Huntley School District Transparency – Through a Glass Darkly

I have cited Huntley School District 158 as a model of transparency. I did so most recently for all to see at a Crystal Lake City Council meeting when I was perturbed that I could not find the council packet on the internet on the city’s brand-new web site.

I thought I got a favorable response, but last weekend I went looking for the information that the council folks had already received and there was nothing to be found.

Crysal Lake City Council

Asking City Manager Gary Mayerhofer about when it might happen, I was told that staff was ready, but waiting for direction from the council. Based on that representation, I didn’t ask again during the public comment section. If by the next meeting I attend it is not up, I shall, as you would expect, make mention of it again.

In any event, the Huntley School District was the web site I pointed to as what I hoped Crystal Lake would emulate.

But outside of the board packet’s posting, the Huntley School District is no model of transparency, even though outgoing School Board President Shawn Green represented as such.

Why would I say that?

While McHenry County government has been known to reply to a Freedom of Information request in less than 24 hours, the Huntley School District tends to take the pretty much the maximum amount of time allowed by law.

And, in the instance of my search for anyone employed by District 158 with a Special Education Director qualification, as defined by the Illinois State Board of Education, the term “dragging of the heels” is too mild to use.

On Monday, February 8th, I asked for the following:

“One document for each person having a special education director endorsement on their administrator’s certificate, as verified on the State Board of Education web site.”

The same day, FOI Officer Lori Woods replied,

“Are you requesting a copy of their certificate?

“If I can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact me.”

My reply:

“I really don’t care if it the certificate or something referring to the certificate. “


“Okay, thanks.  I’ll get working on that ASAP for you.”

My reply:

“The basic question is whether anyone in the district has a certification to be a special ed director.

“I can’t find one.”

On Friday, February 12th, I received this reply from Woods:

“The response to your FOIA regarding documentation of Special Education Director endorsement is attached.

“If I can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact me.”

That certainly is within the five-workday returned turnaround time, but consider the answer from Human Resources Director Lauren Smith that was attached:

The parsed word response of Huntley Human Services Director Lauren Smith. Note that it took her only nine minutes to formulate her answer. Click to enlarge.

Huntley School District Human Relations Director Lauren Smith

“I am not clear how to move forward on this request. Based solely on the question, I cannot provide a document for all persons with an endorsement as a special education director.”

Smith’s parsing of my words reminds me of President Bill Clinton’s:

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

Being the persistent type, I filed a new Freedom of Information request on Friday, February 12th, saying,

“It seems to me that my Special Ed certification request was pretty clear, clear enough to ask the IL AG’s office in an appeal and get a letter sent to District 158 the way one was recently sent to Grafton Township officials.  Instead, for a very brief time (I do not promise to wait 5 days, just to delay until the thought of an appeal enters my head again), let me give you another chance with the re-wording of the question you see below:

“I request all documentation provided by the Regional Superintendents Office or State Board of Education that evidences each district employee who holds or has held a Special Education Director endorsement during the 2009 – 2010 fiscal year, including any employee who was employed by the district in FY 2009 – 2010, and any certificate or copy thereof of in possession of the district that evidences the referenced employees’ holding or having held the referenced endorsement.

A simple ‘We have no record of any such evidence that a Special Ed Director Endorsement has been held by any of our employees during Fiscal Year 2009-2010’ will suffice, if that is the situation.” (Emphasis added.)

Seven days later, I received this reply:

“The response to your FOIA for Special Education Director endorsement is attached.

“If I can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact me.”

Now, Human Resources Director Smith has discovered,

It took twelve days to get this answer. Click to enlarge.

Very interrresssting.

“Upon review of certified staff members, including administrators, there is not an employee as of this date with a Director of Special Education endorsement.”

Ver-r-r-r-y in-ter-r-r-r-r-es-s-s-t-ing, as the Laugh-In Nazi would say.

Not that I think Green had any knowledge of the games his staff was playing, but I would point out this answer was received the day after Green praised the district’s transparency.

It was not received before I got fed up at not having receiving a timely answer to my question of February 8th, though.

I would suggest the kiddie games evident above are unworthy of a local government aspiring to be known as a “model of transparency.”

= = = = =

The 800 number of the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access folks is 877-299-3642, by the way.  Complaints may be filed by email.  The email address is PublicAccess@AtG.State.IL.US.


Huntley School District Transparency – Through a Glass Darkly — 2 Comments

  1. What about the Regional Superintendent–every year or two there is a report (“visit”) which depending upon the year contains a review of administrative endorsements of school districts. He is an elected official– ask for his advise regarding what if any review the Regional Superintendent has done in regard to the issue. Assuming that your evidence brings into question adequancy of the endorsements –the Regional Superintendent would probbly have to make the legal opinion on the matter before it goes to the State Department of Education———-Just my thoughts.

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