It’s always a good thing when the school board, administration and teachers union at Riverside-Brookfield High School can be in the same room talking to each other. As the board begins work on a 2012-13 budget that won’t be bolstered by additional tax receipts, all of the issues need to be clear to everyone.

That said, we’re not so sure there’s a need to be scheduling meetings no one knows about and the subjects of which appear to be pushing the limits of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

The Open Meetings Act clearly allows the board and teachers union to meet without notice regarding collective bargaining and union grievances. But statements by school board President Matt Sinde make us wonder if the discussions underway behind closed door are really either one.

“Discussing challenges of the future” is not exactly union negotiations in our book. And while the district clearly spends the vast majority of its tax dollars on teacher salaries and benefits, simply talking about those expenses as they relate to the budget appears to be more policy talk than negotiating.

Let’s not forget that the money being kicked around in these discussions is public money, and the public deserves to know what’s being talked about here. We have a situation where there is a majority of a quorum of elected officials meeting with the administration and union leadership, yet there is no agenda, no minutes. Debating fiscal strategy is different than negotiating a labor contract. Which of those two things is happening?

The public has no idea what’s going on here, except that the district’s attorney says everything is fine and that the attorney’s opinion is good enough for the board.

When the district superintendent says that the current teachers’ contract hasn’t been re-opened and when the school board president talks about facing “challenges,” we question the need for all the secrecy.

Much ado about trimming

A letter to the editor a couple of weeks back regarding tree trimming in Brookfield set off a mini firestorm that had village officials trying to tamp down accusations that contracted tree trimmers were “butchering” trees and that one nefarious reason for doing so was so that the trees could die and pave the way for the same company to get paid for planting new ones.

OK, everybody, simmer down.

First, trees need to get trimmed, on a regular schedule. If the last few summers have taught us anything, it is that high winds and dodgy tree limbs are a match made in hell. Tree limbs – heck, entire trees – fell on houses, cars. It was a mess.

Can trimmers get a little overzealous? Perhaps, and they need to make sure what they’re trimming is for safety reasons. People are very territorial when it comes to their parkway trees (some residents even planted them very close to each other, which is part of the problem), and that needs to be remembered.

But launching conspiracy theories about death trims is a bit much. Trees need to be trimmed. But be mindful of not over-trimming.