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By PETE SPITLER
DU QUOIN – After months of analysis by his office, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has issued a binding opinion that the Du Quoin District 300 Board of Education violated the Open Meetings Act during one of its three executive sessions that took place during the school board's April 7 special meeting.
Perry County Weekly-Press Publisher Jeff Egbert submitted a Request for Review to the AG's Public Access Counselor on April 11 seeking a review of the school board's closed sessions during that meeting, which was the one during which a group of Durham School Services bus drivers turned in their gas cards and other employee materials in protest of the board's choice of Durham in continuing to provide student transportation in the district.
The drivers who are not District 300 employees had previously aired their grievances with their employer in Durham to the board during its regular March meeting, with the April 7 meeting being called, in part, to allow the board to take action on the bus contract.
In the opinion released on July 12, Raoul stated the board failed to cite an applicable exception before closing the meeting to the public and improperly held a closed session for discussion of bids for a student transportation contract.
On Monday, July 18, the Du Quoin school board issued the following statement in response to Raoul's opinion: "On July 12, 2022, the Illinois Attorney General's office released Binding Opinion 22010," the statement said. "In that opinion, the Illinois Attorney General's Office concluded that the second of three closed sessions conducted during the April 7, 2022, special meeting of the DCSD 300 Board of Education did not conform to the requirements of section 2A of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
"During the executive session at issue, the Board discussed three competing bids for a student transportation contract. The Board entered the second closed session based on concerns that legal consequences could result from the student transportation bidding process. The Attorney General's Office has determined that those concerns did not meet the relevant exceptions to the Open Meetings Act.
"The Board respects the decision of the Attorney General's Office and will make the verbatim recording and minutes of the second closed session available to the public," the board continued
"The Board remains committed to providing quality public education while operating in a manner that is open and transparent."
During the April 7 meeting, the board heard about a half-hour of open discussion on the bus contract topic before board member Kevin West made a motion to go with Robinson Transportation (whose bid was $345,543 higher than Durham's), that was seconded by board member Crystal Harsy.
The motion failed on a 3-2 decision, with board member Steven Still abstaining without explanation and Board President Brian Rodely, Vice President Trent Waller and Secretary Amy Rose all voting "no."
Waller then made a motion to choose Durham, with Rodely seconding. This time, the vote deadlocked at 3-3 with Still, West and Harsy all voting "no."
Still then motioned to go back into executive session, which the board agreed with. About an hour and a half later, the board returned to open session and voted 4-2 (with Still voting with the board's leadership) in favor of Durham before returning to executive session for the third time.
The school board has acknowledged it did not publicly state the exception for going into closed session for the second time after Still's motion, but argued that its discussion fell within the scope of "anticipated litigation."
In his opinion, Raoul pointed to the 2021 Illinois Appellate Court case City of Bloomington v. Raoul, in which the court found members of the Bloomington City Council had entered closed session without reasonable grounds to believe that litigation against the City of Normal concerning the cities' intergovernmental agreement was "probable" or "imminent" and was instead speculative in nature.
"Here, the (Du Quoin School) Board contended that its closed session discussion concerning the student transportation bid was permitted by Section 2(c)(ll) of OMA because litigation was anticipated," Raoul wrote in his opinion. 'The Board did not state any litigation was pending."
Raoul added that in the school board's redacted answer, the board members "noted their concerns" and board attorney (Matthew Benson), who participated in the executive session, "validated their concerns."
"This office's review of the verbatim recording of the Board's 7:24 p.m. closed session meeting revealed the Board's discussion of its concerns did not focus on probable or imminent litigation," Raoul wrote. "Similar to the city council in City of Bloomington, the Board's discussion of litigation was Speculative.
"Further, none of the materials the Board submitted to this office indicate that at the time of the April 7, 2022, special meeting, the Board had a reasonable basis to believe that litigation was more likely than not to occur."
Raoul continued by stating the board's discussion was not limited to the "strategies, posture, theories and consequences" of the litigation, but "primarily concerned what course of action to take in awarding a bid for the student transportation contract."
In its answer to the PAC, the school board also indicated its closed session exemption fell within "criminal investigations."
This section permits public bodies to hold closed meetings to discuss "informant sources, the hiring or assignment of undercover personnel or equipment, or ongoing, prior or future criminal investigations when discussed by a public body with criminal investigatory responsibilities."
Raoul's opinion placed bolded emphasis on the last 10 words in that sentence.
"The Board did not identify for this office any source of authority it has to conduct criminal investigations," Raoul wrote. "Further, there are no provisions in Article 10 of the Illinois School Code ...which describes the powers and duties of school boards of education that authorizes the Board to conduct criminal investigations."
At the conclusion of his opinion, Raoul directed the school board to "remedy this violation by disclosing to Mr. Egbert and making publicly available the verbatim recording of the 7:24 p.m. closed session that occurred during the April 7, 2022, special meeting and the corresponding portion of the April 7, 2022, closed session minutes."
"As directed by section 3.5(e) of OMA, the Board shall either take necessary action as soon as practical to comply with the directives of this opinion or shall initiate administrative action under section 7.5 of OMA," Raoul wrote.
The school board did have the option of filing a complaint for judicial review of the matter in the Circuit Court of Cook County or Sangamon County within 35 days of the date of the opinion.
As for the school board's other two closed sessions during that April 7 meeting, Raoul determined that they were properly conducted using the personnel exemption.
"The 6:02 p.m. session discussion focused on the retirement of one specific employee, and the hiring of two other specific employees," Raoul wrote. "The 8:42 p.m. closed session focused on two specific administrators' performances during the student transportation bid process.
"Because those discussions directly concerned the employment and performance of specific employees, section 2(c)(1) of OMA authorized the Board to hold the discussions in closed session."
The school board is scheduled to convene this Thursday, July 21, at 6 p.m. for its regular July meeting.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 10, 2022
Contact: Dennis Kosinski
Phone: (815) 323-3788
Jack Cunningham launches re-election website
AURORA – John A. “Jack” Cunningham, Republican candidate for Kane County clerk, today announced the launch of his re-election website at www.electjackcunningham.com.
A spokesman for the campaign stated that everyone is invited to go to the website to learn more about the candidate and what he has accomplished.
Included on the site is a short biography of Jack Cunningham, along with endorsements, goals and aspirations, the ability for visitors to volunteer, make donations, and view information on the upcoming June 28 Illinois primary.
Visitors to the web page can ask questions of the candidate through the website, or by sending Jack an email to: Jack@electjackcunningham.com.
As explained on the web page, Jack’s campaign is based on election integrity and efficiency. The campaign’s slogan is “Making it easier to vote, and harder to cheat.” Some of the steps outlined on the site highlight Jack’s introduction of video cameras in the ballot county rooms, verification of vote by mail ballots, and improvements of technology in the ballot tracking process. Jack has instituted a paper trail for each ballot cast.
Although there are multiple other duties of the clerk’s office such as vital records, tax extensions, marriages, and passport services, Jack’s emphasis in this campaign will be centered on elections and voting, as that is the one area that affects the most people in the immediate future, and is currently on the minds of most voters.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mark Peysakhovich
June 7, 2022
Illinois Psychiatric Society welcomes new leadership
President Abdi Tinwalla, MD, MBA, MS (Pharmacy), DFAPA, CCHP, and President-Elect Andrew J. Lancia, MD, step into leadership roles as the nation’s mental health issues take center stage
CHICAGO – The Illinois Psychiatric Society welcomes incoming President Dr. Abdi Tinwalla and President-Elect Dr. Andrew J. Lancia for their 2022–2023 term. Both are experienced professionals well equipped to provide leadership at a moment when the nation’s mental health takes center stage.
Incoming President Abdi Tinwalla, MD, MBA, MS (Pharmacy), DFAPA, CCHP, received his medical degree from Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, and completed his psychiatric residency at Rush University Medical Center. He completed his Forensic Psychiatry fellowship from University of Rochester, New York. He has a Physician MBA from Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
Currently, Dr. Tinwalla serves as the behavioral health medical director for Amerigroup/Anthem. In this role, he supervises the provision of behavioral health services to approximately 900,000 Medicaid recipients. He also provides treatment at the Department of Human Services Treatment and Detention Facility for the Sexually Violent Persons in Rushville, Illinois, and in the community. He holds an academic appointment with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He is actively involved in teaching of the forensic psychiatry fellows.
In addition to his duties as president of the Illinois Psychiatric Society, Dr. Tinwalla also serves on its Executive Council and is an active member of its Governmental Affairs Committee as well as the Forensic Committee. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a member of American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. He has presented nationally and internationally on several topics in correctional psychiatry and on the treatment of paraphilic disorders.
“I am cognizant of the gargantuan task we psychiatrists face as we help the nation heal its multiple wounds. Whether we are talking about COVID, which plagues our bodies, or whether we talk about racism, which is just as insidious and deadly, there is a role for us to play in moving towards being healthier as individuals and as a community.,” said Abdi Tinwalla, MD, MBA, M.S., CCHP, DFAPA.
President-Elect Andrew J. Lancia, MD, received his medical degree from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He served as resident and chief resident of psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and was a Caterpillar Faculty Scholars fellow at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.
Currently, Dr. Lancia serves as medical director of Consultation-Liaison Services, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria; and as medical director of UnityPoint Behavioral Health Integrated Services of Hospital Based Programs (Methodist Campus), UnityPoint Health Methodist. He is also chair of UnityPoint behavioral health at Methodist, UnityPoint Health Methodist. Dr. Lancia also holds several faculty and teaching appointments, including associate professor of clinical psychiatry, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, adjunct clinical preceptor, Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri, as well as Interim deputy chair of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.
Dr. Lancia’s work has been recognized with a number of honors and awards, including Above and Beyond (recognizes those who go beyond formal, identified job duties to exceed the needs of patients, visitors, and staff) from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics; Leading Physician of the World & Top Psychiatrist in Peoria, Illinois, from the International Association of Healthcare Professionals; and an Outstanding Achievement Award in Integrating Behavioral Health into Primary Care from the Illinois Psychiatry Society. In his current position, he has received many awards from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, including the Faculty Teaching Award; an Outstanding Teacher Award, Celebration of Excellence; the Scholarship Award; multiple Golden Apple Inpatient Teaching awards; the Commonwealth Award; the Teaching Excellence Award for the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Course; the Teaching Excellence Award for the Psychiatry M3 Clerkship; an Outstanding Faculty Award; the Dean’s Team Award, and the Teaching Award Psychiatry Residency Program.
“The young psychiatrists I am teaching now practice medicine in an ever-changing world. People used to whisper about mental health; it was a taboo subject. This is still often the case in many circles, but now we see and feel the effects of both mental illness and wellness everywhere. Currently, the need for better access to quality mental health services is a central theme nationally. Rather than whispering, the entire country is in a robust national discussion about the future of mental health. In my role with IPS, I look forward to contributing to that discussion to help manage the changes we’re experiencing in society and in our profession, so we may meet our world's need to understand suffering and promote wellbeing,” said Andrew J. Lancia, MD, DFAPA, FACLP.
The Illinois Psychiatric Society also welcomes incoming officers L. Joy Houston, MD, FAPA, who will serve as board treasurer, and Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, MD, FAPA, who will serve as board secretary.
IPS President Dr. Abdi Tinwalla IPS President-Elect Dr. Andrew J. Lancia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Alison Maley
Government & Public Relations Director
Illinois Principals Association recognized by
Great Place to Work® on Certification Nation Day,
a national celebration of outstanding workplaces
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Principals Association is proud to celebrate Certification Nation Day on May 17, along with the community of Great Place to Work-Certified™ companies across the country. Great Place to Work® has designated May 17, 2022, as Certification Nation Day to salute and recognize the companies working to create great places to work for all.
“The positive culture at IPA allows our team of richly talented individuals to support one another with a shared mission of developing, supporting, and advocating for innovative educational leaders,” shared Dr. Susan Homes, deputy executive director for professional learning. “To achieve this mission, we serve each other first so we can serve our members. I'm proud to be part of an association that is not only forward thinking but is recognized nationally for our innovative solutions and support for school leaders.”
Great Place to Work Certification™ is recognized worldwide by employees and employers alike and is the global benchmark for identifying outstanding employee experiences.
“Certified companies put employees first” says Michael C. Bush, chief executive officer at Great Place to Work. “Thriving employees increase revenue, profit and provide market-leading customer experiences. I hope that Certification Nation Day can inspire other executives to create and sustain employee-first cultures."
“Great Place to Work Certification™ isn’t something that comes easily” says Sarah Lewis-Kulin, vice president of global recognition at Great Place to Work. “It takes ongoing dedication to the employee experience.”
“My favorite thing about working for IPA is the team-oriented culture,” said Arlin Peebles, Ed Leaders Network director and IPA staff member. “Our staff motto is ‘Serving each other, serving educators, serving children’ and it is put in that order for a reason. Whenever we need something from another staff member it is immediately prioritized and taken care of. We have a huge amount of respect for each other, and it is always exciting when we get a chance to collaborate on a project to serve our members.”
“Everyone at IPA works together as a high-functioning team,” said Janice Schwarze, professional learning associate and former principal. “I feel valued as a professional, and I also feel like I am part of a big family who looks out for me personally.”
According to Great Place to Work research, job seekers are 4.5 times more likely to find a great boss at a Certified great workplace. Additionally, employees at Certified workplaces are 93% more likely to look forward to coming to work, and are twice as likely to be paid fairly, earn a fair share of the company’s profits and have a fair chance at promotion.
About Illinois Principals Association
The Illinois Principals Association is a professional association serving more than 6,000 building-level administrators in Illinois. IPA provides professional learning and advocacy opportunities, supporting principals and other school administrators to lead effective learning organizations.
About Great Place to Work Certification™
Great Place to Work® Certification™ is the most definitive “employer-of-choice” recognition that companies aspire to achieve. It is the only recognition based entirely on what employees report about their workplace experience – specifically, how consistently they experience a high-trust workplace. Great Place to Work Certification is recognized worldwide by employees and employers alike and is the global benchmark for identifying and recognizing outstanding employee experience. Every year, more than 10,000 companies across 60 countries apply to get Great Place to Work-Certified.
About Great Place to Work®
Great Place to Work® is the global authority on workplace culture. Since 1992, they have surveyed more than 100 million employees worldwide and used those deep insights to define what makes a great workplace: trust. Their employee survey platform empowers leaders with the feedback, real-time reporting and insights they need to make data-driven people decisions. Everything they do is driven by the mission to build a better world by helping every organization become a great place to work For All™.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Emily Warnecke
Merger creates Illinois' largest school
energy management group
The Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO) and the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) have announced a merger to create the Illinois Energy Consortium powered by Future Green — Illinois’ largest energy management group. The initiative will help member school districts reduce their energy spending, protect them from market volatility and invest in renewable energy.
“Price volatility, supply disruptions and the transition to lower carbon generation are just a few of the long-term trends facing the energy markets that we are responding to,” said Dr. Michael Jacoby, executive director/CEO of IASBO. “This initiative will provide school districts with much-needed stability and cost certainty through aggregating their respective energy loads to secure lower prices than they could on their own.”
The new entity is a merger of the Illinois Energy Consortium (IEC) and Future Green Energy Consortium (FGEC). The IEC, created in 1997, is Illinois’ largest electric and natural gas pool. More than 30 percent of all Illinois public school districts and colleges are members. The FGEC was created in 2016 as a way to provide members with renewable electric power solutions at no out-of-pocket cost.
“Illinois member schools have saved tens of millions of dollars in the past by joining forces under the umbrellas of the IEC and FGEC,” said Dr. Brent Clark, executive director of IASA. “By merging the two, districts will be able to invest more dollars into the classroom while also exploring green-energy solutions such as onsite solar generation and electrification of bus fleets.”
After the passage of the Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act in 2021, Illinois school districts are in a unique position to install solar panels on site and reduce their carbon footprint. In addition to saving money, onsite solar provides protection from extreme weather events and can potentially generate revenue for the district in the event it is able to sell excess renewable energy back into the grid.
“In February 2021, there were school districts in Illinois forced to close due to a sudden massive spike in the price of natural gas,” said Dr. Tom Bertrand, executive director of IASB. “That volatility creates stress on the school district, parents and students. Providing more stability with energy costs can allow districts to avoid major disruptions to learning.”
Illinois Energy Consortium powered by Future Green will be actively managed by Econergy LLC, based in Chicago. Econergy has helped more than 2,500 schools and businesses across the country unlock access to renewable energy savings by building energy coalitions.
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