comments came during and after a school board meeting Thursday night -- less than 48 hours after returns began coming in for the eight-way contest.
The four-member establishment slate of three board incumbents and one newcomer were the top vote-getters over a four-person slate of parents who organized last year out of a desire to reopen schools.
Elizabeth Bauer, a frequent board critic who received the most votes of the District 214 Parents for Kids slate, thanked those in the community who helped with her campaign, raised money and put up yard signs. But she said parents' advocacy efforts are just beginning.
"We are not done. We will continue to push for transparency for open and public decision making and for attention to all students and their needs," said Bauer, of Arlington Heights, during the public comment portion of the meeting Thursday night.
She was joined by her husband, Martin, who urged the board to listen to the "large minority" of constituents who are demanding more openness of how the board conducts its business, he said.
He suggested video recording not only board meetings, but also any planning meetings now held behind the scenes.
In an interview after the meeting, board President Dan Petro of Arlington Heights said the board would consider making video streaming of board meetings permanent. It's been happening for the last year during the pandemic, though when discussed by the board a decade ago it was considered cost-prohibitive, Petro said.
On the broader question of transparency, Petro pointed to weekly newsletters, emails and correspondence sent to parents and students. He also tried to contest accusations that board members conduct a good amount of business behind closed doors.
Before each board meeting, the board president and another board member attend a planning meeting with the superintendent to discuss what will go on the published agenda -- but there isn't discussion of how they're going to vote, Petro said.
Then, at the public board meeting, there's discussion by the board and questions of district staff -- like the discussion Thursday night about a proposed new financial software system. The following meeting is when the board has any remaining discussion before taking a vote, Petro said.
"They don't know what they're talking about," Petro said of critics. "They're not paying any attention to what we're doing. ... I'm not sure how much more transparent we can get."
He added that board members may also contact the superintendent and staff with questions before a meeting, when they might not readily have the information.
The three reelected board members -- Mark Hineman, Millie Palmer and Lenny Walker -- and top vote-getter Andrea Rauch will be sworn in April 29 after the vote has been certified.