Argument over absences stalls board meeting

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MAHOMET, Ill. (WCIA) — Tensions ran high as an argument stalled a special meeting of the Mahomet-Seymour school board on Monday night.

Three board members called the meeting to establish student performance and academic improvement goals included in the superintendent’s contract. Those goals were supposed to be made before the end of this month, but weren’t.

Meetings to talk about this have been stalled four times. However, that discussion still hadn’t happened yet, and the possible reasons why were specified in the proposed contract addendum. The board was supposed to talk about the goal-setting at their meeting on July 15th, but board members Ken Keefe and Meghan Hennesy were absent, so they postponed the discussion.

After that, it was supposed to happen on August 19th, September 16th, and October 21st, but the board kept delaying the matter because each time they got around to it, they decided it was too late in the evening to take up the discussion.

On Monday night, the board voted and approved an agreement to push the deadline back to next month.

The addendum shows the board made an agreement with Hall to extend the deadline until the end of November, but board members still called a special meeting to attempt to deal with the issue before the initial deadline. Hennesy questioned whether that was necessary or legal.

“When we’re talking about something that’s contractually obligated,” she said, “I don’t believe that three of you have the authority to make a decision that breaches the contract.”

Board president Max McComb said their attorney advised otherwise.

“In his mind, the contract stays intact whether we do it in October or November,” he said, arguing the addendum was still a good idea out of an abundance of caution.

Board members then began a brief debate on whether failing to approve the goals by the initial deadline was a contractual violation, or not.

Another argument ensued when board member Hennesy took issue with being named in the addendum, as her prior absence was listed as one of the reasons for the proposed addendum in the first place, saying there were other factors at play. Keefe then made a motion to have those parts removed from the addendum.

Keefe also said that the goals for the current school year should have been set before the school year started, and not in October or November.

“Here’s the problem,” board member Lori Larson interjected, “We talk that we want to work together. This was not a sign of working together.”

“This is ridiculous,” Larson continued.

Hall was not present for the meeting, and that also sparked an argument over whether the board should have called the special meeting at all, and also over whether Hall should have responded to their meeting notification with that information.

Keefe’s motion to remove the parts of the addendum that mentioned his and Hennesy’s absence was defeated. Hennesy said she wanted it listed on the record that she believed they were jeapordizing the legality of Hall’s contract by including information she said was “factually incorrect”.

“I think the attorney would disagree, but whatever,” McComb said.

The board voted to approve the contract addendum as-is. They plan to discuss the actual goals required by the contract on November 4th, when Hall can be present.

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