Cook School students perform
Those who arrived by 8 p.m. for the new school board's first business meeting enjoyed songs from The Lion King Jr., performed by Cook School students while the board met in closed session. (See details here.) The announced delay of 20 to 30 minutes wore on quite a bit longer.
"We will not be late again," Board President Emily Morgan promised.
Once the meeting began, privilege of the floor went on until 10:10 p.m., with staff members, union officials and watchdog residents challenging the board and Superintendent Anna Belin-Pyles. There were too many issues to cover in a blog post, but here are some:
- Terry Slaughter-Cabbell questioned why a resolution to hire an athletic supervisor listed no name, but said "TBA" or "To Be Announced" as it did when on an April agenda. She alleged the job had not been posted and asked how the candidate knew about it. Later, when another speaker asked about it, the answer was it had been pulled from the agenda.
- Plainfield Education Association President Eric Jones expressed dissatisfaction with Belin-Pyles' handling of his questions about the agenda, saying he was referred to Human Resources consultant Dan Williamson.
"I'm an advocate, a passionate one," Jones said, asking Belin-Pyles to "partner" with him.
Belin-Pyles said she had agreed to meet with Jones weekly and has held to that, but she also said the agreement was for Williamson to be a liaison to Jones. She said in a two-hour meeting Monday Jones had not raised the issues he had brought to the microphone.
Jones asked to speak again and said he thought the weekly meetings were established to discuss grievances, "not about why teachers didn't have books."
"I want an ongoing conversation with our leader," Jones said.
- A group of 14 substitute bus drivers said only two other individuals scored high on a test and were awarded assignments. They questioned how the test was administered and hinted at nepotism. The drivers said they had worked for six or more years and had done the same job as the two in question. One woman broke down in tears and repeated, "It's just sad." One of the two who passed the test defended his right to the job. Morgan said she had no information regarding the process but would look into it. Later, the two names were pulled from a resolution up for a vote Tuesday.
- The board faced questions on why the success of the Plainfield Academy for the Arts and Advanced Studies was not recognized by the district in the same way as Plainfield High School's recent accreditation. PAAAS won a bronze medal in U.S. News & World Report's 2016 National Ranking of High Schools but the honor was not recognized with a banner, nor was it noted on the district website. The only local mention was on Dan Damon's blog.
Belin-Pyles said it will be in the June district newsletter and the school will "absolutely" have a banner.
When the board went into committee reports, Finance Committee Chair Carmencita Pile said she had numerous questions about the agenda. The board passed other parts of the agenda and then went back into closed session at 10:35 p.m.to discuss the Finance portion. The meeting was to resume in public when they were done with the closed session, but I walked home at that point.