After watching the Community Consolidated School District 15 board meeting Sept. 15, Palatine resident Jane VanWolvelear knew exactly what she wanted to say to board members during public comment.
"As I observed this meeting, watching the body language, facial expressions and tone of voice, I ask [the school board] what I ask of my own children—please show each other some respect," VanWolvelear said. "I see people turning their backs when others are speaking, flopping their heads."
The last several months have been difficult for District 15, and tension between board members is readily apparent at times. In the spring, a plan to issue $27 million in bonds–$17 million for capital improvements and $10 million for a working cash fund–drew public opposition and divided the board.
A petition drive to force the matter to a referendum Nov. 2 succeeded, attracting more than 7,500 signatures.
At the Sept. 15 meeting at Walter R. Sundling Jr. High School, Superintendent Scott Thompson outlined plans to improve communication within the district and to reach out to the public.
For example, Tim Waldorf, communications writer for the district, has begun publishing board briefs on the district website the day after meetings. The district also is upgrading its website's bandwidth in order to host videos of board meetings.
"I want to congratulate the new superintendent," board member Sue Quinn said. "I think that what he is doing in the area of communication is a huge leap."
Thompson said the school district will conduct community engagement sessions, each focusing on a different topic, including finances, facilities and curriculum. The sessions will be in the evening, with the first hour being an informational presentation and the second hour idea gathering from participants.
"I want people to know where I stand and what direction the district is head in as a whole and I want them to be able to be a partner in that," Thompson said.
Thompson said improving communication was one of his goals when be became superintendent in July, following the abrupt resignation of Daniel Lukich on June 30. The school board has not publicly discussed what caused Lukich's departure.
The board approved a separation agreement with Lukich that will pay him $185,000 through 2011. If Lukich takes another job, District 15's obligation to him will be reduced "dollar for dollar for each dollar earned above $23,5000…," according to the separation agreement.