Board of Education says little about battle over unflattering letter
• Three of seven board members return calls for comment
By Joe McGehee
The Rock River Times (TRRT) attempted to contact all seven members of the Rockford Board of Education seeking comment regarding District 205’s failure to disclose an unflattering letter written by former Rockford Auburn High School Principal and current Freeport High School Principal Dr. Patrick Hardy. District 205 has yet to release the letter, despite the Public Access Council’s (PAC) two denials of filings for the use of exemptions to keep the letter private.
Of the seven board members to receive calls, only three were reached for comment. Harmon Mitchell, Jude Makulec, Robert Evans and Alice Saudargas did not return calls made by TRRT as of press time.
When reached for comment, Board of Education President David Kelley said he was aware of the efforts by TRRT to acquire the letter. However, when asked if he was aware of the district’s filing for the use of three exemptions—and the PAC’s denial of the first two exemptions—Kelley said: “I don’t recall. We usually get a status update.”
Regarding District 205 spending $741,141.32 with Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP, between September 2009 and September 2010, Kelley replied, “We use them for a lot of legal issues that are beyond the capabilities of our in-house legal department.”
Jeanne Westholder, Board of Education secretary, returned TRRT’s call more than a week after the initial attempts to contact her.
“I’ve heard about it [TRRT’s attempts to obtain the letter],” said Westholder. “But, I honestly don’t know how I even know about it anymore. I’m aware of it, but I don’t know how I’m aware of it.”
When asked about the letter, Westholder repeatedly said, “I can’t confirm or deny the existence of the letter.” However, Westholder had confirmed receiving the letter in an Oct. 6-12 article, “District 205 battles to keep unflattering letter private.”
With regard to her knowledge of the PAC rejecting two of the three use of exemptions filed by District 205, Westholder said, “I can’t answer that; it’s a legal matter.”
Westholder, however, was aware of District 205’s spending for legal representation with Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP.
“I’m aware of how much money we spend on legal fees,” Westholder said. “It’s been quite expensive, but the appropriate expenditures of money to represent District 205 is necessary.”
Lisa Jackson, Operations Committee member, had little to say regarding the issue. Jackson was aware of efforts by TRRT to obtain the letter, but had no knowledge of the district’s filing for the use of three separate exemptions.
When asked about District 205’s spending with Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP, Jackson said, “I don’t recall that number, really, off the top of my head.”
From the Nov. 3-9, 2010 issue