MORRIS – Nearly 40 people attended Monday’s Nettle Creek School Board meeting to discuss issues within the district that houses 96 students.
The audience was made up of school staff, concerned parents and interested taxpayers who no longer have students at the school, with most wanting to publicly discuss allegations brought about in anonymous correspondence that was received by several families within the school district. The Morris Daily Herald also was sent a copy.
The letter, which encouraged people to attend Monday’s meeting, alleges that Superintendent Don McKinney has been “wreaking havoc, morally & ethically,” since arriving at the school. The letter included a partial Facebook post from someone named Donald A. McKinney from Dec. 3, 2013, where the writer derided organized sports in schools.
McKinney did not acknowledge the Facebook post at the meeting. In an email Tuesday to the Morris Daily Herald, he neither confirmed nor denied writing the post.
“I have no comment with regard to a Facebook post other than to say it is my intention to communicate with each individual Nettle Creek family this week on this matter,” McKinney said in the email.
During Monday night’s meeting, Board President John Skraptis and school district attorney Walt Zukowski said that since the issue was a personnel matter, a member of the public who wanted to make a statement about McKinney, would do so in closed session.
“The school has the right to have things pertaining to students or personnel in closed session,” Zukowski said. “The school doesn’t have to take the input from 30 people, if it’s all regarding the same subject. Most places have two-to-three people talk on the subject.”
The board voted to go into closed session, and allowed anyone who wanted to address members to do so in closed session.
Former board member Ted Ergo argued that the comments should be made during a public session since most were there about the same subject, and that going into closed session would violate First Amendment rights.
“I’m not arguing about this. It’s my meeting,” Skraptis replied.
While waiting for her turn to be called into the closed session to address the board, Parent Angie Greve said, that she was there to speak about the issue of an “offensive and inappropriate Facebook post.”
Parent and PTO secretary Karolee Ferguson said the anonymous letter has divided the school.
“This school used to be a home. Now, it’s divided,” Ferguson said. “None of this is evidence of what goes on in this school.”
Ergo added he had tried to be neutral and stay out of the matter, but felt he needed to speak up after getting a copy of the letter.
“He [McKinney] and the board have been unresponsive to the public when addressed with copies of this letter,” he said. “I’m not sure if it’s a filter issue, but it needs to be addressed.”
The staff under McKinney wrote a letter in support of the superintendent that was given to the board.
Teacher Jo Truty presented a letter to the board during her time in closed session signed “The Nettle Creek Faculty,” which states they feel McKinney demonstrates many qualities that make him an effective and successful school leader.
“Our purpose is merely to let the board know how Dr. McKinney has performed as a leader and administrator from the point of view of the people who work most closely with him,” the letter states.
While members of the public in attendance at Monday’s meeting were divided in their feelings about the anonymous letter, board member Mike Robbins sent a letter April 10 to school families, supporting McKinney and denouncing the comments in the anonymous letter that addressed the Facebook post, as well as pointed to his employment record at former school districts, including Peotone and Harvey.
“Much of the anonymous letter relates to personnel matters, which I cannot discuss. However, I want to assure you that the board has reviewed and appropriately addressed the matters brought to its attention,” Robbins wrote in the letter.
The board had no comment when it resumed open session, and board president Skraptis referred all questions by the media to attorney Zukowski, who said the board had no comment regarding the matters addressed in closed session.