An open letter to Riverside School District 96 school board President Mary Rose Mangia:

At the outset, I would like you to know that I applaud your decision to abandon the notion of re-voting on the continuing education issue. 

Dr. Foley’s work highlighted the importance of addressing the length of school year and length of school day issues, as well as the issue of ambiguity in the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with regards to provisions for continuing education. 

Another outcome of her work, perhaps incidental, was to highlight how the stakeholders of District 96 have no choice but to wait for the new CBA to be negotiated in 2015 before these issues are addressed. Meanwhile, the teachers need additional Common Core training now because the district is way behind peers in its implementation. 

This is not the fault of the board nor is it the fault of the current administration, but you have made great strides towards resolving the problem by implementing the plans that you have for 2014-15. Some would argue that the agreed-upon plan is not the ideal approach, but I would assert that it is the optimal choice given the circumstances.

While I am pleased with the outcome of Dr. Foley’s efforts, I would like to remind you of your obligation to all stakeholders when it comes to the creation of committees comprised of private citizens. 

Dr. Foley was allowed to have an exclusive committee of her own choosing and her own time slot on last night’s agenda to push her preferred approach to public policy. Following her remarks, you were resistant to allow other stakeholders in the room an opportunity to speak in response to her presentation. 

Such action fosters an illusion of favoritism and creates speculation that the board is pushing a preferred agenda in an unfair manner. Before deciding to develop any committees comprised of private citizens in the future, I hope you will consider what approach is the most fair to all stakeholders and perhaps consult the board’s legal counsel as well.

My second reminder to you is with regards to the stakeholders that you saw fit to remind us about not once but twice last night: the taxpayers. In a room brimming with dozens of teachers and parents, you twice pointed out that there were many stakeholders in District 96 that were not present last night and by implication that you were keeping them in mind during the conversation and debate. 

You distinguished them as “the taxpayers.” Here is my reminder, Ms. Mangia: the parents of District 96 are also taxpayers.

Thank you for your commitment to all stakeholders of District 96.

Otto Miller


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