St. Charles School Board committee to review recommendations following complaints against board members

The St. Charles school board on Monday unanimously voted to create a three-person special committee to review recommendations following complaints against current school board members.

“The purpose of the special committee is to review the investigation and recommendations from the Uniform Grievance Procedure complaints against board members,” Board President Jillian Barker said in addressing fellow board members during the meeting. “Three appointed special committee members will not be investigating the complaints but will be reviewing the recommendations in the investigation and relaying the information to the rest of the board members.”

Barker appointed board members Kate Bell, Joseph Lackner and Becky McCabe to the special committee. Following the special committee review, legal counsel will contact the appointed members to discuss their role and any questions they may have, Barker said. The school board’s legal counsel recommended the formation of the special committee, she said.

Board Vice President Heidi Fairgrieve asked Barker why this process was being recommended to handle the complaints.

“I was just wondering if you could provide any context as to why it’s being recommended for this approach at this time,” she said. “Unfortunately, we have had complaints in the past that have not been handled under this process.”

Barker said that it was explained to her that “this was a more transparent way to handle these complaints against board members and was highly recommended.”

As part of the school board’s Uniform Grievance Procedure, a student, parent/guardian, employee, or community member “should notify any district complaint manager if he or she believes that the school board, its employees, or its agents have violated his or her rights guaranteed by the state or federal constitution, state or federal statute or board policy.”

The procedure also allows complaints to be filed for a number of reasons, including bullying, misuse of funds and curriculum, instructional materials and/or programs. Dist. 303 Assistant Superintendent Mark Moore is the complaint manager.

“He designated an attorney from Hodges Loizzi Eisenhammer Rodick & Kohn LLP to investigate,” Carol Smith, the district’s director of communications and community relations, said in an email. “The investigations are in progress and there have been no outcomes yet.”

The board members appointed to the committee do not have any complaints filed against them, she said.

School Superintendent Jason Pearson said that under the Uniform Grievance Procedure, he typically is the first one to read complaint reports.

“I read the report, I review the recommendation action and then if action needs to be taken, sometimes I take action at the administrative level,” Pearson said. “And then we report that to the parties involved. And then they have as part of due process another step, which is then the ability to appeal it to the board beyond me. Because this complaint actually involves board members, I think this is an attempt on the part of the legal counsel to create that interim step in the due process, to have a committee review it and then if there are issues after that point, then to still have another layer, which will be the full board having a discussion.”

After the meeting, Barker said she could not discuss the nature of the complaints.

“There are currently complaints against more than one board member,” she said.

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle.