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District U46 renews membership with state school board association

After much debate at Monday's meeting, the School District U46 Board of Education will continue its membership in the Illinois Association of School Boards in the coming school year.

Officials approved payment of annual membership dues in a 4-3 vote. Board members Jeanette Ward, Cody Holt and Phil Costello cast the dissenting votes.

Much like others voting in favor of the measure, board member Susan Kerr said she sees a benefit to approving the proposal to pay the annual membership dues.

"I view this as a professional association, and there are many such — going from the American Medical Association to the American Library Association," she said. "I think you can gain a lot by networking with other districts seeing what they do."

Costello said his decision comes down to knowing there are a lot of opportunities that wouldn't require membership ties to what he calls a "monopoly."

"I was troubled by this," Costello said. "(District CEO) Mr. (Tony) Sanders did give a very good description of why we should stay in there, but it came back down to perpetuating the development of a larger and larger school system and not enough of an opportunity to go after efficiencies and our own resourcefulness at coming up with ways we can better this school district."

During Monday's meeting, school officials moved to approve a board policy update on concussions.

"As you just saw, the board policy update for concussion is one that if we would've had to draft that from scratch, it would've been more time-consuming for administration," Sanders said. "The annual review, or biannual review, the board does of board policies to make sure the board is up to date and current relative to state law is something we rely on a lot in the association of school boards."

If U46 opted out of continued membership, officials would need to find a way to ensure staff is in place to review and update board policies in accordance to state law, he said.

"Another piece we would miss out on would be the legislative updates," Sanders said. "One of the great things about IASB is getting 4,000 different education bills that are filed annually boiled down to the ones to watch, which is not something the administration is in a position to do by itself."

In 2011, the board opted out of the National School Boards Association.

Around that time, Sanders said he did the analysis for U46.

"We did a cost-benefit analysis to determine what we did get from NSBA, what was the benefit for the district, what was the benefit for the students," he said. "At the end of the day, the board decided to end our participation with the National School Boards Association, reducing our outlay by about $14,000."

Costello said he thinks it's important to understand there's a trade-off if the measure were voted down.

"It's not 'we're saving $40,000, end of story,' " he said. "It's a trade-off that we have to look toward ways either of our own resourcefulness to go out and benchmark and talk to other districts and the staffs."

Ward said knowing there's a trade-off to opting out of the annual membership to the state's association isn't a deal breaker.

"I'm suggesting either doing consulting or using half a full-time equivalent," she said. "That's a moot point."

Costello noted how IASB perpetuates itself by serving as a unit that strives to govern all school districts as though they're all the same and hold the same needs. He said that's an issue.

Board member Veronica Noland noted the ways in which the IASB fails to satisfy the interests of U46 and said that doesn't move her to vote down the measure.

"I don't think we want to go that route of putting our own people on this, hiring our own people or consulting," Noland said. "I think we're going to spend a lot more money and spend a lot of time when this is almost an industry standard."

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