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Valente challenges board, administration

in Kaneland by

Discussion turns to conflict during board meeting
By Keith Beebe
KANELAND—School Board member Tony Valente on Tuesday called the district’s hiring practices into question during discussion regarding a resignation and employment of staff agenda item, stating his belief that the district is opening itself up to the potential for lawsuits, and action from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

The “hiring” move on the agenda was actually an internal reassignment of an existing employee.

“When we go through a process (that) does not involve our community, our students (and) our teachers—but we’re appointing anybody to a principalship, assistant principalship, superintendent, assistant superintendent, whatever—we don’t consult those people, and I think that we open ourselves up in many ways,” Valente said. “The main way, I think, is that we open ourselves up to unfair labor practices. That’s my opinion.”

“I think the board needs to seriously look at the policy and procedures of how we hire a candidate, because once this (resignation and employment of staff agenda item) is approved tonight, I can go tomorrow and file an EEOC claim as an administrator … and say that I wasn’t considered … for this position,” Valente said.

School Board member Joe Oberweis responded to Valente’s comments, disagreeing with the belief that there is a significant risk due to the district’s current hiring practices.

“I am embarrassed on behalf of the board to try and subject Jeff (Schuler) to that sort of rant,” Obwerweis said. “(Tony), I don’t mean to pick on you, but you’re picking on Jeff … you’re throwing out a bunch of big words, trying to make it sound much more important and official, and it’s all a bunch of hooey. There is no EEOC risk; there is nothing like that. People can go file an EEOC claim because you looked at them funny. It doesn’t mean it has any validity to it whatsoever. What the (Kaneland) district has done is what every other district has done—they had a good internal candidate, and they made the decision that they wanted to do it. There’s no risk about any of the other stuff, because a monkey can go file a claim about anything they want.”

“And you’re an attorney, or you just play one on TV?” Valente asked.

“I am the CEO of a 1,000-employee company, I talk to people about this all the time and I have a very good understanding of it,” Oberweis replied.

Oberweis then moved to shut down the discussion, but the board allowed Valente the opportunity to offer a comment. Valente reiterated that the district needs to go through the hiring process and look for the best possible candidate.

“Joe, you can’t sit there and criticize everything that we’re trying to do to save the district money,” Valente said. “With respect to lawsuits and personnel matters, we should open up (the) process, and the mere fact that you don’t want to open up the process and have a fair process for everybody tells me that we’re not interested in doing that … and that’s the ‘hooey.’”

After further back and forth between the two board members, Oberweis made a motion to end the discussion. Over the verbal objections of Valente, the board seconded the motion and passed the motion 6-1, with Valente the lone “no” vote. Valente told School Board President Cheryl Krauspe that she was out of order for allowing the vote to end discussion and “breaking the rules that (the board) agreed upon.”

Valente then repeatedly said “Point of order” while the rest of the board voted 6-0 to approve the original agenda item for resignation and employment of staff.

Valente took one more opportunity to speak about the conflict near the conclusion of the meeting, and stated that it is up to elected officials to question the administration. He called the School Board a “one-and-six board,” and said he was discouraged by the fact that the board had circumvented Robert’s Rules of Order and “rudely, jokingly threw him aside.”

“There’s a difference between questioning and grandstanding and giving out erroneous information—erroneous suggestions—where the work that this administration and this board does would be brought into question,” Krauspe said in response to Valente’s comments.

“Our administrative team would never employ a practice we know would create additional liability for our School District. I don’t share the concerns raised at the meeting, nor does the School Board’s attorney,” Schuler said.

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