And you thought school board meetings were boring? Here's the short version of the twists and turns at Tuesday night's D46 board meeting:
- Angry protestors rallied at the entrance to the meeting because of allegations of unethical behavior against the superintendent and board.
- During the public comment portion of the meeting, a lawsuit was filed against the school superintendent and board.
- The police were called to control the extremely angry audience.
Even before the contentious meeting began, residents gathered in protest outside Grayslake Middle School before the 7 p.m. meeting sharing their anger over allegations of unethical and possibly illegal behavior on the part of the superintendent and school board.
"I am a D46 taxpayer and I am shocked and certain that these people are not repesenting the taxpayers," said lifelong Grayslake resident Ann Cleary.
Two of the more serious allegations, culled from D46 and other local school district e-mails, include: (1) giving gift cards to 18-year-olds to vote for incumbent board members and (2) the hiring of an outside mediator by the superintendent to investigate allegations against herself and the other board members, instead of submitting the charges to the states attorney's office for an impartial review.
The angry crowd moved from the entrance to the meeting room to sit-side-by-side with parents there to see their children perform at the meeting as part of the Grayslake Middle School Honors choir, seemingly unaware of the charges being made.
"I appreciate that we had the GMS Choir here tonight because tonight is the night this board will have to face the music," said protester and Hainesville resident Paul Mitchell.
Notably absent when the meeting began were out-going board president Mary Garcia and newly re-elected board member, Sue Facklam, both the primary targets of the electioneering charges. Facklam did appear for the swearing in ceremony and then left abruptly during the conclusion of the meeting.
Public comment after public comment spoke of residents' frustration and disappointment, beginning with a request that the board hold off on making any decisions on current agenda items until the charges against them had been reviewed.
"Very serious allegations have been made and I ask that the board put aside any 'business' on the agenda tonight and deal with the issues at hand," said Shannon Smigielski prior to being sworn in as a new board member.
Many of the comments focused on the responsibility the board and administration had been given and misused.
"I am a 32-year resident and when I read these e-mails about getting re-elected being sent during school time I was upset. What you have done is at a minimum unethical, at worse a violation of the law," said Don Castella.
"This is where it all happens, at the community level. As taxpayers we expect the board to do the right thing. Not to worry about their own agendas," said Bob Bednar.
It wasn't long before a gentleman stepped to the podium and read the following statement:
"Late today, a lawsuit was filed against this board in the County of Lake, Lake County, State of Illinois, for defamation of character. Being appointed by the Clerk of the County of Lake, State of Illinois, I hereby give legal and official public notification of that suit, as the process server, duly appointed by the Clerk of Lake County and I serve you with legal notification of that suit."
After this disturbing news the audience became more agitated and began to heckle both the superintendent and current board members: "Shame on you!" "Honor the people!" "You're disgusting!" "Shut this meeting down!"
The Grayslake police where called in to manage the contentious and potentially explosive situation. "We are not here to take sides, we're here to make sure the meeting can continue without an issue or to close the meeting if that's not possible," said Grayslake Police Officer Foy.
The newly elected board members were sworn in and after going back and forth with nominations, the board selected Ray Millington as president and Keith Surroz as vice president.
Board member Michael Carbone requested a special board meeting be set to get the charges reviewed by the State's attorney and discontinue the district relationship with the mediator hired by superintendent Ellen Correll. That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 17 at 6 p.m.