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The RoundTable reported that the District 65 Board of Education discussed and decided to create two new administrative positions in a closed session meeting last week. 

Superintendent Devon Horton is quoted as justifying this departure from the requirements of the Open Meetings Act “because all district decisions related to personnel are conducted behind closed doors.”  

Wrong! The Act is quite clear that all matters are to be discussed in open session unless they fall within a specific exception in the Act. The exception to which Horton appears to be referring is limited to discussion of the “appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of specific employees.” 

Under the Superintendent’s understanding of the Act, apparently shared by the board, the exception would swallow the rule. For example, any discussion of the budget could be done in closed session, since the vast majority of the budget goes for personnel.

Sadly, this is hardly the first time this board and superintendent have essentially blown off the Open Meetings Act. 

The Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) offers regular training for boards in the requirements of the Act.  I would encourage the District 65 Board to avail itself of this training, and even invite an IASB representative to attend subsequent closed sessions of the board to make sure they’ve understood what they’ve been taught.

Jonathan Baum
Former D65 and D202 School Board Member

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  1. Horton has brought a lot of new ways of operating to Evanston Schools. This is just one that is questionable. I am very concerned about the number of principals from D65 schools who recently have opted to leave the district. To me this says that Horton has not been able to convince a large number of people that his changes will be productive. District 65 praises Supt. Horton for modeling “disruptive leadership” (see https://www.district65.net/Page/2509)
    in the context of the laudable goals of assuring equity and the education of all children. Unfortunately, he also brings a “turnaround schools” mentality from CPS. His disruptive leadership seems to mean that one must destroy the existing leadership and ways of operating in order to bring about change. This method, pioneered by Newt Gingrich, notably led to negative changes in the functioning of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. It is also reminiscent of the “rebuilding” concept in the sports world, which typically leads to losing seasons for many years. While change is good, not all change is good. Each school is an organic system, and this degree of disruption does not bode well for the children who must go through the rebuilding process.

  2. And why are we not getting D65 Board Meetings on our local channel? The public becomes suspicious when its leaders do their work in secret.

  3. Dr. Horton and D65 board members: please just take the IASB training Mr. Baum suggests in his letter. It’s an important part of your job as our elected officials to follow state laws. And at a time when our democracy feels constantly under threat from people who think the rules don’t apply to them, I suggest that it’s especially important.

  4. Unfortunately the fast and loose mentality of this administration extends beyond board meetings and has created an atmosphere of distrust between stakeholders (parents, teachers, even students) and this administration. The uncertainty that exists as a result has a deteriorating effect that can’t be measured in money only (building staff – principals and teachers leaving, as well as drops in enrollment and an increase in negative and violent behavior by students).
    So what do we have to look forward to for the remaining years of Dr. Horton’s contract and the terms of his board members if this is the legacy they’ve created? The financial bill is already being written and will come due, that is certain, but what of the cost to the end stakeholders, our children?

    1. The financial waste and cost will continue. Supt Horton seems to think this is his personal fief. Someone will make a Freedom of Information request or go to Illinois AG and the board will waste money fighting that. Just like the cost for the “private” security. Can’t wait to see who makes money on the new school contracts.