Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Winnetka School Board Pres. and Supt. van der Bogert on hot seat?

"That’s some catch, that Catch 22," Yossarian observed. “It’s the best there is," Doc Daneeeka agreed.

Winnetka and other suburban school board may not have a novelist like Joseph Heller sitting on their boards, but Winnetka and other suburban school districts may have their own version of Catch 22 that prevents community-Board dialogue and prevents the Board from answering questions such as the queries below, which were asked by a parent/Winnetka Caucus Council member at a recent Winnetka School Board meeting:

Did Winnetka School Board Member Becky Hurley consult with Board President Kelly and Superintendent van der Bogert before she referenced a private email regarding the child of a Winnetka Caucus Council (“WCC”) Schools Committee member in a meeting with WCC co-chairs Joni Johnson and Ed Harney, WCC Schools Committee Chairman Xerxes Bhote, and private citizen Laurie Kaplan?

Was the intent of this disclosure to have [the parent] removed from the WCC Schools Committee?

Was the intent of the conversation to show [the parent] as being biased against the existing slate [incumbent Winnetka school board members]?

What specifically was her [Board Member Becky Hurley] intent in regards to the information she provided?

What was a private citizen Laurie Kaplan doing at this meeting where Board Member Hurley revealed the contents of an email exchange between [the parent], the Board President [Anne Kelly] and the Superintendent [Dr. Rebecca van der Bogert]?
[See here].

The thing of it is, putting it in plain spoken terms, shouldn’t an email communication from a parent to a school board president about the parent’s child be confidential and not be treated as “fair game,” in another school member’s member apparent effort to help her Board President in a political process?

The Winnetka Caucus Council co-chairs, who perhaps were co-opted by the Winnetka School Board appear to take the view that No-- such emails should not be given confidential treatment. Caucus Council Co-Chairs Ed Harney and Joni Johnson wrote in an email to a Caucus Council members a few hours before the Council voted, November 15, on the Caucus’ school board slate:

The Schools Committee Chair [Xerkes Bhote], Joni Johnson and Ed Harney [Caucus Co-Chairs] [and a private citizen] …attended a meeting with Becky Hurley [Winnetka School Board Member]… A communication that was a matter of public record was shared between Anne Kelly [Winnetka School Board President and not slated for another term by the Winnetka Schools Committee] and a Winnetka parent disclosing [an issue relating to the parent’s child— described in the email sent by Johnson and Harney]. We actually knew of the situation prior to its disclosure.

So, perhaps Anne Kelly will want to discuss with the Winnetka Community whether she thought that the email to her from a parent about her child should have been treated confidentially. Did Anne or Superintendent van der Bogert forward the email to Board Member Becky Hurley with the understanding that it would be treated confidentially by board member Hurley. If so, was that confidence breached by Hurley. To what extent has Kelly investigated this matter? To what extent has Superintendent van der Bogert investigated the issue? What are the results of the investigation? Inquiring minds want to know.

How did Caucus Council Johnson and Harney learn of the “situation,” prior to the disclosure [by Hurley]. Did the private citizen in attendance also know of the “situation.” How did the parent’s email to school board president Kelly become a matter of “Public Record, as Ed Harney and Joni Johnson assert? If Johnson and Harney had learned of the situation prior to the meeting with Hurley, did Hurley know that? How?

Winnetka School Board Presdident and candidate Anne Kelly will have an opportunity to meet with the Caucus Council and other members of the community this evening and answer these and other questions:

The Winnetka Caucus Council is holding an informal candidate forum from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 12 for the board candidates who will be voted on at the Caucus Council Town Meeting in January…The forum will allow members of the public to ask questions about and discuss community issues with the candidates. The forum will take place in the Council Chambers of Village Hall.

Anne Kelly, current School Board president, and Jeff Hoch, have been slated for a second term on the School Board. Newcomers Van Barletta and Nancy Fehrenbach have been slated, also…

All voting- age residents of the Village will have an opportunity to vote on the slated candidates at the Caucus' Winter Town Meeting, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, January 18, at the Skokie School Auditorium on Glendale in Winnetka. [The final election by the Public of school board candidates occurs in the Spring, always with the possibility of a contested election—this being America].

[Winnetka Talk, Dec. 7, 2006].

Well, there you go. Will Winnetka School Board’s version of Catch 22 be invoked or will Anne Kelly step up and answer some questions from the community? If they are asked, that is. So far, Kelly, Hurley and van der Bogert are taking the position with this reporter--mums the word.

And, perhaps Supt. van der Bogert, who apparently has accepted a new position as Head of School at the Palm Beach Day Academy, effective July 1, 2007, will want to answer some questions about the above before she ventures out to a somewhat sunnier climate. Indeed, perhaps she will want to do so tonight.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at JBCG@aol.com