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2007 Conference: Delegate assembly resolutions

Members vote to reject conflict-of-interest ban to prevent students from serving on their own school's board

Members of the Illinois Association of School Boards want students to continue to have the opportunity to serve on a board of education governing the district where they attend school. More than 350 local school board representatives voted down a resolution aimed at prohibiting students from serving on school boards, rejecting the proposal by a vote of 138 to 205 in balloting at this Delegate Assembly.

"If someone is duly elected, what gives us the right to say that, because he is a student, he does not know what confidentiality means?" asked Cyndi Dahl, a member of the Darien District 161 Board of Education. Dahl is also a member of IASB's Board of Directors.

She spoke in opposition to a resolution submitted by East Peoria District 309, which called upon IASB to actively support a revision in state law to keep students from serving on their own school's board of education. The question of whether to amend the law on the subject is up to state lawmakers to decide.

The rationale behind the defeated resolution states that having a pupil serve on the very school board governing that student's district would create a significant conflict of interest. Sponsors said such a conflict would not be in the best interests of the elected body or the public, because many board decisions impact co-workers or teachers, administrators, and support personnel serving the student at school.

Some delegates said the student in such circumstances would now become, technically, his or her teacher's or principal's "boss." The student board member also would vote on all salary and contract decisions for all personnel in the district, and would be privy to all confidential discussions about student and teacher disciplinary matters that occur in closed school board sessions.

But ultimately there was strong support for any person meeting the current requirements and receiving the majority of the votes for a seat on the local school board to serve on that board.

"I disagree with the concept that a [student] board member would be bossing school principals or teachers around; it is only as a group that school board members have any authority whatsoever," said Steve Phillips, a school board president from Greenview CUSD 200.

The decision to reject a conflict-of-interest prohibition on students serving as board members was one of the key actions taken by school board representatives at the policy-setting delegate assembly of IASB.

In other action, the school board delegates voted to push for legislation to allow legally enrolled students who have become non-residents of their own district to attend school as non-resident students, tuition free, until the end of the grading period. But the change would be allowed only until the end of the grading period in which the student was determined to be a non-resident.

The aim of the proposed change in the law is to allow students who are seniors in high school, and legally enrolled on the first day of school, to continue in the district, tuition free, until the end of the school year.

Representatives of IASB member boards agreed, however, that non-resident students should be paying tuition in most cases. The plan was submitted by Freeburg CCSD 70.

School board delegates also adopted several other new IASB policies, including resolutions that would:

  • Seek administrative and legislative actions calling for sufficient new monies to support programs of differentiated instruction for students with exceptional talents and abilities, permitting them to reach their potential. The resolution was submitted by Morton CUSD 709.
  • Support changes making it a priority for the state to fully fund early childhood programs operated by public schools. All programs receiving any public monies would be required to meet all standards and oversight applicable to programs operated by public schools. East Richland CUSD 1, Olney, submitted the proposal.
  • Support legislation to allow a school district to refuse to be used as a polling place during elections, when such a limitation is needed to ensure student safety. With ever-increasing concerns for student safety in schools, and with the myriad new laws regarding registered sex offenders being prohibited from school property, there have been various attempts at passing legislation regarding the use of schools as polling places. Supporters said most all of these bills have infringed on the right of the local school district to make the decision on whether or not to hold classes on Election Day. This successful resolution was put forward by the IASB Resolutions Committee in order to re-establish that right.

School board delegates refused to support a number of new ideas, however, including resolutions that would have pushed for legislation to:

  • Promote the consolidation of all Illinois school districts into unit districts. IASB already has taken an official position on this matter (adopted in 2002), which states: "The Illinois Association of School Boards shall support a provision to allow the unit district formation of those districts wishing to consolidate." Some board representatives said this position is not strong enough, given the importance of this matter to the health and viability of the public school system in Illinois. But delegates said a change was contrary to the longstanding tradition of IASB allowing local school districts and taxpayers to make such decisions about consolidation.
  • Support legislation calling for timely notification (prior to June 30) of general state aid (GSA) and all other mandated categorical state aid. Realistic and timely budgeting is difficult when state revenue sources are not disclosed in a timely manner, supporters said.
  • Repeal IASB's current position statement on property tax cap expiration. But most board members said the current property tax cap law is detrimental to the financial well-being of school districts and that calling for an expiration date on the cap is fair to both the school district and the taxpayers.
  • Seek to amend state law to allow a district losing one or more students to another district to appeal such residency questions to the Regional Superintendent for authoritative rulings.
  • Support legislation that would change election days from Tuesdays to Saturdays, with student safety concerns uppermost in mind.

IASB's Delegate Assembly also elected IASB officers for the coming year. Mark C. Metzger was elected as president for a one-year term. He has been a member of the Indian Prairie CUSD 204 Board of Education, Naperville, since 1991. He has served as president, secretary and committee chair of every committee of his local board.

Metzger previously served on the IASB nominating committee and as an alternate delegate to the 2004 NSBA Delegate Assembly. He is frequently invited as adjunct presenter at IASB leadership offerings and holds both LeaderShop Academy membership and Master Board Member status with the association, which he has maintained since 1997.

Joseph Alesandrini was elected by to serve as vice president of the association. He is president of the Pekin CHSD 303 Board of Education and has been director of the Central Illinois Valley Division of IASB since 1997. Alesandrini has served as treasurer of IASB since 2005, and he presently chairs the association's audit committee.

The new officers replace outgoing president Marie Slater of Wheaton Warrenville CUSD 200 and Metzger, who was vice president.

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