St. Charles, IL - More than a week after the Kane County state’s attorney’s office sanctioned the St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 board, residents and board members, past and present, are having mixed reactions.
“I think to most people it’s pretty simple, a lot of (people) really feel (the board) let this community down and they should no longer be on the board,” parent Jenny Brooks said. “They’ve lost the trust in this community and they shouldn’t be there.”
On June 26, State’s Attorney John Barsanti ended a month-long investigation into allegations the board violated the Open Meetings Act when it approved an amendment to Superintendent Barbara Erwin’s contract by a 6-1 vote in closed session in 2005.
“The board’s action on April 11, 2005, violated not only the provisions of the act, but also the spirit of the act,” Barsanti said in a statement.
Since then, online message boards and e-mail inboxes of board members have been filled with calls from residents for the three current board members who also sat on the board in April 2005 to step down. Although none of the members plan on stepping down, they differ in their opinions on the outcome of the investigation...
...Both Raehl and Brooks said they had hoped Barsanti would void the amendment. But Barsanti said he was not prepared to overstep the new board’s decision when it retroactively ratified the contract June 8.
Parent Ed Fiala called the 5-2 vote an “egregious squandering of taxpayers’ dollars.”
Although it appears Erwin has not worked in the district long enough for her pension to receive the sick days credit, Raehl said the board should not have approved the amendment in the first place. Raehl called the amendment disgusting when there are teachers and administrators battling illnesses without enough sick days while Erwin was receiving 85 solely to become vested.
“It may have been legal, but it certainly wasn’t ethical,” Raehl said.
Hansen, along with Karla Ray, voted no on the ratification and said the 2005 board’s belief was that Erwin would stay with the district long enough to get the sick leave.
“At that time I was not really aware of what we were giving Dr. Erwin, in terms of what it meant,” Hansen said. “Now I know better and that’s why I voted no when we had a chance to approve the contract in open session.”
Here's a sampling of the public uproar..
This from the Kane County Chronicle
myidea wrote on Jun 27, 2007 6:11 AM:
" Hewll, Gaffney and Hansen should all resign from office IMMEDIATELY. You all knew what you were doing was wrong and you did it anyway. Unbelieveable, oh wait, no it's not. Thank You Mrs Raehl for doing what's right! As for Erwin, I hope the door hits her hard on her way out! The really sick part is I am certain she feels she is entitled to everything given her by the board of ed, well, she's NOT. "
truthingov wrote on Jun 27, 2007 7:07 AM:
" For more information on former School Board Member, John Reichling, visit the School District's website. He is a well-paid employee of the District. Hired by Barb Erwin and Company. Interesting? http://www.d303.org/administration/technology.htm "
i care wrote on Jun 27, 2007 7:36 AM:
" Not sure why I can't find Reichlings pay on this site but other admin are listed, humm. If you want to see how much we pay teachers and admin in our district go here: http://www.thechampion.org/teachers.asp?districtName=ST+CHARLES+CUSD+303&year=2006 "
bikerider wrote on Jun 27, 2007 7:52 AM:
" I agree completely that Hewell, Hansen and Gaffney should resign, especially Gaffney. From his comments on the tape and his present attitude it is apparent that he has no respect for the taxpayers of this district. Those board members delibrately violated the law and know are claiming it was no big deal. I voted for Gaffney and Hewell in the last election and would very much like to have my vote back. These are the type of people who have no business being involved in government, what else has the public not been told? "
Grampywatches wrote on Jun 27, 2007 9:08 AM:
" “It is public record but we don’t want to make it public record,” one unidentified male board member said. “I don’t think we want to tell anybody.” This blatant statement say it all!! "
spike797 wrote on Jun 27, 2007 11:40 AM:
" Where does one start? Reichling started at $148,000. How can he say as long as there’s no financial impact to 303 he’s Ok with it – as long as 303 doesn’t have to write a check? How irresponsible… Mary Jo Knipp works for the district, too. She’s a campus monitor who gets paid as an assistant dean unlike any other monitor in the district. How coincidental… Kathy Hewell said this “oversight” was in lieu of a raise. On the tape she says it’s just something we’re giving her (Erwin). Isn’t Erwin’s 10% bonus in lieu of a raise? How dishonest… Gaffney and Knipp tried to keep Raehl from taking a copy of the contract out of the room. Someone finally said she could have it and Knipp told her “keep it Bobbie – have a good time.” How disgusting… Thanks to Karla Ray for wanting to expose inappropriate closed door behavior. I hope the board pays close attention to their Open Meeting Seminar – it’s time to put an end to the old way of doing things. And thanks to Bobbie Raehl for being the only one who would stand up for what was right – legal or not! She always said she would never compromise her integrity, so she could listen to that tape with a clear conscience. Now I see why Erwin didn’t like her… As for Gaffney and Hewell, it’s easy to see why they didn’t get along with Raehl – she was too ethical for them. They wanted her out of office so badly that they blamed her, not Erwin, for all of the district’s problems. Now we’re stuck with them and she’s gone. How sad… "
concernedparent wrote on Jun 27, 2007 12:41 PM:
" Just because something is legal, doesnt make it RIGHT! This is clearly a case of ~ you scratch my back and I will scratch yours ~ In an effort to find the positive in this story, which is diificult, I want to thank Bobbie R. for having a backbone. She is in my opinion, the only Board Member that has one. She probably didnt bring it up earlier because she witnessed how Karla Ray was treated for mentioning "closed meeting comments" earlier in the yr. There should be no more closed sessions. Gaffney and Hewell should resign. They cant be trusted. "
AreYouKiddingMe wrote on Jun 27, 2007 3:23 PM:
" I have been wondering all along when the Reichling connection would come to light. Anne Fleming had his position before he fell into his job at a salary of $150,000. At that time Ms. Fleming was making $95,000 -odd isn't it how he came in making more than a woman without proving himself without having any experience in education? Obviously the "good old boys network" was working hard to take care of each others greed. My question is what rights do taxpayers have against a board and administrators that blatantly lie? How do we trust that there has not been a price tag on what vendors, testing, book publishers,software and anything else that effects our student's learning, has not been compromised because someone is getting a sweet kick back. Makes you wonder.......Not to mention how many contracts did Erwin/board approve without proper approval that has cost this district money we are not aware of? "
concernedparent wrote on Jun 27, 2007 3:42 PM:
" After additional thought, I think it would be wise to have closed sessions for the D303 School Board addressing only student matters, they as minors do have a right to privacy. Anything concerning contracts, employees, or money spent in any way, shape, or form should be addressed in a public forum. Why all the secrecy? It's our tax dollars. The analogy made in the audio tape to a corporation is laughable. D303 is not a publicly traded stock with a Board of Directors , they have enough troubles of their own. This is a non-paying elected position - I would love to see the oath they took when sworn in... "
ThrowTheScoundrelsOut wrote on Jun 27, 2007 3:50 PM:
" I am hoping our states attorney, Mr. Barsanti, doesn't stop now. He should immediately nullify the contract amendment from 2005. How can he say the meeting was legal, and not nullify the contract that stemmed from this meeting? If Barsanti truly wants to defend the public interest, than demanding an apology from the board to the community is simply inadequate. Show some guts here, Mr. B! The taxpayers need to be represented. Further, he should admonish the current board that they cannot grant 85 days a year to the departing Erwin. The law now only allows 15 days, and TODAYS law should apply. Last, thank you Karla Ray for having the courage to expose our school board. I hope everyone remembers what these people have done here, and how they continue to see this as an insignificant matter. Good luck passing a referendum now. "
wedeservebetter wrote on Jun 27, 2007 7:02 PM:
" I hope that by reading these comments, Hewell and Gaffney will resign immediately. They have and continue to breach their fiduciary responsibilities to the parents/taxpayers of our school district. Shame on them for listening to the orders of "carpetbagger" Erwin who is truly the tempest in the pot. I feel sorry that Ray, Raehl, and former board member Hartig were the subject of constant verbal abuse whenever they tried to shed light on what really goes on at our school board! "
wedeservebetter wrote on Jun 27, 2007 7:05 PM:
" FYI If Barbara Erwin is on our payroll (she is currently on Kentucky's as well), she should be answering to these charges as well. "
303watcher wrote on Jun 27, 2007 8:09 PM:
" Boo Hoo for poor Raehl-our crusader for justice and the board member with "backbone." My question is why did she lack the courage to address this issue during her tenure as Board President? Is it plausible to believe she had a memory loss until her election defeat and then suddenly remembered the issue? Seems like sour eggs to me on her way out the door. "
crazystuff wrote on Jun 27, 2007 9:01 PM:
" Dear 303watcher, Actually, everyone was beaten into submission under the ruler(s). Gaffney wasn't even going to run for re election but did so just because he wanted Raehl out and with Fox Mill upset, knew he'd beat her. If you recall Fox Mill was upset about getting switched to East and blamed Raehl. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. People need to pay attention and check into things. Check Gaffneys attendance at the board meetings for the months prior to the election, the time when his plans were to NOT run. He missed many many meetings, didn't care enough to bother with it. Raehl didn't miss ANY. I'll take Raehl on the board anyday, and almost anyone over Gaffney, the exceptions would be Knipp and Waller. "
concernedparent wrote on Jun 27, 2007 9:22 PM:
" 303watcher~ consider the possibility that Raehl didnt want to be treated like Karla Ray concerning closed session meeting comments. Ray and Gaffney were both close to losing their Board positions over that one. Raehl only came forward when she didnt have anything more to lose, except sleep. She does have a backbone. How can anyone blame the boundaries etc ALL on her? Everything requires a vote, even if it's behind closed doors. "
crazystuff wrote on Jun 27, 2007 9:37 PM:
" dear 303 watcher: re read my first sentence. NO ONE was allowed to say anything or do anything under the old ruler(s). "
AreYouKiddingMe wrote on Jun 27, 2007 9:38 PM:
" With this new information doesn't it make the new board's decision a moot point and not require this district to have to pay Erwin another red cent? "
spike797 wrote on Jun 28, 2007 12:03 AM:
" Why didn't Raehl come forward sooner? Lots of reasons... 1. When board members asked if they had to take a public vote, Knipp told them "NO." and she assured them it was legal. It was her job as board president to know the rules - she was in contact with the school attorney. Raehl was focused on the terms of the contract and Knipp trying to take it away from her. When Raehl mentioned FOIA she was reminded by Hewell that this was closed session. 2. It could've been approved in public and listed in the personnel report, along with pages and pages of employee information that the board often approves in one single vote. If Raehl had caught it, she could've argued it in public, but she was the lone "no" vote! Contrary to what some think, the board majority rules - not Bobbie Raehl. 3. 10 months later, she became board president when Gaffney resigned. Up until then, he and Erwin ran the show. According to an informer at www.theprincipal.blogspot.com (a Kentucky eduation watchdog website)Erwin was trying to collect 85 sick days for '04 even though her amended contract didn't begin until 05. Erwin said there was a verbal agreement and staff were being pressured to give her those days. Raehl had to decide what to do, so she researched the contract and discovered there was no record of it having been approved in the board minutes. I believe that she had learned by then that such an amendment had to be voted on in open session to be legal. If she had been re-elected, she could've tried to straighten things out, but because she was leaving office and because certain board members wanted Erwin to have whatever she wanted, Raehl turned the whole mess over to the State's Attorney's office. I'm glad she did. "
AreYouKiddingMe wrote on Jun 28, 2007 12:08 AM:
" Let's not forget the fact Erwin was signing contracts without board approval. This secrecy and power struggle has a stench - time to fumigate the rats. The clearing of one's conscious two years after the fact is disturbing no matter how you look at it - election or not. Even more disturbing is the fact we have new board members that said they were all about change when they spoke before the public but had no backbone to stand up for the taxpayers of this district as they had promised. Since when is a school board above the law? Why they voted prior to the tapes being released is another sign its time to clean house. Any board members past and present and employed board members how do you sleep at night? Shame on all of you. "
concernedparent wrote on Jun 28, 2007 8:32 AM:
" AreYouKiddingMe ~ I so agree! Why wasnt that vote to ratify held up until the end of the investigation ? Another move to rush thru and move on. I'm sick of these Board Members saying they just want it to be over, let's move on. No, how about we figure out who cant be trusted here?! "
triman wrote on Jun 28, 2007 11:21 AM:
" The STC boards have a history of ignorance, arrogance and incompetence that goes back as far as the 80s. (remember the mold?) Does anyone need to wonder why they have been so unsuccessful in getting needed funding approved by the voters? Any of them even remotely connected with this latest debacle should resign. "
bikerider wrote on Jun 28, 2007 11:43 AM:
" Sooner or later this board will have to come to the voters with a referendum. With these three members on the board I suspect it will have a difficult time passing it. I have no faith in their ability to manage this district in a honest, open manner. "
ThrowTheScoundrelsOut wrote on Jun 28, 2007 12:49 PM:
" Mr. Barsanti, What lesson has the D303 school board (as well as any other board that is watching) learned from your weak enforcement of the Open Meeting Act? Simple: Make any agreements you wish in private closed door meetings. If you get caught, simply ratify the agreement in the next open meeting. Penalty? Hah! You will be required to apologize! My kid gets a tougher penalty for running in the hall of his grade school. I agree with the other posters that the board, both past and present, should be ashamed. But you, Mr. Barsanti, should be embarassed. If you don't have the stomach to truly defend the public's interest, you should have deferred this matter to the Attorney General's office. Madigan understands the importance of the Open Meeting Act. "
AreYouKiddingMe wrote on Jun 28, 2007 4:15 PM:
" We expect the students and parents of this district to sign Code of Conduct contracts and if an infraction occurs there is a consequence that is to be served. Are Board of Education members above those same standards of accountability? I think not. Why can't we ask the Attorney General to look at this and question the validity of the decision Mr. Barsanti has felt is adequate when clearly the law has been broken. "
myidea wrote on Jun 28, 2007 4:55 PM:
" There's no doubt the punishment wasn't severe enough. I don't even see anything on the school website. Post the apology and the video feed there to start. Throw Gaffney out next, then Hewell and I think Hanson has to go too. Then the overpaid staff, Knipp and Reichling need to get off the payroll. Why are violations of the open meeting act rarely taken seriously? If there is a year jail possiblity, then send them there. Make them pay restitution to us the taxpaper. "
i care wrote on Jun 28, 2007 8:20 PM:
" I seem to recall another Gaffney story, during the last referendum attempt. He and Erwin thought it best to pay rush fees to architechs to redesign the middle/grade school design. Well, that was a waste, I think a hundred fifty grand, because the referendum failed anyway. Why would anyone pay to redraw plans in a hurry when there is no money to pay for the project? That was real good thinking. Anyone remember the specifics? " "
i care wrote on Jun 29, 2007 7:05 AM:
" Are You Kidding Me. That is an interesting thought in one of your early posts regarding kick Backs. Didn't the board just approve a new reading program that had stirred up some controversy? Now I wonder if there was a bonus in that for Erwin too. Maybe a trip or something. This is terrible to think about. "
getridofem wrote on Jun 29, 2007 8:05 AM:
" "I Care"...Interesting observation. In fact, Barb attended a 3-day, all expense paid trip to Rancho Mirage Calif. in 2004 hosted by a group of textbook, publishers, food-service vendors and software companies. She was also paid an additional $2,000 for attending. "
spike797 wrote on Jun 29, 2007 8:13 AM:
" I Care - The reading program had been revamped from it's original form which was among the lowest rated programs out there. Ray, Hansen and Raehl voted against it and wanted a more time tested program. It was pretty controversial that our administrators would be recommending a brand new program with such a poor history. "
AreYouKiddingMe wrote on Jun 29, 2007 8:27 AM:
" The company in question for these conferences is called ERDI (Education Research and Development Institute) and is located in Lockport, Illinois. The new Rigby reading program comes with a hefty price tag and removes standard skills teachers previously used in the classroom. This is the best we could do after 10 years of no identified reading program in the district? Seems to me if the scores were going up teachers were doing a wonderful job on their own and this is another case of wasted money....... "
concernedparent wrote on Jun 29, 2007 9:19 AM:
" Is this reading program a revamped SpringBoard? What a disaster that curriculum is... How much did that cost 303? "
Disappointed wrote on Jul 3, 2007 11:24 AM:
" What is all this teaching our children? Are all school boards like this? What is the problem with being honest, open, and telling the people who pay the taxes what is going on? "