CREST HILL – Parents criticized Richland School District 88a board members Wednesday for issues related to the teachers’ vote of no confidence in Superintendent Michael Early and Principal Kelly Whyte.
After their comments, a former board member praised the board for affirming confidence in the administrators.
“How can you be addressing the climate when it’s been going on for four years,” Richland parent Bridget Wisz said.
She questioned the board’s connection with staff, students, teachers and the community following the vote of no confidence.
Richland parent Richard Foss was concerned with the district’s communication with parents. He referenced a letter sent out to parents Tuesday, which was the first direct communication he received from the board about issues with teachers.
“I was stunned to hear what I heard with a no confidence vote,” Foss said, adding that the June 12 board meeting was the first time he heard about the discord.
The vote of no confidence by teachers came at the June 12 board meeting. Out of 44 tenured teachers, 39 voted no confidence in Early and 33 voted no confidence in Whyte. No non-tenured teachers participated in the vote.
Teachers union representatives said that Early and Whyte created a hostile work environment and have retaliated against teachers for speaking out against the administration’s decisions.
At that meeting, board President Julie Starasinich stated that the board had complete confidence in Early, Whyte and the administration, supporting their decisions.
At the July 16 board meeting, teachers’ representatives read a letter by the local union president that asked the board to take “swift, substantive action,” to remedy the situation.
Starasinich reaffirmed confidence in the administration and said no formal complaints were filed with her as board president. But she would investigate any complaint that comes to her.
Glen Conklin, a former board member and a parent of former students, commended the board for having confidence in the administration on Wednesday, especially for Early who Conklin noted has been evaluated several times by the board.
“The bottom line is the board evaluates the superintendent. The teachers and union do not evaluate him,” Conklin said.
A complaint from the teachers union came soon after the July meeting. In response, Starasinich said in a statement Wednesday that the board hired an independent investigator “to ensure an impartial examination of the issues.”
Early confirmed that the independent investigator is Joliet attorney James Harvey.
After the meeting, Early said the board and administration will keep parents informed of the progress.
“The board and myself agreed we need to communicate what’s going on,” he said. “I think our community deserves to know what’s going on.”