Conflicts surface between Valente, Board
by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—Kaneland School Board member Tony Valente on Monday expressed his displeasure with the high school’s test scores during the past two years, and Superintendent Jeff Schuler’s recent contract extension, when he read from a prepared statement at the beginning of the School Board meeting.
Valente, who was absent from four of the board’s five meetings between June 13 and Sept. 12, said the Kaneland School District is going backwards, stagnant and behind better districts in student achievement.
Valente stated that recent events, such as giving a central office administrator an almost 20 percent raise and extending a central office administrator’s contract through 2015-16 without looking at current data, leads him to believe that common sense is not so common.
“As an administrator and teacher for almost 20 years, the industry standard for achieve- ment is the PSAE and ACT exam,” he said. “Local assessments and benchmark data are valuable as an assessment tool, but the industry standard for every school district is the num- ber and percentage of students meeting the PSAE meet-and-exceed category, and a school’s average ACT score. Kaneland is sorely behind other districts with similar demo- graphics.”
Valente then presented numbers that he said demonstrate his point, comparing the percentage of Kaneland students that placed in the PSAE’s meet-and-exceed category (57 percent) with the percentage of Glenbard South (78 percent), Batavia (73 percent) and Gene- va (75 percent) high school students. According to Valente, Kaneland’s PSAE scores since 2009 have plummeted to 62 percent in reading, 52 percent in math and 57 percent in science. He also stated that Kaneland’s ACT scores continue to hover around the state aver- age of 20.9, “well behind the aforementioned districts, even though our current administration believes we should be near a 23 or 24 average.”
Valente was principal of Kaneland High School for two years before he resigned in June 2009.
“I certainly appreciate the interest in mak- ing sure that we’re focusing on the mission of our School District, and college and career readiness for all students,” Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said. “I agree 100 percent that it ought to be our focus, but I think what is a little bit unfortunate in (Valente’s) comments is that we spent a lot of time over the last couple of meetings really addressing (our mission statement) in a very clear set of performance targets that we set for the School District, as well as a strategy map that outlines the things we’re going to work on over the next three years to accomplish (our goals). I don’t know that the comments fully reflected what the district has already been working on and has talked about very publicly through the board meetings this summer.”
Board reviews performance targets
The first item on the New Business portion of the School Board’s agenda was a presentation given by Dr. Sarah Mumm that reviewed data pertaining to the district’s K-5 teaching and learning performance targets.
Valente interrupted Mumm’s presentation several times, questioning the presented data and asking for a clarification of whether or not ISAT test scores align with the district’s mis- sion statement regarding college and career readiness. Valente then asked Mumm what the district’s “exceeds” category for math would be on the PSAE exam. Mumm said that the infor- mation would be included in her presentation at the next board meeting, and that her current presentation was just reviewing K-5 data.
“You should have that (PSAE) data, correct?” Valente asked.
“We do have that data, yeah,” Mumm replied.
“And what is that data?” Valente asked.
“It’s in the presentation at the next board meeting,” Mumm replied.
“That you won’t be here for,” Board Trustee Joe Oberweis then said to Valente.
“Is there something you want to say, Joe?” Valente asked.
“I just did,” Oberweis replied.
Board approves appointment of student expulsion hearing officers The School Board voted 5-1 to appoint Rich
Majka and Donna Metzler as district hearing officers for the 2011-12 school year.
Valente voted no. Oberweis voted present.
Oberweis requested the vote be tabled until the board could participate in at least one student expulsion hearing to decide whether or not board members wanted to continue conducting such hearings. A motion to table the vote was voted down 5-2, with Valente and Oberweis voting yes.
According to a document provided by Schuler, a student expulsion must be processed in a fairly tight time frame. Once a student has been suspended from school with a recommendation for expulsion, the expulsion hearing should take place and the recommen- dation should be acted on by the Board of Education within 10 days. The document also states that scheduling a meeting of a full Board of Education within that time frame can be difficult. Scheduling a hearing with a hearing officer allows greater flexibility in a shorter time frame. Additionally, hearing officers conduct suspen- sions and expulsion hearings as a part of their professional practice. As a result, they are fully aware of the due process rights of a student recommended for expulsion.
Valente spoke in opposition of appointing expulsion hearing officers, stating his belief that board members should be the ones to conduct student expulsion hearings.
“I think the issue for me is that we embody the norms of our community. We live here; we make the decision. We decide how we want to make our school …” he said. “No matter how apart we are at times, we have to decide that. I don’t want a hearing officer who’s worked in some really rough neighborhoods and areas to tell me what the norms of our community is going to be. I, for one, am against that.” School Board Vice President Elmer Gramley spoke soon thereafter, telling Valente he was loud and opinionated. He then asked Valente how he could expect to attend student expulsion hearings when he wasn’t even able to attend the majority of School Board meetings held during the summer. “(I’ve been an) educator and an administrator for many years, and I think I’ve earned a right to somewhat be opinionated,” Valente said. “I don’t want to call you things; I have a lot of respect for you. As a rubber stamp—I don’t call you that, Elmer. So don’t say I am being loud and opinionated when you’ve been a rubber stamp and just stamping things for many years.”
“I didn’t make an attack,” Gramley said.
“When I am attacked, I am going to attack back, Elmer,” Valente continued. “You’re the one who got us into this economic situation we’re in.”
Board President Cheryl Krauspe then used her gavel to restore order to the meeting.
“All of the Kaneland Board members—every one of us—is committed to providing a great education for our Kaneland students, or we shouldn’t be serving in this capacity,” Krauspe later said. “In the process of serving as a board team, if there are distractions that get in the way of our ability to carry out our mission and goals, those distractions need to be minimized. There is too much challenging work to be accomplished to get bogged down. We can’t afford to lose our focus and our forward movement.”