Last week, we published a story in which a Kaneland School Board discussion turned into a debate, and then into a conflict, and ultimately devolved into a shouting match.
The original issue was an agenda item to reassign an existing district employee to a new position within the district.
By the end of that discussion, School Board member Tony Valente had accused another board member of being in the administration’s “back pocket,” repeatedly tried to talk over an active board vote by repeating the phrase “point of order,” and attempted to shout down a fellow board member.
Being a board member of just about anything is difficult, especially a Kaneland School Board member. It is a volunteer position. You are responsible for overseeing an entire school district’s functions while overseeing a shrinking budget, and you must take into account the various needs of differing groups of constituents—which sometimes are in opposition to each other. All of this juggling must occur while sitting on a board with six other individuals who are also attempting to perform that same juggling act.
When you add that to the likelihood of personality clashes—which exist when you put any group of any size together—the potential for conflict is always there.
Conflict in and of itself is neither a good nor a bad thing—it all depends on how it is resolved and how those in the conflict conduct themselves.
Unfortunately, during the March 12 board meeting, Valente’s conduct was so unprofessional that it left the overall conflict unresolved and risked undermining any legitimate points he may have been trying to make.
Should the district take a look at its current hiring practices and procedures to evaluate if they need to be updated? Possibly, but the way to accomplish that is not to state your opinion and then get aggressive, condescending and increasingly loud as others expression their opinions.
This is not the first time Valente’s behavior during board meetings has been cringe-inducing, but this is the first time that Valente’s pattern of public behavior has turned into this much of a public conflict-turned-shouting match.
It is absolutely a board member’s right to question the way things are done and to challenge the district administration, as well as the rest of the School Board. Yet, with that right comes a responsibility, and that responsibility is to conduct oneself with a measure of professional conduct and mutual respect.
It is our view that Valente disrespected the board, the administration and ultimately himself. If this was a one-time occurrence, it would be easier to look past for everyone involved—fellow board members and observers. The fact that this has become a pattern of behavior is, in our view, why Valente was called out during the board meeting and why we are using this space to call him out as well.
We urge Valente to reconsider his behavior. If he truly believes that the questions he wants to ask deserve legitimate answers, he should pose them in a legitimate way. Verbally attacking fellow board members and shouting down those who disagree with him is counter-productive, and if he cannot conduct himself like an adult, he should step down and let someone who can actually work with other people take his place.