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SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS REJECT CONFLICT-OF-INTEREST BAN PREVENTING STUDENTS FROM SERVING ON THEIR OWN SCHOOL'S BOARD

CHICAGO – Members of the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) want students to continue to have the opportunity to serve on a board of education governing the district where they attend school.

Nearly 350 local school board representatives voted on a proposal that would have asked lawmakers to prohibit students from serving on school boards. The action, by a vote of 138 to 205, came during the Delegate Assembly at the 2007 Joint Annual Conference, held Nov. 16-18, in Chicago.

"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.

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 would require a statutory change.

The 2007 delegate assembly was part of the 75th Joint Annual Conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators, and Illinois Association of School Business Officials. The conference serves to provide training to school board members and administrators through hundreds of panel presentations, workshops, general sessions, and exhibits on school governance and leadership, education funding, student learning and achievement, school law and technology as well as current education issues and best practices. 

More than 11,500 people attended the three-day event, making it the largest state education leadership conference in the nation.

The rationale behind the conflict of interest resolution suggested that having a pupil serve on the very school board governing that student's district creates a significant conflict of interest, because many board decisions would impact co-workers or teachers, administrators, and support personnel serving the student at school.

Some delegates said the student in such circumstances could become, technically, his or her teacher's or principal's "boss." Board members are required to vote on salary and contract decisions for all personnel in the district, and are privy to confidential discussions about student and teacher disciplinary matters that occur in legally closed school board sessions.

But ultimately there was strong support for allowing 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.

The resolution was one of 17 new resolutions, amendments or reaffirmations of existing Association position statements that are used to set legislative policy for school boards statewide. The resolutions process is the opportunity for local school boards to influence existing or proposed legislation. IASB adopts such resolutions only after local delegates vote on them.

Other new resolutions involved funding for differentiated instruction, high school exams, preschool funding, non-resident student tuition, state aid notification, property tax cap expiration, school bus strobe lights, residency revisions, unit district consolidation, Election Day change, and polling places in schools.

Delegates also voted on officers for the coming year. Mark C. Metzger, a member of the Indian Prairie CUSD 204 Board of Education, Naperville, was elected president. The new vice president is Joseph Alesandrini, a member of the Pekin CHSD 303 Board of Education.

The Illinois Association of School Boards is a voluntary organization of local boards of education dedicated to strengthening the public schools through local citizen control. More than 98 percent of the state's 869 public school districts are Association members.

Editors: For more information, contact Ben Schwarm, associate executive director/governmental relations, at ext. 1137, or John Lyday, associate executive director/communications, at ext. 1214.

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